SAITAMA — A beer with his name on it was waiting for Holger Osieck after the Urawa coach suffered through the Reds’ dramatic AFC Champions League semifinal victory on Wednesday evening.
The German said he would allow himself a well-earned glass of suds to toast the tension-filled 5-3 shootout victory over Seongnam Ilhwa before quickly turning his thoughts to what could be a glittering end to the season for the Saitama giants.
“I’m going to have my beer and then tomorrow it goes on,” said Osieck. “You go through a lot of ups and downs in a match like that, that’s for sure. But when you end up on a positive note then it’s OK.
“It’s special, it’s unique and I’m really happy for the players. They really deserved it. I’m happy for the club and of course the supporters. They sacrifice whatever to come to our games, they travel abroad to Australia, to Indonesia, they always are ready to support us. They finally got rewarded.”
In front of more than 51,000 fans at Saitama Stadium, Tadaaki Hirakawa scored the winning penalty after ‘keeper Ryota Tsuzuki saved a Choi Sung Kuk spot-kick and the Reds advanced to the continental final for the first time in their history.
They will play Iran’s Sepahan in the final on Nov. 7 and 14, with Urawa the visitors in the first leg.
Osieck refused to look beyond the next game, against Nagoya Grampus Eight in the J. League on Sunday, but the Reds have moved that little bit closer to an astonishing quadruple.
They lead the J. League by six points with five games left, their defense of the Emperor’s Cup is still to come and they will qualify for December’s Club World Cup if triumphant in the ACL final.
It may be long shot, but anything is possible if Osieck’s men show the same strength of character in the remaining games of the season as shown Wednesday.
Washington put the hosts ahead in the first half before Seongnam scored twice in the second half to lead 4-3 on aggregate, only for Makoto Hasebe to draw Urawa level and force extra time.
“It comes down to the moral of the team, the character of the team, whether they are able to respond, whether they can come back, and that’s what our players did,” Osieck said.
The coach said a place in the Asian final is just reward for a club that bucked an apathetic trend among its Japanese rivals when it came to continental competitions.
“Urawa is a major part of Japanese football development and we are kind of trailblazers. So therefore I think it’s justified that a club that takes all this effort, to really push things forward, gets rewarded with the opportunity to play on an international platform.”
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