Football: Unbeaten Urawa Reds win J-League first stage

Football: Unbeaten Urawa Reds win J-League first stage
Urawa Reds players celebrate their J-League first-stage title during an award ceremony after a drawing football match by 1-1 against Vissel Kobe on June 20, 2015 in Kobe.
PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO - Urawa Reds grabbed the J-League first-stage title Saturday with a 1-1 away draw with Vissel Kobe, finishing the early section of the season undefeated.

Midfielder Tsukasa Umesaki opened scoring in the 27th minute, driving in a Yuki Muto cross from the left side of the box.

But the team had to fight with 10 men after defender Tomoya Ugajin received his second yellow card in the 75th minute after a violent tackle.

Nine minutes later, Kobe's substitute striker Kazuma Watanabe equalised the game by heading in a cross from defender Takahito Soma.

The draw was all the Reds needed to claim the title, sparing one more game before the 17-game session finishes this month.

The second stage of the 2015 season will resume from July 11 and will run through November.

The winners of the two stages and other teams with high points will fight in the championship tournament later in the year.

The Reds away game gathered 18,143 fans, many of them clearly cheering for Urawa in the western city of Kobe.

The fans burst into electrifying chants of "We are Reds! We are Reds" after the final whistle.

"From this moment, we will start our battles from scratch" in the next stage, said Reds manager Mihailo Petrovic.

Last season's treble winners Gamba Osaka were held to a 1-1 draw against Vegalta Sendai, eliminating any possibility of rising above Urawa during this stage.

Kawasaki Frontale fended off a challenge from Matsumoto Yamaga 2-0. FC Tokyo managed a 2-1 victory against Sagan Tosu.

Meanwhile Sanfrecce Hiroshima beat Montedio Yamagata 5-1.

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