KAWASAKI, Japan, Aug 23, (AFP): Twinkle-toed Japan striker Yu Kobayashi scored twice Wednesday as Kawasaki Frontale beat J-League rivals Urawa Reds 3-1 in their Asian Champions League quarter-final first leg.
Kawasaki’s captain proved a handful throughout for the overrun Reds, driving in a low left-foot shot after 33 minutes to cap a period of sustained pressure from Frontale.
Kobayashi’s pace led to a second goal for the home side six minutes into the second half when his stinging shot was blocked by goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa, allowing Brazilian Elsinho to volley home the rebound.
Urawa substitute Yuki Muto snatched an away goal against the run of play in the 76th minute that looked to have given the Reds a lifeline before the second leg in Saitama on September 13.
But Kobayashi gave Kawasaki a deserved third goal five minutes from time, rising at the back post to head home a cross from Akihiro Ienaga.
Kawasaki, currently third in the J-League table to Urawa’s seventh, will be favourites to go on to face either Shanghai SIPG or Guangzhou Evergrande in the tournament semi-finals.
“It was important to make sure we got the win at home,” said Kobayashi, who also scored twice in last month’s 4-1 thrashing of Urawa in the J-League.
“But we conceded an away goal and we know we still have to go there and finish the job.”
Japanese sides have struggled in the Asian Champions League since Gamba Osaka were the country’s last winners in 2008, and Chinese teams could prove a tough nut in the last four again this year.
Shanghai hold an overwhelming advantage in their quarter-final with Guangzhou after a 4-0 rout of their Chinese rivals on Tuesday, helped by a double from Brazilian international Hulk.
Meanwhile in West Asia, Iran’s Persepolis struck twice late on to snatch a 2-2 draw with Saudi giants Al Ahli in their quarter-final first leg.
Al Ahli, the runners-up in 1985 and 2012, appeared to have sealed victory in Muscat when they took a commanding 2-0 lead thanks to a second-minute strike from Omar al-Somah and a 58th-minute effort from Brazilian midfielder Leonardo.
But with the game winding down Persepolis injected fresh life into their campaign through Shoja Khalilzadeh’s header before they levelled on 84 minutes when Nigerian Godwin Mensha rifled home from the edge of the box.
Shanghai: Chinese football chiefs have urged clubs to rein in their players after a promising midfielder nicknamed the “Chinese Modric” allegedly smashed his Porsche into several other cars after drink-driving.
Zhang Xiuwei, a China under-23 international tipped to make the senior side, was arrested following the early-hours incident last week in the northeastern city of Tianjin.
The Tianjin Quanjian player, who previously had a two-year spell in France in Lyon’s reserve and youth sides, careened his sports car into six parked vehicles, the state Xinhua news agency said.
Photos on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, showed a badly mangled white Porsche Carrera purportedly belonging to the 21-year-old. Nobody was injured.
Police said Zhang was detained on suspicion of dangerous driving on August 16.
Football fans in China have likened Zhang to Real Madrid playmaker Luka Modric because of his talent and hair, which he wears longer than most other Chinese players.
The Chinese Football Association (CFA), which has in the past dealt harshly with players who step out of line on and off the field, said the incident “sounded alarms”.
“This professional footballer was meant to set a positive example for the public, yet caused a mishap due to carelessness and indulgence in his personal life,” the CFA said in a statement this week.
“We feel regret and are extremely upset with his behaviour.
“We hope that all clubs will take this as a warning and strengthen their management and education of football players in order to protect our hard-earned environment of football development.”
Zhang was “an outstanding” player who had learnt a harsh lesson, the CFA added, saying he had been over the drink-driving limit.
Tianjin, who are fifth in the 16-team Chinese Super League (CSL) under Italian coach Fabio Cannavaro, confirmed in a separate statement that he had been drinking and said they would punish the apologetic midfielder.