SAITAMA – Brazilian defender Nene rescued a point for champions Urawa in a 1-1 draw with Yokohama F Marinos on Sunday after former Reds midfielder Koji Yamase had threatened to steal the show at Saitama Stadium 2002.
Urawa followed Kawasaki Frontale into the quarterfinals of the Asian Champions League in midweek but Yamase threatened to burst their bubble with a stunning second-half strike in front of a crowd of just under 52,000.
Nene swept home an equally impressive effort to level in the 67th minute but Washington left his shooting boots at home and Urawa’s failure to kill off the visitors means leaders Gamba Osaka, 2-1 winners at JEF United Chiba on Saturday, now enjoy a four-point cushion at the top of the table.
Frontale also had to settle for a share of the spoils and are now six points adrift of Gamba after being held 1-1 at home to struggling Omiya Ardija. Urawa scraped into the last eight of the ACL after a less than impressive 0-0 draw with Sydney FC on Wednesday and Shinji Ono spurned his side’s only clear chance of a run-of-the-mill first-half performance.
The former Feyenoord man muscled his way into the box but showed too much of the ball to Yokohama keeper Tetsuya Enomoto, who did brilliantly to snuff out the danger.
Daisuke Sakata provided the main threat for F Marinos, the Athens Olympic striker twice stinging Ryota Tsuzuki’s palms before Yamase silenced the Urawa boo-boys by breaking the deadlock six minutes after the interval.
Yamase, who incurred the wrath of Reds fans after his defection to Yokohama in 2005, was greeted with a chorus of cat-calls every time he touched the ball but the midfielder responded by outfoxing Ono and uncorking a fabulous shot past Tsuzuki from just outside the box.
At the other end, Robson Ponte forced Enomoto into action again from a tight angle as Urawa sought a quick response and Holger Osieck’s men finally drew level when the former Bundesliga player sent in a free kick for Nene to volley past the Yokohama keeper.
“We cannot be satisfied with this result,” said Urawa manager Osieck. “We came into the match fired up to win but couldn’t pull it off.”
Yamase lamented Yokohama’s failure to hold onto their lead and see out the match.
“I felt the game was there for the taking but we could not add to our lead and we need to work on trying to stop allowing our opponents back into the game,” said Yamase.
“Urawa had more chances and our defense and goalkeeper worked hard to keep them out. But to be a really strong team you have to take your chances even when you are on the back foot. It’s a shame that we couldn’t do that today.”
At Todoroki Stadium, Kawasaki took the lead through Masahiro Ohashi after 65 minutes but Manabu Wakabayashi earned a valuable point for the visitors by heading home a last-gasp equalizer.
In the day’s other game, Edmilson took his tally for the season to seven with the first and last goal in Albirex Niigata’s 4-2 win at Jubilo Iwata.
The J. League takes a break for national team games and resumes on June
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