Soccer: Sakai scores 1st goal since J1 return as Urawa down FC Tokyo

© Kyodo News

Hiroki Sakai scored his first goal since returning to the J-League top flight and Ataru Esaka hit the winner as Urawa Reds extended their unbeaten run to seven games on Saturday with a 2-1 come-from-behind away win to FC Tokyo.

Japan's regular fullbacks Sakai and Yuto Nagatomo both returned from Marseille over the summer and the pair squared off at Ajinomoto Stadium, where Urawa made their domination count.

Sakai had a nightmare start to the game as Urawa conceded in the first minute. Tokyo forward Kyosuke Tagawa shrugged him off to control a long ball from defender Masato Morishige before slotting past keeper Shusaku Nishikawa.

The goal ended Reds' string of five straight clean sheets and Urawa sought a quick response, coming close in the 15th minute through Esaka's superb free-kick from 30 meters out only to be denied by Tokyo keeper Go Hatano.

The hosts had two good first-half chances of their own but paid the price for missing them as Sakai leveled on the stroke of halftime.

Yuichi Hirano played him out wide inside the box before the defender shot through Hatano's legs and into the far corner.

"Between the legs was the only place I could find, where I had confidence scoring. I'm glad it went through," said Sakai. "As a defender, their first goal really bothered me. It shouldn't have happened, was totally my fault and wrecked my team's plan."

"It was positive I managed to level things before the break, in that sense."

While Urawa continued to dictate the tempo in the second half, the home side came close just past the hour mark when Morishige again found Tagawa inside the box only to see the forward's header strike the bar.

But the visitors turned the game around in the 66th minute, Esaka rolling home a rebound after Takahiro Sekine's fierce effort from the edge of the box cannoned off the bar.

Nagatomo, who had not had many chances in attack, moved to right-back and quickly found substitute Adailton with a cross, but the Brazilian failed to connect well with his header as the home side did not really test the visitors' goal in the late stages.

Urawa remain in the hunt for a top-three spot that guarantees automatic qualification for next year's Asian Champions League, while FC Tokyo are eighth.

Elsewhere, Hidenori Ishii scored a 90th-minute winner as Tokushima Vortis won 1-0 away to fellow strugglers Vegalta Sendai.