SENDAI – Shinzo Koroki scored a brace to help Asian Champions League semifinalists Urawa Reds to a 3-2 win away to Vegalta Sendai in the J. League first division on Sunday.
Koroki extended his lead at the top of the J1 scoring charts to 19 goals with a pair of fine headers either side of Hirotaka Mita’s strike for Sendai. Brazilian midfielder Rafael Silva’s 82nd-minute goal made it 3-1 before his compatriot Crislan replied for Sendai with two minutes remaining.
“We took the lead and hoped that would make it easy for us, but they pulled one back and that made it tough,” said Koroki.
“We got back in front and managed to score a third too but we didn’t finish the game well and that is something we need to address.”
Reds, who are one win away from a place in the ACL final after pulling out a 1-1 draw in midweek away to big-spending Chinese club Shanghai SIPG in the first leg of the semis, have 44 points with six games of the J. League campaign left and remain seventh in the table.
The loss left Sendai in 12th place with 35 points, just eight above the relegation zone.
Reds made a bright start in glorious autumn sunshine at Yurtec Stadium, and Tsukasa Umesaki almost gave them the lead when he drove into the side netting with two minutes on the clock.
The visitors made the breakthrough in the 26th, Yosuke Kashiwagi taking a return pass from Umesaki and crossing for Koroki to direct his header in off the far post.
Koroki nearly added to his tally moments later, but Sendai keeper Kentaro Seki gathered his header after he had blocked the initial shot from Umesaki.
Sendai leveled early in the second half, Mita dispossessing Kashiwagi and racing forward to smash past Shusaku Nishikawa from 20 meters.
But Koroki restored Reds’ lead on the hour, scoring with a bullet header after good work on the right flank from Wataru Endo, before Silva stroked home Yuki Muto’s pass.
Crislan pulled one back with a well-taken header, but it came too little, too late for Sendai.