On this day in J.League history …

(Tatsuya Tanaka opens the scoring in the 30th minute for Urawa Red Diamonds as they visit an unbeaten Kawasaki Frontale on Matchday Fourteen of the 2006 J.League season. A second goal without reply would seal the win, Yuichiro Nagai netting with fourteen minutes to play.)

22 July 2006
League leaders Kawasaki Frontale welcomed an Urawa Red Diamonds side lying four points behind in third place to the Todoroki Athletic Stadium on Matchday Fourteen of the 2006 season. Takashi Sekizuka’s men were unbeaten at their home ground, but had been particularly impressive on their travels, winning six of their seven matches outside Kanagawa Prefecture, a 1-0 loss to Ventforet Kofu the only blemish on their record.

The Reds matched Frontale with an undefeated record in Saitama, but came to Kawasaki having been beaten on three successive occasions away from the comforts of the Saitama Stadium. An already troublesome encounter was made that much more through the loss of top scorer Washington, who had found the net ten times in twelve appearances for the Reds, Gamba Osaka’s Magno Alves the only player more prolific at this stage of the season. Frontale had on hand the striking partnership of Juninho and Kazuki Ganaha, who shared seventeen goals between them, and midfielder Hiroyuki Taniguchi had a further six to his name.

The match was one which would prove pivotal to the destination of the 2006 J.League title. A 2-0 triumph for the Reds came courtesy of goals from Urawa stalwart Tatsuya Tanaka and Yuichiro Nagai, who went on to perform a crucial role in the 2007 AFC Champions League victory for Urawa a year later, scoring one of two goals in the final against Sepahan and being named player of the tournament. It would also prove the only time Frontale would not score in front of their faithful in the entire 2006 J.League season, and this was despite the Reds playing for 66 minutes without Nobuhisa Yamada, sent off after receiving two yellow cards in the space of as many minutes.

Although the Saitama side would go on to lose a further three away league matches, a superb home record of fifteen wins, two draws and no defeats provided the strongest of foundations for their title win. This title was one which came at the third time of asking after losing the Suntory Championship to Yokohama F-Marinos on penalties in 2004, and then finishing runners-up after that extraordinary climax to the season the following year. Frontale would finish five points further back in second place, and this remains with the 2008 and 2009 seasons the closest they have come to securing a maiden title victory.

Fuller highlights of the contest are included in this video, the match footage beginning at 2:00.

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