Saitama: Urawa Red Diamonds completed a sensational comeback in their AFC Champions League quarter-final second leg on Wednesday, beating Kawasaki Frontale 4-1 to progress to the semi-finals 5-4 on aggregate.
All looked lost for Takafumi Hori’s side when they went 1-0 down on the night to Elsinho’s goal, but a series of decisive incidents swung the game back in their favour.
Simplicity slices Kawasaki open
Sometimes simple is best; sometimes simple is beautiful.
4-1 down on aggregate with just 55 minutes to play Urawa needed something special, and they were to get it courtesy of a delicious through-ball from Shinya Yajima and delicate finish by Shinzo Koroki.
Yajima spotted Koroki’s run and nudged the ball perfectly into his path with the outside of his right boot, and his teammate kept up his end of the bargain by dinking an effort over Jung Sung-ryong to give Urawa hope and set Kawasaki on edge.
Red card produces possession portent
Urawa were rejuvenated by their 35th-minute equaliser while it clearly rattled Kawasaki, and things got worse for visitors within three minutes as Shintaro Kurumaya saw red for a high challenge on Shinzo Koroki.
Kurumaya was not the only player Kawasaki lost as a result of the sending off, with Kengo Nakamura surprisingly sacrificed in the resultant tactical reshuffle.
Kawasaki struggled to keep hold of the ball without their midfield lynchpin, and in the final five minutes of the first half Urawa offered a glimpse of how the rest of the game was to play out by recording a whopping 79.2% of possession.
Cultured Kashiwagi conducts proceedings
Urawa ultimately completed their outrageous turnaround thanks to goals from four different players, but the contribution of Yosuke Kashiwagi was pivotal.
The 29-year-old was forced to pull out of the first leg after picking up an injury in the warm-up, but he seized the baton on his return here and was involved in three of his team’s goals – claiming direct assists for the second and third.
Kawasaki were deprived of their metronome Kengo Nakamura, but Urawa thrived with Kashiwagi directing proceedings from the heart of the battle as he chalked up an outstanding 93.8% accuracy rating with his 80 passes.
Photos: Lagardère Sports