JEJU, SOUTH KOREA – Urawa Reds face a tall order at home next week against Jeju United after losing to the K-League side 2-0 in the first leg of the Asian Champions League round of 16 on Wednesday.
Marcelo Toscano opened the scoring early and Jin Seong-uk locked up the win with a second for the hosts in the 92nd minute in the first meeting between the two clubs in the continental club championship.
Reds, ACL champions in 2007, now need at least a 2-0 victory on May 31 at Saitama Stadium to keep their quarterfinal hopes alive. However, Reds, have only four wins in 15 games against South Korean sides in the competition.
“Before the game, we did talk about having to watch out for their counterattacks,” Urawa manager Mihailo Petrovic said. “I’m convinced we’re good enough to win the second leg. We have to look at it like it’s our last game of the season.”
Jeju coach Cho Sung-hwan basked in the victory.
“We won this as a team, one-for-all, all-for-one,” Cho said. “It was a difficult game, but we attacked well. We must continue this next week.”
Zlatan Ljubijankic had a chance right off the bat for Reds, but badly missed the target with his left foot in the second minute.
Just five minutes later, Jeju, making their first appearance in the ACL knockout phase, did better with their first opportunity, when Toscano headed home from a cross by Hwang Il-su.
Jeju were content with sitting back and trying to hit Urawa on the break, a tactic that frustrated Reds in a recent J. League defeat against last-place Omiya Ardija.
Urawa did not get going until the second half, with Shinzo Koroki setting up Yuki Muto for a running header that was cleared off the line by Kweon Hang-jin.
Mihailo Petrovic’s men continued to push up in search of an away goal that would have taken loads of pressure off them for the second leg, with Ljubijankic, Koroki and Tadanari Lee, who came off the bench, to create a series of chances.
But just when it appeared Reds might equalize, Jeju caught the visitors out and punished them on the break, Jin netting off the leg of goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa to doom the giants from Saitama.
Urawa vowed to bounce back at home next week.
“We’re two goals behind but we have to do a better job of managing risks,” Muto said. “We had some chances today so we should be able to score at least two goals at home.”