SAITAMA — Marcus Tulio Tanaka and Alex Santos scored fantastic first-half goals as Urawa Reds beat Jubilo Iwata 3-1 on Saturday, ensuring Shinji Ono enjoyed a happy return to Saitama.

News photoMarcus Tulio Tanaka (center) and Keisuke Tsuboi (right) of Urawa tackle
Iwata’s Bobby Cullen during their J. League Division One match in Saitama.

Tulio turned on the style in front of 57,000 fans at Saitama Stadium with a stunning diving header on 33 minutes and Alex made it 2-0 nine minutes later with a curling free-kick.

Brazilian Robson Ponte secured the points and Urawa’s first win of the campaign on 61 minutes after a defensive mix up, but the day belonged to Ono, who made his first home appearance since returning to the Reds after four and a half years at Dutch club Feyenoord.

Reds boss Guido Buchwald added an extra touch of class to the day’s proceedings in substituting Ono — who had a quiet game by his high standards — with seven minutes to go. It allowed the Urawa faithful to give their “prodigal son” a standing ovation as he trotted off the pitch.

Jublio veterans Hiroshi Nanami and Masashi Nakayama, sensing the emotion of the day, both shook the 26-year-old international’s hand as he made his way to the touchline.

Elsewhere in the J. League, Kawasaki Frontale walloped Kyoto Purple Sanga 7-2 away from home to continue its astonishing start to the season, in which it has scored 13 goals in two games. Yokohama F. Marinos also were victors away from home, beating Kashima Antlers 3-0 in a heavyweight clash.

In Saitama, Urawa found something approaching a rhythm after a disjointed opening to the game. Talisman Ono was largely anonymous, but 22-year-old Makoto Hasebe acted as an able deputy in the center of the park.

And it was his invention that brought about Tulio’s opener. The 22-year-old collected the ball on the right and flummoxed Toshihiro Hattori with a brilliant turn before sending in a delightful cross for Tulio to connect with a diving header.

“We started poorly and got better after 20 minutes. We were holding onto the ball too long and were overconfident but then we found our rhythm and we took the lead,” Buchwald said.

Then, a jinking run from Ponte, himself no speed demon, embarrassed a leaden-footed Hattori and the Brazilian drew a foul on the edge of the area.

Left-footed Alex and right-footed Washington both fancied their chances with the free-kick, forcing Jubilo ‘keeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi to hedge his bets, but he backed the wrong man as Alex expertly curled the free-kick into the huge space left at the near post.

Jubilo’s conservatism in going forward in the first half changed little at the start of the second half, and the Reds were happy that their opponents’ purpose was to not concede any more goals.

Substitute defender Takayuki Chano and Kawaguchi put paid to that plan, though, with a comical mix up that let in Ponte for Urawa’s third.

Washington’s flicked header on from a goal kick fell to Chano, who should have easily dealt with it by passing it back to his ‘keeper, but instead the dithering defender saw Ponte steal in, round Kawaguchi and roll the ball into an empty net.

Chano scored a consolation header for Iwata.

Meanwhile, Shimizu S-Pulse beat Nagoya Grampus Eight 2-0, Albirex Niigata was a 2-0 winner against FC Tokyo and JEF United Chiba drew 2-2 with Ventforet Kofu. Avispa Fukuoka and Omiya Ardija tied 1-1 in the late match.

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