HONG KONG (Reuters) - Yu Kobayashi scored twice as Kawasaki Frontale secured a 3-1 win over fellow Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds in the first leg of their Asian Champions League quarter-final meeting on Wednesday evening. Kobayashi claimed a goal in each half, either side of a volley by Elsinho, to give Toru Oniki’s side the upper hand ahead of the second leg at Saitama Stadium in three weeks.
Yuki Muto claimed an away goal for Urawa before Kobayashi’s second five minutes from time to secure a lifeline for the 2007 champions as the J-League pair battle for a place in the last four. Kawasaki or Urawa will take on Chinese opposition in the next round, with Shanghai SIPG handing Guangzhou Evergrande a 4-0 thrashing in the first leg of their quarter-final on Tuesday evening. “The players worked hard from the back to the front and did a fantastic job to get the third goal after Reds made it 2-1,” said Oniki. “But it’s not over yet and we are only at halftime. We have to make sure we keep our focus going into the second leg.” Kobayashi put Kawasaki in front 12 minutes before the break after Kengo Nakamura had unlocked the Urawa defence. In the 62nd minute, the home side doubled their advantage as Elsinho scored from close range. Muto pulled one back for Urawa 14 minutes from time when he controlled Takuya Aoki’s ball on his chest before slotting under Kawasaki goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryung, but the home side restored their two-goal cushion nine minutes later when Kobayashi headed in Akihiro Ienaga’s cross. “Frontale are a team that can keep the ball and we knew we had to be patient,” said Urawa manager Takafumi Hori. “They had a lot of time on the ball and at the end we couldn’t handle them defensively.” Meanwhile, in the west of the continent, Iran’s Persepolis fought back from going two goals behind to draw 2-2 with Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia. Goals from Omar Al Soma and Leonardo put the Jeddah-based side two goals up before the hour mark but Shoja Khalilzadeh and Godwin Mensha struck to give the Iranians hope of progressing to the semi-finals.
Reporting by Michael Church; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg