SAITAMA — Urawa Reds suffered a night of frustration in front of goal in their Asian Champions League debut as inspired goalkeeping and wasteful finishing limited the J. League title holders to a 3-0 victory over minnows Persik Kediri.

News photoUrawa Reds forward Yuichio Nagai, right, battles a Persik Kediri player for control of the ball during
their Asia Champions League first-round match at Saitama Stadium 2002 on Wednesday. Reds won 3-0.

Washington was the main culprit Wednesday evening, missing chance after chance against the Indonesians, but the striker was still enraged when Holger Osieck hauled him off for Masayuki Okano with just over 20 minutes to go.

The Brazilian threw his gloves to the ground and tore off his shirt, screaming at the German coach before he stormed down the tunnel.

Osieck played down the incident after the match.

“I didn’t realize when he came off,” Osieck said. “The reason was I wanted to give Okano the opportunity (to play). He did very well in training and he deserved at least some playing time today.

“(Washington) had an injury and we tested him out yesterday and he was given the OK to play today, but he wasn’t quite right.”

Captain Nobuhisa Yamada’s early goal opened up the tantalizing prospect of an orgy of goals for the 31,303 fans at Saitama Stadium, but they had to wait until the stroke of halftime until Yuichiro Nagai added to the score.

With Persik ‘keeper Wahyudi pulling off a string of fine saves, Urawa was held to a two-goal lead until Shinji Ono rounded off the scoring on 75 minutes with the best goal of the night, a delightful left-foot curler into the top corner from 25 meters.

Yamada smashed home the opener on 12 minutes from point-blank range after Yuki Abe’s initial shot was blocked on the line.

It should have been the harbinger for a glut of goals, but somehow the Reds, utterly dominant in possession, contrived to keep the score down.

Washington was the most profligate, seeing one header well saved by Wahyudi, another sail over the bar and a left-foot shot tootle just past the post in the first half alone.

The striker saved the fireworks till later, with his most dangerous attack the verbal one on Osieck in the second half.

Urawa’s main forward was at least getting in on the act, though, whereas partner Nagai did a well-rehearsed disappearing act in the first half. But with his first chance of the half, Nagai, who scored the match-winner against Yokohama FC last weekend, doubled the lead.

Robson Ponte broke on the halfway line and bundled his way through two challenges before freeing Nagai on the right and the forward lashed in a venom-laced shot from an acute angle.

On a largely frustrating night, Osieck would have at least been reassured by an exemplary display from the backline, with Abe once again ably deputizing for Marcus Tulio Tanaka, who failed to recover from a flu in time for the game.

The acid test for the Reds in their ACL Group E comes on March 21 away to Sydney FC, with the Australians expected to be a much tougher proposition than Persik. Urawa also faces Chinese team Shanghai Shenhua in the group.

No Japanese team has won the Asian Champions League since it began in 2002. If the Reds win the ACL, they will qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup in December.

In other ACL action, Kawasaki Frontale beat Indonesia’s Arema Malang 3-1, Magnum scoring twice and Kengo Nakamura once.

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