Saitama - A second half brace from Daiki Hashioka helped Urawa Red Diamonds to a hard-fought 3-0 win over Buriram United in their opening 2019 AFC Champions League Group G encounter at Saitama Stadium 2002 on Wednesday.
In their first appearance in the Continental showpiece since they lifted the title in 2017, the home side started brightly and had a golden chance to open the scoring after just 10 minutes when Yosuke Kashiwagi’s cross found Andrew Nabbout unmarked in the box, but the Australian attacker couldn’t keep his effort down.
Buriram’s best chances in the first half came on the break and they had a glorious opportunity on 24 minutes when Supachok Sarachat broke forward on the left in a 2-on-1 situation, but Tomoaki Makino expertly blocked off his passing lane for Pedro Junior in the middle before coming across with a perfectly timed tackle to defuse the situation.
Full-back Tomoya Ugajin was lively in attack for the home side, and had a goal-bound shot cleared in the box by Pansa Hemviboon just after the half hour mark, while he couldn’t direct a second effort on target eight minutes later.
The visitors came agonisingly close to open the scoring in the first few minutes of the second half, with Shusaku Nishikawa misjudging the flight on Korrakot Wiriyaudomsiri’s free-kick, which floated over his head before crashing into the crossbar.
Just two minutes later, however, and Oswaldo de Oliveira’s men took the lead when Makino got on the end of Kashiwagi’s corner to find the back of the net with a powerful header.
Far from being overawed at the prospect of coming from behind, Buriram put their foot on the gas and were unlucky not to draw level when the crossbar came to Urawa’s rescue again, this time from Andrés Túñez’s header from close range.
Having been their saviour twice, the crossbar denied Urawa a second on 66 minutes when Shinzo Koroki’s header was tipped onto the bar by Siwarak Tedsungnoen, before Koroki then flashed the rebound wide.
Hashioka scored his first of the night on 75 minutes when he smashed home the rebound from a Siwarak save, while his second came just minutes before full time when he was found unmarked at the back post by a beautiful cross from substitute Koya Yuruki, securing the win and all three points for Urawa.
The Japanese side now travel to the Chinese capital to face Beijing FC, while Buriram United return home to Thailand to face K League 1 champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.