Urawa's job not done yet, says Otsuki
Saitama: Tsuyoshi Otsuki was refusing to celebrate after seeing his Urawa Red Diamonds side secure an impressive 2-0 win over Guangzhou Evergrande on Wednesday that left the former champions on the verge of qualifying for the final of the 2019 AFC Champions League.
Goals from Fabricio and Takahiro Sekine earned Urawa a first leg advantage in the semi-final over the Chinese Super League leaders, but Otsuki maintained an air of caution with the second leg at Guangzhou’s Tianhe Stadium still to be played later this month.
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“I really want to say thank you to the fans who were in the stadium and I also really want to show my appreciation to our players,” said Otsuki, who took over as head coach in June following the dismissal of Oswaldo Oliveira.
“But even though we won tonight it doesn’t guarantee that we are through to the next round. We still have time to prepare for the second leg and hopefully we can improve the team further so that we can go through to the final.”
The victory brought to an end a dreadful run of form for Urawa, who had not won in any competition since picking up a 2-1 victory over Mito Hollyhock in the Emperor’s Cup in mid-August.
That slump has seen the two-time Asian champions exit the J.League Cup and the Emperor’s Cup – which they won last year to qualify for the AFC Champions League – and also drop to 13th in the domestic league standings.
Urawa’s fluent performance in the victory over Guangzhou, however, proved Otsuki’s side are capable of better than their recent results would suggest.
“I’ve been discussing many things with our coaching staff and with the players but I think maybe it’s because the AFC Champions League gives us an unknown motivation,” he said in explaining how his team has managed to raise the level of their performances in the continental club championship.
“It’s a big stage and a big tournament and the players get a big boost when we play in it. I think we have underestimated the J.League. We are trying hard to win every game and we have a game at the weekend and I hope we are going to win that game.”
With a crowd in excess of 30,000 turning out for the game, Otsuki hailed the club’s support and set his sights on a place in next month’s final against either Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia or Qatar’s Al Sadd.
“I feel a huge responsibility and I spoke about it before with the fans,” he said. “I really appreciate the fans and they showed their reaction today. Hopefully in the second leg we can do something good and we can give them the present of a place in the final.”
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