By Jeremy Walker
TOKYO (June 27)--Kyoto Purple Sanga's new German manager, Gert
Engels, believes his team must win no fewer than half their remaining
matches to stay in the J.League's first division.
Engels, who was promoted from head coach when previous manager
Shu Kamo was dismissed after the first stage, thinks Sanga will
be safe if they can reach a target of 31 points.
So far they have 10 from 16 games, meaning they must win at
least seven of their remaining 14 to escape the drop.
Engels said: "Last season, Urawa Reds went down on goal difference
with 28 points, but I think it's going to take more than that
to stay up this time.
"I would say we need to win seven or eight games over the course
of the second stage, and I think it's possible because we have
no injuries and there's good spirit and communication in the squad."
Engels made a perfect start in his first match as manager when
the second stage kicked off last Saturday.
Sanga, who finished bottom of the first stage with only seven
points, picked up all three with a last-gasp 3-2 victory at home
to JEF United Ichihara, the club who sacked Engels as manager
midway through last season.
"Yes, it was a great start, especially to do it against JEF
United, and hopefully this is just the first step," said Engels.
"We had been working hard towards this game for three weeks
because everyone understands our position and we are fully concentrated
to stay up."
Sanga led 1-0 and then 2-1, only to be pulled back for a second
time with 10 minutes to go. But Makoto Atsuta popped up with his
second goal of the game in injury time to secure a dramatic win.
The one disappointment for Engels was the low turn-out at the
Purple Sanga home ground of Nishikyogoku Stadium, on the outskirts
of Kyoto. The crowd was only 4,251, a quarter of the capacity.
"I think a lot of fans are unhappy with the management of the
club so stayed away, but I hope they can get behind us for the
rest of the season," added Engels.
"Unfortunately, we have to wait one month for our next league
game at Nishikyogoku because the club have sold our next home
game (against the Yokohama F Marinos on July 8) to Tottori (city).
"It's difficult for the fans in this situation, but hopefully
they won't forget our win last Saturday." Two of the 16 teams
are relegated when the points are added up from both stages.
Kyoto and Kawasaki Frontale both have 10, with Avispa Fukuoka
in the "safe" 14th slot on 18 after winning 1-0 at Frontale on