Urawa Reds legendary forward Shinzo Koroki has come to the defense of defender Takahiro Akimoto, who was sent off against the Pohang Steelers. Koroki said Akimoto feels responsible for the loss.
Pohang Steelers, led by head coach Kim Ki-dong, won 2-1 against Urawa in the fourth round of the 2023-2024 AFC Champions League Group J at the Steelyard on Monday evening. Pohang has been on a roll in the AFC Champions League after winning the 2023 Hana OneQ FA Cup and going unbeaten in four matches. Despite injuries to key players, Pohang are in top form at the end of the season.
Urawa, on the other hand, is in the midst of its worst run. Urawa has been winless in four consecutive matches, starting with a 0-2 loss to the Pohang Steelers at Anbang on March 24. Urawa fell into a bad situation after losing to Avispa Fukuoka in the final of the Japan Revan Cup 2023 at Tokyo National Stadium on April 4, and then lost again in the return match against Pohang.
Akimoto’s ejection in the 27th minute was a watershed moment for Pohang. Akimoto was immediately sent off for stepping on the Achilles’ tendon of Ko Young-joon’s right foot while trying to block a quick counterattack from behind. According to Japanese media outlet Gekisaka, Akimoto, who was sent off while trying to stop Pohang’s counterattack, reportedly boarded the bus without responding to interview requests from reporters due to the tournament’s rule that ejected players are not allowed to be interviewed in the post-match mix zone.
Koroki was interviewed instead and said, “The ejection must have been a bit painful. He said he wanted to stop the opponent’s counterattack with a foul. Of course, I should have fouled him, but I advised him that it wasn’t wise.” “Akimoto also feels responsible. He could have fouled wisely. The player himself is probably reflecting on it the most.” 무지개토토 도메인
The loss leaves Urawa in second place in AFC Champions League Group J with one win, one draw and two losses from four matches. They are level on points with third-placed Chinese club Wuhan Shandong, but have a superior goal difference and goal difference. However, the tide could change in the coming matches. “I think we should have gotten more than 10 points, so we need to win the remaining two games,” Koroki said. Urawa will host Wuhan Shanjian at Saitama Stadium on March 29 for their Group J Round 5 match.