Urawa’s draw with Sydney FC overnight means the Reds have qualified for the Knockout Stage. The Saitama club were winners of the Asian Champions League in 2007 but since then they’ve made the Knockout Stage just once in three attempts. For a club with Urawa’s reputation, last night’s result would have provided some relief.
The draw last night was one that many may have predicted, but both teams weren’t without their chances despite an awful playing surface. Sydney FC’s George Blackwood had a quality game with the only downside being the lack of a goal. The 18 year old dribbled his way into the box on separate occasions and looked a threat anytime he was given time or space.
The Reds however, dictated for most of the match, their high line keeping Sydney camped inside their own defensive third for significant periods. By the second half though Urawa were resorting to crosses rather than looking to find a way through the well organised Sky Blues defence.
Unsurprisingly both teams were happy to take the one point, with Sydney FC allowing Urawa goalkeeper Nishikawa plenty of time on the ball in injury time, and the Reds then resorting to shepherding the ball in the corner.
The 0-0 draw means Sydney FC head to China with their two point advantage intact. Though the Sky Blues will face a Guangzhou Evergrande outfit likely bent on revenge. It’s hard to see them taking the three points there, meanwhile the Reds host struggling Pohang. As stated previously the prize for winning Group H is the opportunity to avoid red hot FC Seoul. Even though the Knockout Stage contestants have been decided already, Match Day 6 still has plenty of interest.
Asked about the team’s qualification for the ACL Knockout Stage Urawa defender Tomoaki Makino said, “Last year’s result changed this team a lot. This year we had an aim to come back and make it into the Round of 16.”
The fullback (playing centre back last night) then stated, “We’re still not satisfied. Going into the Round of 16 is the lowest acceptable result.”
Makino was then probed on a preferred opponent in the Round of 16 but he wasn’t giving anything away.
Heading into Match Day 6 the equation is like so: If Urawa wins (v Pohang) and Sydney FC loses (at Guangzhou Evergrande), the Reds will play Group F’s second placed team Shandong Luneng. If Sydney FC get a draw against Guangzhou Evergrande and Urawa wins, the Reds will still win the group.
For now the Reds return to the J-League and meet table topping Kawasaki on Sunday. Meanwhile, Sydney FC have two week to rest up before their date with Guangzhou Evergrande.