SAITAMA – Striker Shinzo Koroki scored his 90th career goal and Urawa Reds beat 10-man Ventforet Kofu 2-1 for their fourth win of the season as J. League action resumed Friday night after the international break.
Koroki broke the deadlock with a clinical strike midway through the second half in chilly conditions at Saitama Stadium, before Ryota Moriwaki scored what proved to be the decider with a blockbuster, temporarily putting Reds in top spot with 12 points ahead of Saturday’s matches. Kofu replied in injury time through Sho Inagaki.
Urawa dominated the early going and Tsukasa Umesaki had a shot deflected wide in the 12th minute, before Tomoaki Makino rattled the crossbar with a header from the resulting corner.
Yosuke Kashiwagi’s curling free kick on the half-hour mark was inches wide of the mark, and the home side was given a boost moments later when Kofu captain Hideomi Yamamoto was harshly dismissed for a second bookable offense following a seemingly accidental handball.
Tadanari Lee had a shot well saved by Kohei Kawata with the last kick of the first half and the former Southampton striker should have done better in the 50th minute when he squandered a free header.
Kofu unsurprisingly put everyone behind the ball to try and fend off wave after wave of Urawa attacks, but the home side finally made its numerical advantage pay when Koroki took a short pass from Lee and buried his shot into the bottom left-hand corner of net.
Kofu’s hopes of a comeback ended eight minutes from time when Moriwaki controlled with his chest and sent a scorching half volley in off the underside of the crossbar.
Inagaki scrambled home in the 92nd minute after Reds keeper Shusaku Nishikawa could only parry a header from Takamitsu Yoshino.
Kofu, whose only win so far in the league came on the opening day of the season with a 2-0 triumph at Vissel Kobe, remains on four points.
In Friday’s other game, Nigerian striker Peter Utaka scored a brace as reigning champions Sanfreece Hiroshima thumped visiting Vegalta Sendai 3-0 at Big Arch.