SAITAMA – Urawa Reds barely avoided what would’ve been the embarrassment of the season as Mihailo Petrovic’s men came back in the nick of time to defeat Tokushima Vortis 4-3 in the Nabisco Cup on Wednesday.
Mizuki Hamada’s stoppage-time header allowed Urawa to escape with all three points shortly after the former Asian champions managed to level only with a Tokushima own goal.
Toyofumi Sakano and Shinya Yajima also struck for Reds, who were down 3-2 with five minutes left. Ryo Kubota, Daiki Kogure and Douglas scored for Vortis.
Going into Wednesday, Tokushima, who won promotion through the playoffs as J2’s fourth-place team, didn’t have a single point from their first seven league games and one league cup game.
They had scored just twice and conceded 25 in those games, and another uphill battle was expected on this night against the financial behemoths of the J. League.
But as things turned out, it was the minnows from Shikoku who opened the scoring in the 19th minute through Kubota, set up by a slide-rule pass from Douglas.
Sakano canceled Tokushima’s lead after 32 minutes, when he headed home a right-wing corner by the far post and Reds went ahead in the 50th minute through halftime substitute Yajima’s blistering shot from the edge of the box.
But the Vortis fight-back began one minute past the hour with Kogure finishing a counterattack off the palms of goalkeeper Nobuhiro Kato to equalize.
The visitors grabbed the lead seven minutes later when Douglas nodded in a cross from Yu Eto, who shook off former Japan defender Keisuke Tsuboi for a run that created the opportunity.
But Yosuke Kashiwagi crossed from wide-left to drawn an own goal five minutes from time, and the former Japanese international assisted Hamada’s winner with a similar ball in the 91st minute to deny Tokushima the upset.
In other results, holders Kashiwa Reysol came from behind to draw 1-1 at Omiya Ardija while Kashima Antlers beat Vegalta 2-1 in Sendai to hand new coach Susumu Watanabe his first defeat.
FC Tokyo thumped Vissel Kobe, currently J1’s third-place team, 3-0 away and Gamba Osaka won 2-0 at Sagan Tosu. Albirex Niigata edged Ventforet Kofu 1-0 at home thanks to Musashi Suzuki’s 93rd-minute strike.