Frontale gives Reds the blues in Asian clash

AFP
Kawasaki Frontale will go into the second leg of the AFC Champions League quarterfinals with a 2-goal lead after Yu Kobayashi scored twice in a 3-1 win over Urawa Reds.
AFP
AFP

Kawasaki Frontale defender Elshinho (left) fights for the ball with Urawa Reds midfielder Shinya Yajima during their AFC Champions League quarterfinal, first leg at Todoroki Stadium in Kawasaki, Japan, on August 23, 2017. Frontale won 3-1.

Twinkle-toed Japan striker Yu Kobayashi scored twice on Wednesday as Kawasaki Frontale beat J-League rivals Urawa Reds 3-1 in their AFC Champions League quarterfinal, first leg.

Kawasaki's captain proved a handful throughout for the overrun Reds, driving in a low left-foot shot after 33 minutes to cap a period of sustained pressure from Frontale.

Kobayashi's pace led to a second goal for the home side six minutes into the second half when his stinging shot was blocked by goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa, allowing Brazilian Elsinho to volley home the rebound.

Urawa substitute Yuki Muto snatched an away goal against the run of play in the 76th that looked to have given the Reds a lifeline before the second leg in Saitama on September 13.

But Kobayashi gave Kawasaki a deserved third goal five minutes from time, rising at the back post to head home a cross from Akihiro Ienaga.

Kawasaki, currently third in the J-League table to Urawa's seventh, will be the favorite to go on to face either Shanghai SIPG or Guangzhou Evergrande in the tournament semifinals.

"It was important to make sure we got the win at home," said Kobayashi, who also scored twice in last month's 4-1 thrashing of Urawa in the J-League.

"But we conceded an away goal and we know we still have to go there and finish the job."

Japanese sides have struggled in the AFC Champions League since Gamba Osaka was the country's last winner in 2008, and Chinese teams could prove a tough nut in the last four again this year.

Shanghai holds an overwhelming advantage in its quarterfinal with Guangzhou after a 4-0 home rout of its Chinese Super League rival on Tuesday, helped by a double from Brazilian international Hulk.

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