Sunday, March 30, 2008

Engels pilots humbled Reds to first win




New Urawa Reds manager Gert Engels guided the Asian champions to their first win of the season on Sunday, snapping a four-game drought that included two losses in the J.League and a loss and a draw in the league Nabisco Cup.

The Reds defeated Albirex Niigata 3-0 on goals from Takahito Soma, Marcus Tulio Tanaka and Yuichiro Nagai on a rainy afternoon at Saitama Stadium.
Afterwards we caught up with Engels, the former assistant manager who was promoted after the firing of fellow German Holger Osieck two games into the 2008 season. Engels said the win meant a significant weight had been lifted from his and his team’s shoulders and added that he hoped the victory would lead to greater things to come this year as the Reds look to regain the league and Emperor’s Cup titles they lost to the Kashima Antlers last year.

Q: You must be relieved to have won today …

A: Yes that’s the right word, relief. It was very important for us to win here and to win with such a goal difference is even better. 3-0 sounds good, even though it could have ended 3-1 or even 5-2. But I think we got the crowd to support because we tried to play aggressive and go forward and it’s important we do that here at home.

Q: It looked like the players were keen to run up the score.

A: In the second half we pushed a little too hard. We have to remember that we have a game on Wednesday. There were some situations where we shouldn’t have looked for the fastest way to the goal, we should have kept the ball a little more. There were a few scenes where (Hajime) Hosogai played the ball to Umesaki when he was under pressure. He should have stopped and passed back or tried the other side of the pitch. But I’m happy my players did this, they are young and can recover in the next two days. It’s better than playing too slowly. It was important for our fans that we pushed till the end.

Q: You used Tulio as a (defensive) midfielder for the first time. It looked like a stroke of genius in retrospect.

A: I think it worked. But everyone knows he’s not the big mover. And we have three games in a row now. We will see. The defense line worked well and Hosogai played 90 minutes with the Olympic team so I really though Tulio could influence the game more from the center of the pitch than from the back.
I know he’s a player who likes to push forward and I thought (as a defender) there would be situations where he pushed forward too much and left us with only two defenders.
As a midfielder he was in a situation where he could push. If he pushed too much, Keita (Suzuki) was there, Hosogai was there and even (captain Nobuhisa) Yamada, who was told to cover in the middle a little bit.
I thought Tulio’s movement was good, and he scored a beautiful goal, which was a very good combination from everybody up front.

Q: Keita Suzuki went off injured today and hasn’t looked at all sharp this season. Do you think he’s overworked?

A: As you see, not only in our team but the national team they are not in good shape. And there are a few injuries in the national team, including now our Keita and (Naohiro) Takahara and even from other teams. It’s a big problem.

I’m going to try to give the players more rest. If we play in the Nabisco Cup, these players play national team. It’s difficult to get them rest. We can try to rest them in training. If they have a lot of games we need to take care and maybe we can give them special training. It could be a problem with the Olympic squad, with Hosogai and (Tsukasa) Umesaki. We had a tough and long season last year and our players started up again in the middle of January.

Q: This is your first win as Reds manager. Was it a special victory for you?

A: I’ll remember this game, definitely. Whatever happens from now you never know. But I think the first win at home as a manager of a team like the Reds, I will remember it, definitely.

A: You left defender Keisuke Tsuboi on the bench today in favor of rookie Shunsuke Tsutsumi. Can we have a few comments on that?

A: We need to do this. If you are not really satisfied and you feel a player doesn’t have the confidence he usually has … We have a good squad and we can change players from game to game. And if they are used to this tension you can rest them and make them fresh again if you find the right way to do it. I think it’s very important for our team.
Last year of course the pressure from the Champions League was immense, that’s why we couldn’t change players so much, we didn’t want to, and it didn’t pay off in the final weeks. I hope I can change players with the same quality more often to give them more rest and to push them.
I spoke to Tsuboi and I think he himself was not very comfortable. He resigned from the national team and I thought that this would be a step forward to concentrate on his game and on his play. It showed that he was a little unsure. I said to him that if everything goes normal you will be a vital player for our team. But at the moment you don’t have the self confidence to do this. And he did very well in training the two days after. I think it was a relief for him, to be honest. But I’m sure we will need him. We will be playing offensively and we will need him to defend against counterattacking teams and I am sure we will need him. He’s a very important player for our team.

Q: Osieck was canned two games into the season. What do you feel you need to do to ensure you’re still around at this time next year?

A: It’s very easy: I need to win as much as possible. If we play good soccer like we did today, if we play Reds soccer, the people will forgive us if we don’t win all four titles. But my objective is of course to win titles with the Reds and to keep the team moving. And maybe also to bring young players in.

Q: On injured striker Takahara:

A: Takahara himself feels good with his injury. He moved well yesterday but the doctor sees an injury on the X-ray so we have to be careful. I hope for him and for us he can play against Jubilo (April 5). But the medical staff says he’s got a better chance of being ready for the game here against Kashima (April 13). It’s a risk in a young season to bring him in. We’ve got Edmilson up front, Nagai and surely we will need Takahara, but now it’s a risk.

Q: On striker Nagai:
A: I’m happy with what he’s been doing the last couple of games. He works very hard and he’s in good shape. He is of the age now where he also has to take responsibility. I think he suffered in the past because he never really had the stability of playing regularly in a season. But he’s become a little bit stronger mentally which is very important for him.

Q: On striker Edmilson’s tantrum at being substituted late in the match against his former team:

A: We need to talk about that, definitely. That’s what we don’t need now, situations like this. It was 3-0, the game was shut out and I thought we should rest him a little bit. Of course he thinks about Niigata, his former teammates, which I understand 100 percent. But I am not in the position to think about Niigata, or how he wants to score against his old club. The game was won, he’s not yet in his best physical condition and we need him on Wednesday so that’s why I made the decision to take him out. We need to talk about this and then it’s finished. There will be no problem from my side.

Copyright: C.G. Williams and Soccerphile

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