East Asia Japan

Departing Makino Signs Off Urawa Career with Last Minute Cup Winner

Veteran Urawa Red Diamonds defender Tomoaki Makino closed his career with the Reds in the best way possible, scoring a last-gasp winner as Urawa clinched the 2021 Emperor’s Cup title on Sunday with a 2-1 win over a resilient Oita Trinita at the National Stadium. Alongside fellow senator Tomoya Ugajin, Makino’s contract wasn’t extended for the 2022 season by the Urawa management, however, the veteran duo managed to finish their tenure at the Saitama-based club in the best way possible by winning them their eighth Emperor’s Cup trophy.

With both cup honors and a ticket to the 2022 AFC Champions League group stages being put at stake, Urawa immediately raced into the offensive and left Oita, who were relegated from the J.League 1 this season, eating their dust.

Ataru Esaka gave Urawa the perfect start by giving them the lead in the 6th minute, taking advantage of Takahiro Sekine carving open the Oita defense before firing home past Shun Takagi in the Oita goal.

Urawa then seeks to take control of the proceedings, however, Oita, who are playing their last match under departing head coach Tomohiro Katanosaka, are more than determined to push for an equalizer, especially after a tepid showing in the first half.

Shusaku Nishikawa was forced to intervene early into the second half, denying two great chances from Oita, before his counterpart Takagi denied Esaka his second goal midway through the half.

Both Shun Nagasawa and Yamato Machida came close for Oita only to be thwarted by Nishikawa, and as time is running out, it seems that Urawa were going to defend their early lead all the way into full-time.

Matheus Pereira had other ideas, though. The Brazilian midfielder, on loan from Brazilian side Atletico Goianiense, latched onto a Hokuto Shimoda ball and headed home Oita’s equalizer in the 90th minute, allowing the Turtles to gain the belief that they could at least force extra-time – just like what they did when they eliminated reigning J1 champions Kawasaki Frontale in the semifinal.

Unfortunately for Oita, lightning does not strike twice and said heroics won’t happen, as substitute Makino blasts a header past Takagi to seal the win for Urawa right at the death, breaking Turtles hearts while at the same time sending the Reds into jubilant pandemonium.

Makino’s last-minute goal was the perfect way for the defender to sign off his Urawa tenure, so was Ugajin’s excellent performance throughout the final. The two senators will leave Urawa with their heads held up high, while the 2021 Emperor’s Cup title will also serve as the perfect farewell for another one of Urawa’s senior players, Yuki Abe. Abe, who sat out Sunday’s final, is set to retire at the end of the season.

The Emperor’s Cup win allowed Urawa, who finished 6th in this season’s J1, to return to the AFC Champions League for the first time since their memorable 2019 campaign, where the Reds defied their shoddy domestic form to march all the way into that season’s final – only to miss out on the title after being beaten over two legs by Saudi Arabian giants Al-Hilal.