Friday, September 21, 2007

If it's gift-wrapped, the Reds don't want it ...

J.League.
Urawa Reds manager Holger Osieck remains optimistic about his side’s chances of advancing to the semifinals of the Asian Champions League despite losing hold of a stranglehold on the home-and-away quarterfinal clash against Jeonbuk Motors on Wednesday night.
The Reds outclassed the reigning ACL champions from start to finish and were up 2-0 heading into the waning moments of the match at Saitama Stadium when Jeonbuk defender Choi Jin-cheul blazed home through a maze of players to take the glean off a terrific showing by the home side.
Since away goals count as double in the event of a stalemate, Choi’s last-gasp strike throws the rematch on Sept. 26 in South Korea wide open.
The ever-pragmatic Osieck, however, said he was far from disappointed with the way things transpired on Wednesday.
“First of all it's about winning, and we did that,” the German said. “And secondly, if (Jeonbuk) want to progress they have to beat us. So therefore my impression is that we can be confident. Not arrogant, but confident.
“I don't think our players will be arrogant. They will be focused 100 percent. And from what I saw (Wednesday), I think that yes, we can manage it.”
A tireless Tatsuya Tanaka stole the show for the Reds, helping set up Makoto Hasebe’s opener four minutes in before scoring the eventual game-winner in the 59th.
He was unlucky not to have scored two or three more as the Jeonbuk defense took the night off, but some nice saves from goalkeeper Sung Kyung-il and a fair dose of good luck prevented a blowout.
“We played good football. We have some decent stuff,” Osieck said of his team, which came off a comfortable 4-2 win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima on Saturday to open up a four-point lead at the top of the J.League table. “Sometimes we pushed forward and sometimes we slowed the pace down and that is the type of rhythm that I like to see. And that is what my players can do.”
The Reds have a league clash this weekend against the Yokohama F. Marinos before flying to South Korea for the rematch on Wednesday.
That the road game against the defending champs in one of the most important matches in the history of the Reds organization hardly fazes Osieck, however. In fact, he appears to relish the challenge that awaits his charges.
“For me it doesn't matter if we play home or away, I want to see the same kind of football from my team. We can do it on the road and we can do it at home,” he said. “First and foremost we have to win. We have to be switched on from the start to the finish.
“I think that with our potential and our self-confidence right now that we shouldn't be worried. We’ll go there with our heads up and fully focused.”
Needing only a scoreless draw to advance, the question begged to be asked: Would he tell his players to smother the game?
Not a chance, Osieck said.
“If you go for a draw you will definitely lose. That's a fact. Why should we hide? We’ll play our game, just as we always do.
“Besides, you have to work hard for everything worth having in life. The only exception is at Christmas when you receive presents for nothing. But even then you usually don't get what you want.”

(c) C.G. Williams & Soccerphile

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