SAITAMA — Urawa Reds eased through to the semifinals of the Emperor’s Cup with a convincing 2-0 win over Kawasaki Frontale on Saturday.

At Saitama Stadium 2002, midfielder Maric and defender Satoshi Horinouchi scored two second-half goals after the game swung in Urawa’s favor with the sending off of Frontale defender Yusuke Mori at the tail end of the first half.

“I’m really happy to win and to do so at our home stadium,” the 32-year-old Maric said.

“I feel we will definitely win the Emperor’s Cup,” said the Croatian, who is rumored to be on his way out of the club.

The Reds gained the upper hand, after early Frontale pressure, with the sending off of Mori in the 44th minute. He had earned a booking as early as the fourth minute for rough play, and after hacking down Alex, he had no complaints when the referee dished out his second yellow card.

After sustained Reds pressure, they took the lead on 68 minutes. Ponte floated in a deep corner from the right, and Maric seemingly hung in the air, waiting for the ball to come down, before generating enough power to head the ball home.

A second goal was inevitable. And on 83 minutes, Masayuki Okano floated in an inviting ball from the inside right for defender Horinouchi, inexplicably the Urawa man closest to the opposition goal, who steered a diving header past Takashi Aizawa in the Frontale goal.

“Getting to the semifinals was a nice Christmas present,” Urawa coach Guido Buchwald said. “Today was a typical Cup tie. In the first half, I didn’t know which way the game would go.

“It took us a long time to get the first goal, but after that it was okay, we attacked well and deserved the win.”

Ex-German international Buchwald confirmed after the match that earlier this month he turned down a desk job from his country’s soccer federation in the leadup to the 2006 World Cup to sign a new one-year contract with the Reds, who he led to a second-place finish in this year’s J. League.

In the day’s other quarterfinals, Cerezo Osaka, Shimizu S-Pulse and Omiya Ardija also advanced to the last four of the competition.

At Nagai Stadium, Cerezo denied J. League champion Gamba Osaka the chance of a double when it beat its local rival 3-1, with goals from Hiroaki Morishima, Tatsuya Furuhashi and Fabinho. Sidiclei replied for Gamba.

Meanwhile, Toninho Cerezo’s last game as Antlers’ coach ended in disappointment as Omiya beat Kashima Antlers 1-0 through a Hiroshi Morita goal in the 55th minute.

In Kagawa Pref., S-Pulse edged Jubilo Iwata 1-0 with an 89th-minute header from Marquinhos.

Cerezo plays S-Pulse and Urawa plays Omiya in the semifinals on Dec. 29. The final is on New Year’s Day at Tokyo’s National Stadium.

As a vicious wind swirled around the ground, chilling the crowd of 27,589 in Saitama, Frontale went close to taking a shock lead after just 2 minutes when Marcus’ whipped in free-kick had Reds ‘keeper Norihiro Yamagishi flapping, with the ball whizzing just past the post.

Reds were having having trouble getting into the game, and their first half chance didn’t come till the quarter hour mark. But from Ponte’s deep cross Alex’s wild volley flew high and wide.

Frontale’s bizarrely named Hulk — a misnomer if ever there was — began to see a lot of the ball as the first half progressed. And after an early yellow card for diving cut out the stylish Brazilian’s theatrics, he caused countless problems for the Reds defense.

One attack, after Hulk had switched wings from left to right, ended with him bamboozling Horinouchi with a cheeky nutmeg before his low shot from a tight angle drew a solid stop from Yamagishi.

Urawa, though, went closest to taking the lead when Keita Suzuki stole the ball from a dithering Marcus, played the ball out wide to Ponte and was agonizingly close when sliding in to meet the Brazilian’s cross.

But for all Frontale’s early promise, once Mori had been given his marching orders, the contest was over. It was then just a matter of time before Buchwald’s troops found the goals to send them through to the semifinals.

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