SAITAMA – Urawa Reds pulled off a remarkable comeback in the Asian Champions League on Wednesday, erasing a 3-1 first-leg deficit to defeat 10-man Kawasaki Frontale 5-4 on aggregate to reach the semifinals.
Toshiyuki Takagi scored the deciding goal in the dying minutes of Urawa’s 4-1 victory in the second leg of the quarterfinals, after Shinzo Koroki, substitute Zlatan Ljubijankic and Rafael Silva answered Elsinho’s opener for Kawasaki.
In the semis, Reds will play Andre Villas Boas’ Shanghai SIPG, who went through a night earlier after beating Guangzhou Evergrande on penalties. The first leg on Sept. 27 is in Shanghai, the second leg Oct. 18 at Urawa.
After Kawasaki won the first leg at Todoroki last month, Urawa needed to win 2-0 or by three or more Wednesday to return to the last four for the first time since 2008.
But it was the visitors who struck first on a balmy evening, where Elsinho, sent through brilliantly by captain Kengo Nakamura, scored his second goal of the competition in the 19th minute on the counter.
Reds managed to pull even after 35 minutes through Koroki and caught a huge break two minutes afterward, when Shintaro Kurumaya was shown a straight red for taking a studs-up swipe at Koroki.
Urawa huffed and puffed in search of goals in the second half and came up with their second in the 70th minute, Ljubijankic nodding home from a short corner.
Down a man, Frontale struggled to keep up with the relentless energy of Takafumi Hori’s men and allowed the hosts a third goal six minutes to time, Silva burying the ball into the bottom corner for his sixth strike in the ACL.
And only a minute later, Takagi punched Reds’ ticket to the semifinals with the most delicate of volleys from Ryota Moriwaki’s cross, the crowd of more than 26,000 erupting at deafening levels.