Main man Moberg

Urawa Reds have been in resurgent form of late after a dismal start to the 2022 season, and David Moberg has been the jewel in the diamonds’ crown as they’ve moved to the brink of another AFC Champions League final… (日本語版)

Whisper it quietly – especially if you’re behind the home goal at Saitama Stadium, we don’t want any more fines for making unapproved noise – but Urawa Reds are quietly slipping into some impressive form as the 2022 season nears its end.

Ricardo Rodriguez’s side eased their way into the semi-finals of the AFC Champions League with confident wins against Johor Darul Ta’zim (5-0) – who eliminated the highly-fancied Kawasaki Frontale and Ulsan Hyundai in the group stage – and Makoto Teguramori’s BG Pathum United (4-0) this week, setting up a mouthwatering semi-final against fellow two-time continental champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Thursday.

As well as that the Saitama side have also found their feet in J1 after a frankly appalling start to the campaign, racking up six wins and three draws in their last 10 league games to hoist themselves up to eighth in the table and consequently onto the fringes of the battle for a place in next year’s ACL.

Such a set of circumstances looked a long way off three months ago, when Reds sat just outside the relegation places after picking up only two league wins in their first 15 games – at home to Shonan Bellmare and Jubilo Iwata – a run that also produced a bizarre sequence of seven consecutive draws.

After going down 2-0 away to Cerezo Osaka on 25 May the side’s fortunes have steadily improved, however, and their impressive form since has seen them keep five clean sheets and score 21 goals (a return that was admittedly boosted somewhat by the recent 6-0 drubbing of Jubilo on 13 August) – although it did also include elimination from the Emperor’s Cup at the hands of J2 strugglers Thespakusatu Gunma, managed by former Urawa boss Tsuyoshi Otsuki.

Even that disappointment – which came despite the fact Rodriguez essentially sent a full-strength  11 out at Shoda Shoyu Stadium – didn’t knock the team off course though, and nine of those players started again four days later as they rebounded with a huge three points against fellow slow starters Vissel Kobe.

David Moberg was the hero for Reds that day, arcing home a sublime free-kick in the last minute to snatch the win at Noevir Stadium, and his presence has been a huge factor in the team’s recent strong form both at home and in Asia.

Japan’s entry requirements meant the Swede didn’t appear in any of the club’s first six games of the season, of which they lost four and won just one, before demonstrating his quality immediately upon his debut by stroking home an excellent goal three minutes after coming on as a half-time substitute in the aforementioned victory over Jubilo in March.

He then featured in one way or another in each of Urawa’s’ next seven J1 matches, and although they again only won once in that spell they also didn’t lose – something that wasn’t the case as he missed the following three games, when the defeat to Cerezo was sandwiched between draws against Kashima Antlers and Avispa Fukuoka.

Since then Moberg has played a part in each of the team’s subsequent nine league matches, with the 3-0 loss to Nagoya on 6 August the only time he has tasted defeat in J1.

In the process he has established himself as the key attacking threat in a team full of attacking threats, and as well as keeping opposing defenders constantly on their toes with his direct dribbling and ability to find space where it seemed there was none he has also demonstrated a lethal touch in front of goal, leading Reds’ scoring charts in both the league (eight goals) and ACL (tied with Yusuke Matsuo on five).

Such a clinical edge is exactly what Reds’ will need as the season reaches its climax, and there won’t be many sides relishing having to deal with their right-side combination of Moberg and Hiroki Sakai. 

“We work on it every day,” Moberg said of the way the pair dovetailed against BG Pathum – another game in which he found the net with a trademark vicious strike. “It gets better and better, and hopefully we can do even better in the future.”

Jeonbuk were taken to extra time in both their Round of 16 and quarter-final ties against Daegu and Vissel and certainly won’t be looking forward to trying to contain the in-form and confident Moberg at what is sure to be a heaving Saitama Stadium in the semi-final, and the 28-year-old insisted he and his teammates will be raring to go for the decisive tie in front of home support. 

“Now it’s the last game of the Champions League till next year,” he said, with reference to the fact that the 2022 final actually takes place in February 2023. “We have a lot of energy left and we have to fight.”

After starting the season a little punch drunk Reds have shown plenty of gumption to regain their footing, and it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Moberg land another knockout punch or two in the weeks ahead.


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