BURIRAM, THAILAND – Shinzo Koroki and Yuki Muto struck in the first half as the Urawa Reds picked up a much-needed 2-1 win against Thai side Buriram United in Asian Champions League Group G on Tuesday.
Fellow J. League side Kawasaki Frontale, meanwhile, finished in a 2-2 deadlock with visiting Shanghai SIPG, putting the club at risk of a group-stage exit.
The Reds arrived at Buriram Stadium knowing only a win against the stragglers of the group was likely to keep them in control of their path to the knockout stages.
Koroki gave the 2017 champions the lead just three minutes into the contest, scoring with a delicate strike from the penalty arc following a through-ball from Ewerton.
Ryosuke Yamanaka twice forced diving saves from Buriram goalkeeper Siwarak Tedsungnoen early in the half with a pair of long-range efforts off set pieces.
Former Vissel Kobe and Kashima Antlers forward Pedro Junior equalized for Buriram in the 13th minute after the hosts caught the Urawa defense out of formation on a counterattack.
Ewerton was once again pivotal in Urawa’s winner, intercepting the ball in attacking position before setting up Muto for a shot from the left of the area that skidded past Siwarak and inside the opposite post.
Muto came close to doubling the lead in the 26th minute but was stopped at close-range by the Buriram custodian.
Urawa withstood successive attacks right before the break, with Shusaku Nishikawa saving a header by forward Supachai Jaided in stoppage time.
The visitors wasted opportunities to go further ahead late in the game, with Nagasawa and then Koroki both missing the mark from close range on counterattacks.
At Todoroki Stadium, Shanghai took the lead in the sixth minute off the boot of J. League alumnus Hulk before fellow Brazilian Leandro Damiao equalized for the hosts seven minutes later.
Shogo Taniguchi put Frontale ahead in the 66th minute, but the back-to-back J1 champions held the lead for only five minutes before Hulk found the net again for the equalizer.
The draw leaves Shanghai and Frontale in second and third place, respectively, with Kawasaki no longer controlling their own fate going into the final group match.