Urawa draw first blood

The Urawa Red Diamonds got their noses in front in their AFC Champions League tie against FC Seoul after claiming a 1-0 win in Wednesday’s first leg at the Saitama Stadium.

Left-back Tomoya Ugajin scored the only goal of the game in the 14th minute to hand the Japanese side the ascendancy in the tie.

The hosts made the better start to the game, with Shinzo Koroki the first player to get a shot on target, although the Seoul stopper had little trouble in parrying his 10th-minute effort away.

Five minutes later, though, the hosts were in the lead, even though they might still be scratching their heads over how exactly they managed to concede.

The 28-year-old defender-cum-winger’s goal was somewhat fortuitous to say the least, and it is doubtful whether he actually meant it. Ugajin had bombed forward down the left flank and took control of a long pass from the opposite side of the field.

However, his first-time cross was somewhat miss hit and instead of reaching the Urawa players in the penalty box, sailed over Seoul goalkeeper Sang-Hoon Yoo’s head and into the back of the net.

The visitors, though, came back into the match almost immediately after going behind and for most of the remainder of the second half, were arguably the better team.

Adriano went close after making contact with a flick from Japanese midfielder Yojiro Takahagi, while Dejan Damjanovic fired his 30th-minute effort straight at the Shusaku Nishikawa in the Reds goal.

Yoo was again called into action in the 33rd minute when Tadanari Lee’s effort was deflected goalwards, but this time the visitors’ keeper stood strong.

Shortly before the interval, Adriano went close again but his shot from within the penalty area went well wide.

Ten minutes after the break the 2007 champions should have doubled their lead when Yosuke Kashiwagi’s clever free-kick found Takahiro Sekine in space, but his run was smothered by the on-rushing Yoo before he could get his shot away.

Halfway through the half Seoul had another shot on goal when defender Kim Dong-woo’s weak header found Osmar Barba unmarked, but the Spaniard could only shoot over the bar from seven yards out.

With 10 minutes left in the match, Yoshiaki Komai broke down the left flank and cut inside, but with the goal in his sight, he shot over the bar.

In the closing stages of the game, Adriano was presented with a chance to make Urawa pay for their profligacy but the Brazilian’s shot from six yards out went straight Nishikawa as Urawa held on to claim the win on the night.

The return leg will take place at the Seoul World Cup Stadium next week.

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