Urawa Red Diamonds coach Rafal Janas was left disappointed after his side suffered a come-from-behind defeat.
Urawa scored the opening goal of their 2023/24 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL) Group J fourth leg against Pohang Steelers at the Pohang Steelyard on Monday, but were outnumbered and suffered a 1-2 reverse.
Defending champions Urawa, who defeated Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal in the final to win the competition in May, were drawn in Group J alongside Pohang Steelers (South Korea), Wuhan Sanjin (China) and Hanoi (Vietnam) in this season’s ACL.
After suffering a 0-2 defeat to Pohang in the third round of the group stage at home on March 24, Urawa sought to bounce back with an away win, but failed to protect the lead and fell to a second straight defeat against Pohang.
On the day, Urawa pushed Pohang hard from the start of the match with the support of the away fans, and took the lead in the 36th minute with a goal from Guinea striker Jose Kante. Pohang struggled to find an equalizer, but couldn’t break through Urawa’s goal.
Urawa, who was in control of the game, conceded a penalty kick in the 21st minute of the second half to give Pohang the lead. The video assistant referee (VAR) was activated when Hong Yun-sang’s cross from inside the penalty box hit defender Marius Huybroten in the hand, and after checking the on-field monitor, the referee awarded Pohang a penalty kick.
Pohang striker Zeca neatly converted the penalty kick to make the score 1-1, and Urawa lost the lead.
After conceding the equalizer, Urawa was then sent off. In the 25th minute of the second half, winger Takahiro Akimoto was sent off directly for a dangerous tackle on Ko Young-joon. The referee initially gave Akimoto a warning, but upon the recommendation of the VAR room, he reviewed the incident on the monitor, canceled the warning, and showed the red card.
Despite being down a man, Urawa still managed to create a few threatening moments, but ultimately lost 1-2 in stoppage time to Kim In-sung, who came on for the injured Ko Young-joon.
In the end, Urawa dropped both games of their two-game series against Pohang, keeping their record at 4 points (W1 D1 L2). With Pohang clinching an early round of 16 berth on the same day as Wuhan (China) suffered a 1-2 come-from-behind loss to Hanoi (Vietnam), Urawa will be looking for a round of 16 wild card, which is awarded to the top three teams out of the five second-place finishers in each East Asian group.레모나토토
Coach Rafal Janas was in attendance at the post-match press conference in place of head coach Machiei Skorja. Coach Janas took over the press conference after Skorja was ejected for protesting the referee at the end of the game.
“We are disappointed with the result. We came to win today and we prepared a lot. We did a good job in the first half, both offensively and defensively,” he said, adding, “The atmosphere was weird in the second half, and I think the red card changed the game.”
“I can’t really say because I didn’t see it, but the red card changed the game,” he said. “We brought on a striker, but unfortunately we couldn’t turn the game around. I don’t think we deserved to lose.”
“I don’t know,” said Sgorza, who was cautioned and then sent off. I think it’s a situation where you can have a conversation with the referee, but I didn’t really understand the sending off and I didn’t get a good explanation from the referee.”
“We had one man sent off, but even at 1-1, we put two strikers on the field to win the game,” said Coach Janas. “I thought we actually created two chances to score, but we had a lot of space, which gave Pohang the opportunity to score the equalizer.” He added, “We are now in the 16th round on our own.
“I think our chances of qualifying for the round of 16 are now gone, so it’s disappointing that we have to wait and see what the other teams do,” he said.