SAITAMA — Urawa Reds rode their luck to scramble a 1-1 draw against league leaders Gamba Osaka and stay within touching distance of the top spot on Sunday at Saitama Stadium 2002.

News photoGamba Osaka forward bare scores a goal in the 17th minute during Sunday’s J. League first-division match against Urawa Reds at Saitama Stadium 2002. The match ended in a 1-1 draw.

Bare gave Gamba a well-deserved lead on 17 minutes, after the visitors had imposed their will on a Reds side playing without its usual assured composure.

Urawa striker Washington tried to forge a way back into the match, but saw a goal ruled out on an offside call before missing a penalty in front of the home fans.

But with time running out, the Brazilian eventually found a way through to volley in the equalizer and salvage a point for Reds.

The result leaves Gamba on top of the J. League table, a point clear of their nearest challengers Kashiwa Reysol and Kawasaki Frontale.

Reds lie one point further back, alongside Shimizu S-Pulse, and coach Holger Osieck knows his side was made to work hard to keep pace with the leaders.

“We had no time to rest since the last match,” he said, “but even so we attacked the Gamba goal hard.

“We have come through a very intense period of matches, and I think our team played wonderfully today, overcoming all the obstacles.”

The busy May schedule has taken its toll on both sides, and Gamba coach Akira Nishino was not surprised his team ran out of steam.

“It was an exhausting game for two exhausted teams — a question of how far two tired teams could play,” he said.

“If we had scored a second goal in the first half, we would have been safe. But we didn’t, and it was a scramble at the finish.”

For all the talk of tired legs, both teams went for the jugular from the first whistle.

Reds’ Yuki Abe found himself in front of goal in the first minute, but Gamba striker Magno Alves, returning from a one-game suspension, hit back with a salvo of lively forays forward.

It was not long before Gamba had turned its early superiority into hard currency.

Hideo Hashimoto, drifting deep behind the front line, threaded the ball through to Yasuhito Endo, who in turn fed the waiting Bare to pounce for the opener.

The goal did nothing to help a Reds side already ceding the advantage through impatient build-up play, and Gamba was happy to let Shinji Ono and Keita Suzuki blaze shots over the bar from distance.

Washington ensured Gamba would not have everything its own way, however. Shrugging off defender Sidiclei, he lashed home what he thought was the equalizer after 36 minutes. Only for the referee to chalk the goal off for offside.

Washington’s sense of injustice was further piqued soon after, when he was again flagged by the linesman when the ball had in fact been played off a Gamba boot.

The referee finally made a call in the Brazilian’s favor when he blew Gamba for a penalty after Washington was brought down following a burst into the box.

But if the 55,258 Reds fans thought the tide was about to turn, they were to be disappointed. As Urawa was turned away as Yosuke Fujigaya dove low to his right to make the save. A well-organized Gamba team looked good value for their lead, as the subtle promptings of Endo and Takahiro Futagawa poked holes in the Reds’ defense time and time again. But Washington would not take no for an answer.

Makoto Hasebe came off the bench to add some much-needed drive and composure to the Reds’ midfield, and his impact was immediate.

Hasebe carried the ball into the heart of the Gamba defense before releasing it into the path of the onrushing Abe, who delivered the perfect ball for Washington to volley home.

With only 15 minutes left, it was enough to spare the Brazilian’s blushes, and keep Reds in touch with the leaders at the top of the table.

Meanwhile, Kawasaki Frontale continued their impressive form with 3-1 comeback win over Venforet Kofu, goals from Juninho, Magnum and Yusuke Mori drawing the Kanagawa side closer to the top of the table.

In the day’s other game, Vissel Kobe and Omiya Ardija played out a 0-0 draw at Kobe’s Wing Stadium.

Adriano deemed fit

SEVILLE, Spain (Kyodo) Sevilla’s Brazilian international midfielder Adriano will be fit for the UEFA Cup final in Glasgow on Wednesday, against fellow Spanish side Espanyol, the club announced here on Sunday.

Adriano suffered a right hamstring strain in Sevilla’s UEFA Cup semi-final first leg against Osasuna on April 26 and has not played since.

“I’ll be 100 percent on Wednesday,” said the player.

The central defender suffered a right thigh strain during the 2-1 win over local rivals Recreativo Huelva.

There were fears that the injury could have been severe but Sevilla medical officials said that it had only been a slight twinge.

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