Urawa edge Shanghai in memorable affair

The Urawa Red Diamonds narrowly beat Shanghai SIPG on Tuesday in a crucial AFC Champions League Group F encounter that was played at the Saitama Stadium in Japan.

Top spot in Group F was up for grabs when the might of Japan squared up with the might of China and it was the former who emerged as 1-0 victors to sit pretty at the summit of a high-quality assemblage of teams.

One associates a combination of control, skill, structure and accuracy with both Urawa and Shanghai however Tuesday’s game saw little of that displayed.

Both teams were surprisingly skittish throughout the 90 minutes but particularly in the opening stages of this encounter.

Urawa had a great chance as early as the first minute when Rafael Silva came extremely close to netting the first goal of the game as he hit the post. Zlatan Ljubijankić pounced quickly on the rebound but his attempt missed the target.

One thought both teams would settle eventually but that never happened and it infuriated Shanghai’s manager, Andre Villas Boas.

Villas Boas’ team seemed to be missing the direction that star striker Hulk usually provides for them – he was sitting on the side-lines.

Shanghai were made to pay for a bad miss from Wenjun Lü when Silva made no mistake after some fluid build-up play from Urawa. Just one minute before the break, it was a telling blow.

The second half continued in the same frenetic fashion as the first half.

This game will undoubtedly be remembered for the inability of international superstar, Oscar, to convert either of the two penalty chances he was presented with.

The first of which came in the 65th minute…

While the second came with just 15 minutes to play.

Visibly deflated by both misses, Shanghai were unable to threaten in the final stages as Urawa hung-on for a wild, end-to-end 1-0 victory.

It was truly a unique game of football that could easily have yielded plenty of goals for both teams.

While Oscar’s inaccuracy was comical, the consequences are extremely serious. A point would have guaranteed Shanghai of progression to the knock-out stages. That is no longer the case. They have also surrendered top spot in the group to Urawa.