Urawa come back from the dead to defeat Kawasaki

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Urawa Red Diamonds produced a monumental revival on Wednesday to advance to the AFC Champions League semi-finals with a 5-4 aggregate triumph over Kawasaki Frontale.

Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, Urawa looked dead and buried at Saitama Stadium 2002 when Elsinho fired Kawasaki ahead on the night after 19 minutes.

But, in the span of three pivotal minutes just after the half-hour mark, the complexion of the tie was altered drastically; Shinzo Koroki equalising for Urawa before Shintaro Kurumaya was sent off for the visitors.

There was still a huge deficit to overcome but the numerical difference proved to be telling as the Reds went on to win it courtesy of second-half goals from Zlatan Ljubijankic, Rafael Silva and Toshiyuki Takagi.

Urawa will now meet Shanghai SIPG in the last four, a team who narrowly avoided the same fate as Kawasaki on Tuesday evening.

However, the night started off so differently for Frontale when Kengo Nakamura caught Tomoaki Makino napping and played a lovely ball over the top to Elsinho, who cleverly flicked a shot past the onrushing Shusaku Nishikawa.

At this stage, Urawa had it all to do but Koroki gave them hope in the 35th minute, darting in between the opposition centre-backs to run onto Shinya Yajima’s through-pass and score.

Two minutes later, controvery arose when the visitors were reduced to ten men after Kurumaya was shown a straight red for a high boot on Koroki.

The left-back’s defence would be that he only had eyes for the ball as it sailed over his shoulder, but there was no denying he made a stabbing motion and caught his opponent in the face with his studs.

It was now a matter of whether Kawasaki could hold out for the remaining 50 minutes, with manager Toru Oniki even sacrificing talismanic playmaker Nakamura to shore up his defence.

Instead, it was a substitution from opposite number Takafumi Hori that proved to be a masterstroke.

In the 70th minute , just seven minutes after coming on, Ljubijankic climbed highest to meet Yosuke Kashiwagi’s corner and guide a header beyond the Jung Sung-ryong at full stretch.

With six minutes remaining, Kashiwagi was the provider again as he found Silva, who made space with a deft turn before rifling a shot into the bottom corner.

Extra-time was now on the cards but Urawa decided they would not need another 30 minutes to complete the comeback.

Barely a minute later, Ryota Moriwaki’s diagonal ball reached Takagi and, while he did not get the cleanest of contacts on his shot, he sent it looping over a hapless Jung to send the Reds through to the last four.

URAWA RED DIAMONDS: Shusaku Nishikawa, Ryota Moriwaki, Mauricio Antonio (Zlatan Ljubijankic 63’), Yuki Abe, Tomoaki Makino, Takuya Aoki, Yosuke Kashiwagi, Shinya Yajima (Yoshiaki Komai 75’), Rafael Silva, Toshiyuki Takagi, Shinzo Koroki (Wataru Endo 90’).

KAWASAKI FRONTALE: Jung Sung-ryong, Elsinho, Tatsuki Nara, Shogo Taniguchi, Shintaro Kurumaya, Ryota Oshima (Eduardo 65’), Eduardo Neto, Akihiro Ienaga, Kengo Nakamura (Yusuke Tasaka 42’), Hiroyuki Abe, Yu Kobayashi (Takayuki Morimoto 89’).