SAITAMA – Shinzo Koroki opened his Urawa Reds account as the former Asian club champions kept the pressure on early pacesetters Yokohama F Marinos with a routine 2-0 win over promoted Shonan Bellmare in the J-League on Sunday.
Former Japan striker Koroki clipped in a Yosuke Kashiwagi pass on the half-hour mark to light up a match that was for long periods as dull as the slate grey skies hanging over Saitama Stadium 2002.
Kashiwagi then scored direct from a corner in the second half to ensure Reds stayed within two points of Yokohama, who kept their perfect start to the season in tact with a 2-1 win at home to local rivals Kawasaki Frontale on Saturday.
Urawa enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but neither side was able to create any noteworthy chances in a tepid opening 25 minutes.
Ryota Nagaki tried his luck for winless Shonan with a shot that sailed wide after five minutes and goalkeeper Nobuyuki Abe did well to get down and gather a dangerous looking cross from Tsukasa Umesaki at the other end.
Kashiwagi had a couple of half chances for Urawa midway through the half and it was the former Sanfrecce Hiroshima man that was the architect for the opener.
Kashiwagi sent a clever pass into the box and Koroki got his outstretched leg to the ball to steer home his first goal for his new club since his winter arrival from Kashima Antlers.
Good work from Koroki nearly led to a second on the stroke of halftime, but Genki Haraguchi had his shot on the turn beaten down by Abe.
Haraguchi had his head in his hands after scuffing a great chance to double the lead on 57 minutes, and he again went close when he picked up a flick from Marcio Richardes and burst into the box, only to see his effort deflected inches wide of the post.
The second goal finally arrived 17 minutes from time, when Kashiwagi’s wind-assisted corner from the right sailed over Abe’s outstretched hand and nestled in the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
Koroki was denied a second when he crashed a shot against the crossbar.
In the day’s only other game, champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima eased to a 2-0 win over Sagan Tosu and moved into sixth on 10 points, thanks to two goals in the space of 10 second-half minutes from last season’s J-League Player of the Year Hisato Sato.