SAITAMA — A second-half double from Brazilian striker Edmilson rescued three points for Urawa Reds in a 2-1 win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima on Saturday.

Hisato Sato gave Sanfrecce a 7th-minute lead and then proceeded to run the hosts ragged at Saitama Stadium, prompting the crowd of 44,149 to boo Urawa off the field after a limp first-half display.

But Edmilson converted Naohiro Takahara’s through-ball in the 69th minute as Reds redoubled their efforts, and the 26-year-old missed a penalty before finally giving Urawa the upper hand with a clinical diving header five minutes from time.

The win was not enough to make up ground on league-leaders Kashima Antlers, however, after Oswaldo Oliveira’s side beat Omiya Ardija 2-0 to preserve its eight-point cushion at the top. But a 2-2 draw between Albirex Niigata and Kawasaki Frontale, starting the day in second- and third-place, allowed Reds to leapfrog the pair into second.

Takahara made no bones about the effort Urawa needed to get past a lively Hiroshima side, but the striker was happy with the way his team managed to get itself off the ropes after a troubled first half.

“It was a really difficult game and we ended up struggling,” he said. “I didn’t play well, but I was able to get the ball to Edmilson for his goal. I appreciate playing with him.”

Urawa manager Volker Finke was forced to reshuffle his pack as central defender Keisuke Tsuboi withdrew minutes before kickoff, leaving veteran utility player Nobuhisa Yamada to plug the gap as Yoshiya Nishizawa came in at right back.

Sanfrecce’s Yosuke Kashiwagi added to the home team’s disarray when he made space for himself in the 7th minute before sending in a cross for Sato to hit the opening goal. The striker seemed to misread the flight of the ball as he lunged in too early, but the miscue worked to his advantage as he caught it on the bounce to deceive goalkeeper Ryota Tsuzuki.

Edmilson, Marcus Tulio Tanaka and Takahara all went close in search of an equalizer, but for all Urawa’s superior possession it was Sanfrecce that looked the more threatening. Kashiwagi’s bamboozling runs had the home defense tied up in knots, and Sato very nearly added another when he crashed a shot against the bar in the 37th minute.

But as the chances passed Sanfrecce by, Edmilson pounced to haul Urawa back into the match. Takahara sent his strike partner clear with a perfectly weighted through-ball, and the Brazilian calmly slotted under Nakabayashi for the equalizer.

The turnaround seemed complete when referee Masayoshi Okada awarded a penalty for an Ilian Stoyanov foul on Takahara, but Edmilson blasted it against the post to leave Urawa facing the prospect of trailing Kashima by 10 points with the season at the halfway mark.

The Brazilian had other ideas, however, connecting with Robson Ponte’s free-kick in the 85th minute to send the ball past Nakabayashi and stop Kashima from disappearing over the hill just yet.

In the day’s other games, Montedio Yamagata also came from behind to beat Yokohama F. Marinos 2-1, while Shimizu S-Pulse turned on the style to destroy Asian champions Gamba Osaka 4-1. JEF United Chiba and Vissel Kobe drew 1-1.

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