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Reds frustrated in stalemate as Kawasaki takes over top spot

Kyodo

Urawa Reds extended their unbeaten streak in the J. League to four matches on Sunday, but manager Mihailo Petrovic was left a frustrated man after his side was held to a 0-0 stalemate away against defense-minded Yokohama F. Marinos.

Urawa created a raft of chances in front of a crowd of over 38,000 at Nissan Stadium, but the former Asian champions were unable to penetrate Yokohama’s defense and beat goalkeeper Hiroki Iikura, who pulled off a series of key stops to deny Reds all three points.

Urawa, like Yokohama, came into the game on a three-match winning streak in the league, but Sunday’s result saw Reds concede the top spot to Kawasaki Frontale, which beat Sagan Tosu 1-0 at Todoroki, where Yoshito Okubo’s 94th-minute winner was his J1 record 159th career goal.

Petrovic said he was disappointed in the manner that Yokohama set its stalls out and took a thinly veiled dig at Marinos coach Erick Mombaert.

“We put pressure on them for long periods and played the game with a lot of vitality and movement,” said Petrovic. “People probably expected a spectacle of a game between two teams of this caliber but only one team tried to play soccer.

“Yokohama played too defensively and with all due respect to their French coach I think he has been watching Jose Mourinho, too much. It’s a shame the two teams could not attack each other.

“I love soccer but the teams that should lead from the front in Japanese soccer ought to be doing so.”

On Tuesday, Yuki Muto kept Reds’ chances of making the knockout stages of the Asian Champions League alive by scoring the winner in a hard-fought 1-0 victory over defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande.

On Sunday, the former Vegalta Sendai man beat the offside trap and nearly put Reds ahead with less than two minutes gone, but Iikura got down well to push his shot behind for a corner.

The visitors’ direct approach from the rear kept Yokohama pinned back in their own half for most of the first period, with Tadanari Lee and Yuki Abe also threatening to break the deadlock.

Yokohama’s first real chance arrived five minutes into the second half but Keita Endo was unable to get enough purchase into his shot following a probing run into the Reds’ box.

Kosuke Nakamachi then did well to set himself up and fire just off target and Endo squandered another golden chance with 20 minutes left, taking one too many touches after galloping onto a clever pass from Shunsuke Nakamura.

Takahiro Sekine looked set to snatch it for Reds, but Iikura saved his best for last and beat away his stinging effort with one minute left.

Mombaert was unruffled by Petrovic’s comments and defended his tactics.

“We didn’t play too defensively. The players were obliged to retreat against such direct attacking play,” he said. “It was difficult for us to break out from defense but we were forced back.

“We didn’t expect them to play anything like as directly as they did. We had to drop back in order to close down the space. It ended up 0-0 but all credit to the way we defended, especially in the second half.”

In other games, Vissel Kobe’s game at home to promoted Avispa Fukuoka also ended without a goal, while Jin Izumisawa struck the winner as Omiya Ardija came from a goal down to win 2-1 at Nagoya Grampus.

Takashi Usami was on target as Gamba Osaka won 3-1 at Vegalta Sendai, while Cristiano scored twice in second-half stoppage time as Ventforet Kofu won by the same scoreline at home against Shonan Bellmare.