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Urawa Reds Advance to Asian Champions League Semifinals

The Reds, who were tournament runners-up in 2019, jumped out to a 2-0 lead by halftime against Thai opponent BG Pathum United and cruised to victory.

Urawa Reds' Takahiro Akimoto scores a goal against BG Pathum United in the Asian Champions League quarterfinals at Saitama Stadium on August 22. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

The Urawa Reds outclassed Thailand’s BG Pathum United in the Asian Champions League semifinals on Monday night, August 22, winning 4-0.

The J.League’s Reds, who won the ACL titles in 2007 and 2017 and finished as the runners-up in 2019, took a 2-0 lead into the locker room at intermission at Saitama Stadium.

Swedish striker David Moberg Karlsson put the Reds ahead 1-0 in the 32nd minute and Takuya Iwanami doubled the advantage in the 42nd.

After the break, Urawa showcased its roster depth, getting goals from Yoshio Koizumi (65th minute) and substitute Takahiro Akimoto (72nd).

Spaniard manager Ricardo Rodriguez was impressed with his team’s winning performance.

"I think we are in the best moment of the season and the best moment since I came to Urawa," Rodriguez said, according to Reuters.

"In this competition we have to play many games in a short time, so if we can start [each game] strongly, then we can rest some players."

A Look Ahead

Up next: The Reds, who sit in eighth place in the J.League’s 18-team first-division standings, face South Korean club Jeonbuk Motors in the Asian Champions League semifinals on Thursday at 7:30 PM JST at Saitama Stadium. Both clubs are in the tourney’s East region.

"We've come this far and I want to head into the next game representing Japanese clubs," Iwanami was quoted as saying by Kyodo News after Monday’s match.

Rodriguez, who became Reds manager in December 2020, said: "I think we're going in a good way but the job is not yet finished. We have to go to the final."

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The West region portion of the ACL tournament bracket has eight teams ― from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Uzbekistan, the United Arab Emirates and Iran ― still in the mix. The region’s quarterfinals and semifinals are set to be played at one TBA venue in February.

The Urawa-Jeonbuk winner will book a spot in the two-leg (home and away) finals on February 19 and 26, 2023.

Vissel’s Semifinal Hopes Spoiled

In Monday’s earlier quarterfinal, Jeonbuk Motors defeated the J.League’s Vissel Kobe 3-1 at Saitama Stadium.

Vissel had taken a 1-0 lead on a Koya Yuruki goal, when he pounced on a loose ball after Jeonbuk goalkeeper Bum Soo Lee stopped Yusei Ozaki’s shot in the 64th minute, before Jeonbuk’s Modou Barrow equalized two minutes later.

In extra time, Brazilian Gustavo broke the deadlock with a header in the 104th minute. Teammate Seon Min Moon then scored the final tally in injury time.

"I expected Gustavo to come through for us in [the] late moments," Jeonbuk coach Sang Sik Kim was quoted as saying by Yonhap News Agency. "He had an unbelievable game today. And I hope he continues to play this way."

Vissel midfielder Andres Iniesta sat out the game due to an injury. His team sits in 16th place in the J1 standings, striving to avoid relegation to the second division at season’s end.

"It's really disappointing and we're sorry for the fans who came to support us," Vissel captain Hotaru Yamaguchi said after the match, according to Kyodo News.

"Now we need to start getting wins in the J.League as we battle for survival."

Author: Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward’s [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays, in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven.

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