Reds stun Kawasaki to reach Asian semifinal

Urawa Reds forward Toshiyuki Takagi, right, fights for the ball with Kawasaki Frontale defender Elsinho during the AFC Champions League quarterfinal match between Urawa Reds and Kawasaki Frontale in Saitama, Japan, on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 13 September 2017
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Reds stun Kawasaki to reach Asian semifinal

SAITAMA, Japan: Urawa Reds scored three goals in a 15-minute blitz to floor Japanese rivals Kawasaki Frontale 4-1 in a fiery encounter Wednesday and reach the Asian Champions League semifinal.
Slovenian Zlatan Ljubijankic, Brazilian Rafael Silva and Toshiyuki Takagi all scored late goals against 10-man Kawasaki as the home side overturned a two-goal deficit to win 5-4 on aggregate.
The Reds, who won Asia's premier club competition in 2007, will face China's Shanghai SIPG in the last four after a see-saw struggle.
Brazilian Elsinho put Kawasaki in front after 19 minutes, flicking the ball home after a comic error from goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa to stretch their lead to three goals after winning the first leg 3-1.
But Shinzo Koroki pulled one back for Urawa in the 35th minute before the tie took a dramatic twist moments later when Frontale defender Shintaro Kurumaya was sent off for a high boot that caught Koroki in the face.
At times it appeared that both teams were more interested in fisticuffs and rolling on the ground in mock agony than playing football, while several shots were more of a threat to low-flying aircraft than the goalkeepers.
But when substitute Ljubijankic headed Urawa's second of the night to make it 4-3 on aggregate, Kawasaki began to look frayed and a Rafael Silva bullet levelled the tie on 83 minutes.
As Kawasaki wilted in the humid conditions, Takagi's shin connected with an attempted left-foot volley two minutes later and the ball looped over goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong for a dramatic winner.
"To be honest, that goal wasn't 100 percent how I planned to hit it but it went in so I'll take it," said Takagi sheepishly. "We've come this far so we have to make sure we reach the final now."
Urawa, currently eighth in the J-League table, face Andre Villas-Boas's Shanghai side away on September 27 in the first leg of their semi-final.
The return fixture will be played on October 18.
Japanese sides have struggled in the Asian Champions League since Urawa's victory in 2007 and Gamba Osaka's triumph a year later, and Shanghai SIPG will go into the semifinal as firm favorites.
Shanghai Shenhua drops 'overweight' Tevez
Handsomely paid Carlos Tevez is overweight and will not play again for Shanghai Shenhua until he gets fit, the Chinese club's new coach has warned.
The 33-year-old Tevez is one of the best-paid players on the planet on reported weekly wages of about €730,000 (US$870,000) but has scored just twice this season and missed half the games with injury.
The former Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus star has hinted that he will quit China at the end of the season in November and has been branded "very homesick boy" by angry Shenhua fans and Chinese media.
Tevez recently returned to the country from a two-week break in his native Argentina to seek treatment for a leg-muscle injury.
He was jeered when he came on as a substitute last weekend in a 2-1 home defeat, and Wu Jingui, who took over after Gus Poyet quit as coach on Monday, is taking a hardline stance.
"I had a talk with him today about tactics, but I won't let him play for now, he isn't physically ready," Wu said in an interview published Wednesday with the Shanghai Morning Post.
"Both him and (Colombian Fredy) Guarin are overweight. I need to be responsible to the team and responsible to the players.
"When you are on the pitch, if you can't play at 100 percent, then it is completely meaningless." It is the latest sorry chapter in Tevez's turbulent nine months in China.


'We want to make Saudi Arabia proud': Pizzi promises better showing against Egypt

Updated 21 June 2018
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'We want to make Saudi Arabia proud': Pizzi promises better showing against Egypt

  • Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday
  • Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious

ROSTOV-ON-DON: “Keeping possession of the ball seems to be the absolute and most important thing, but then when you sometimes find issues in getting the ball into your opponent’s half, you have to find other movements and ways of doing that,” said Oscar Tabarez after watching his lackluster Uruguay rely on a solitary Luis Suarez goal to eliminate Saudi Arabia from the World Cup. 
Tabarez was talking about his own team’s struggles, yet the assessment is considerably more applicable to the Green Falcons, who dominated possession and retained the ball with ease in midfield, yet for the second match running looked absolutely bereft of ideas in the final third. With Uruguay and Russia now on six points, Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday.
The Green Falcons coach Juan Antonio Pizzi confirmed he intends to stay at the helm of the side for the long-haul, yet is only too aware that the potential of this team is being hamstrung by its inability to score. He called it “our weakness”, adding that his side enjoyed “good ball possession, but no effectiveness”. They, he said, did not have the sufficient “weapons or tools” to equalize.
Pizzi’s side have found the net now just twice in their past five games and against Uruguay managed only three shots on target in 90 minutes — two of which came in added time and were so tame they would hardly have troubled the opposition goalkeeper Fernando Muslera had he been relaxing at his far post sipping a drink. In the 5-0 defeat to Russia last week, they failed to muster a single shot on target. 
Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious. One passage of play in the opening exchanges saw Saudi Arabia complete 16 passes untroubled without the ball entering the opposition penalty box. When Uruguay finally won possession, they required only four quick exchanges to find Edinson Cavani on the left wing drilling the ball across the front of goal. 
“I don’t share that assessment,” said Pizzi, when it was put to him that his team was too slow to attack. “We played at the speed that was necessary. We need to be accurate, but if you step up the speed you lose accuracy with your passes. We had control of the game and that was why.”
Striker Mohammed Al-Sahlawi had been the focal point of much criticism from Turki Al-Sheikh, the head of Saudi’s General Sports Authority, after the Russia “fiasco” and was dropped from the side against Uruguay. So too was goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf, another who Al-Sheikh name-checked as having been at fault.
Pizzi, asked whether the scathing assessment from his bosses had forced his hand when it came to team selection, calmly dismissed the suggestion. He also ruled out the notion that administrative issues between the players and the country’s football federation had caused unrest in his squad.
“I have a list of 23 players here and they are all available to play. We are here together and pushing in the same direction. 
“I wanted — and still want — to make the Saudi Arabian people feel proud of our energy and the desire we show in matches. Unfortunately we were unable to do that against Russia and will be playing our next match without any hope of progressing. I hope now they will feel a little more proud even though we are out of the World Cup,” he said.