YOKOHAMA – Urawa Reds came from behind to ramp up the pressure in the J.League title race with a 2-1 win over Yokohama F. Marinos on Saturday.
Third-place Reds went into the match at Nissan Stadium knowing that a top-of-the-table showdown between Vegalta Sendai and Sanfrecce Hiroshima elsewhere the same evening gave them the perfect chance to steal a march in the championship race, but a fifth-minute opener from Yokohama’s Marquinhos was not part of that script.
Yosuke Kashiwagi soon set Urawa back on track with an equalizer in the 23rd minute, however, and Tomoaki Makino completed the turnaround with the winner midway through the second half to give Reds 45 points with nine games left to play.
Sanfrecce beat Vegalta 2-1 to reclaim top spot on 47 points, leaving Vegalta in second ahead of Urawa on goal difference.
“We started the game terribly,” said Reds manager Mihailo Petrovic. “We managed to pick it up and recover, but we started very badly. We started the game with fear.
“Marinos were playing with almost six at the back, so when we conceded a goal it made it very hard for us and played right into their hands. We had to take the game to them and we did that, so I have nothing but praise for my players for the way they came back to get the win.”
Urawa has not won a single trophy since claiming the Asian Champions League title in 2007, but Makino is refusing to get carried away just yet.
“Everyone keeps talking about us winning the title, but if your head is too far in the clouds then you slip up,” said the national team defender. “The players are just taking each game as it comes and dealing with what is directly in front of us.”
Yuji Ono had a big hand in giving Marinos an early lead, shrugging off Tsukasa Umesaki down the right flank before whipping in a cross that gave Marquinhos time to pick his spot and arrow a header into the net.
Manabu Saito almost made it two within the space of a minute, but Urawa managed to ride the storm and went on to notch an unlikely equalizer midway through the first half. Makino charged at the heart of the Marinos defense before prodding the ball through to Kashiwagi, and the 24-year-old kept his composure to lift it over the onrushing Hiroki Iikura.
The goal gave Reds renewed belief, but Shunsuke Nakamura almost burst that bubble when he launched himself at a diving header that flew just wide of the target in the 38th minute.
Nakamura continued to pull the strings for Marinos as the second half got under way, but it was the visitors who took the lead when Makino hit the target in the 64th minute. Genki Haraguchi failed to beat Iikura one-on-one after Marcio Richardes had sliced open the Yokohama defense, but Makino made no mistake as he followed up to stuff home the rebound.
Nakamura hit the crossbar with a free kick from the edge of the area as Marinos went in search of a reply, but it would be the last clear-cut chance the home side would see as Reds closed ranks to see out the win.
The defeat was Marinos’ third in a row after tying a club record of 15 games undefeated, and manager Yasuhiro Higuchi was not impressed.
“To lose three in a row is very disappointing,” he said. “I’m very sorry that this has happened.”
Elsewhere in the J.League, Jubilo Iwata stayed in the title hunt with a 2-1 win over Vissel Kobe, while Nagoya Grampus beat Cerezo Osaka 2-0 and Kashiwa Reysol dismissed Consadole Sapporo 3-1.
Kawasaki Frontale came from down goals down to draw 2-2 with Kashima Antlers, while Omiya Ardija gained three valuable points in their fight against relegation with a 1-0 win over Sagan Tosu.
Fellow strugglers Gamba Osaka and Albirex Niigata drew 1-1, while in the day’s other game, Shimizu S-Pulse and FC Tokyo drew 1-1.