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Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Vissel Upset Kashima

Alan over at JSoccer.Com gives us a running commentary on Vissel's annihilation of the Antlers. (He also covers Gamba's win over Albirex on the site):

Vissel began the 2nd game of coach Miura's reign, with a stern task against runaway J1 leaders Kashima Antlers on a hot muggy August night, in a 4-4-2 formation. Enomoto in goal, and a back four of - from left to right - Kondo, Kitamoto, Komoto and Matsuoka. A double volante combination of Miyamoto and Kim gave Botti and Koga the freedom of the wings, and Okubo and Mogi were up front.

Miyamoto shook the hand of Ogasawara and Vissel captain Tsune won the toss and changed ends, possibly an interesting ploy to have the Antlers attacking the Vissel end in the 2nd half? Who knows? But the game kicked off and Iwamasa was immediately in trouble, mis-kicking a clearance which gave Vissel a throw-in, quickly taken, not cleared by Oiwa - the 2nd mistake by an Antlers defender already - and Okubo pounced on the ricocheting ball and it was 1-0 within 30 seconds!!

Early pressure in midfield was causing passes to go astray for Antlers and Kim was soon on target with another chance from long range. In the 8th minute Nozawa went down all too easily from a Miyamoto challenge 20 yards out but the free kick was straight into the wall. By this time, referee Mr. Okutani was already laying down the law at throw-ins in his usual over-fussy fashion and we hoped he wouldn't be dishing out the yellow cards too soon!

In the 16th minute, just after a well-deserved yellow for Ogasawara - over the ball on Kim - Okubo and Mogi combined well to shred the defence and a long ball to Koga was just too long, but he saved the move and found Botti, who skipped past two defenders and crossed for Okubo to hit it just over from 12 yards out. Antlers were on the back foot and Araiba and Uchida, probably two of the best attacking full backs in the country were reduced to being spectators.

In the 19th minute the away defence was left for dead again as Okubo and Mogi got behind them but the Vissel forwards were thwarted by a lucky block, then Koga crossed it back in for Okubo to head just over the bar. Seconds later Okubo put the ball past two defenders on the left and his cross gave Sogohata problems under his bar.

Vissel were toying with Kashima at times, looking so confident, but needed to translate the possession and chances into goals before half time, as a blast from the coach for the pathetic Antlers could well change things.

The 24th minute saw Danilo wriggle through a couple of defenders before a blatant dive in the box when he could well have carried on with a shot. The closest Kashima had come to causing any problem so far.

26 minutes and a one-two saw Okubo wide open on the right wing and he pulled back a pass to Kim for a shot from the edge which was blocked. The most telling thing in this move was that both Okubo and Kim had found themselves wide open 20 yards from goal. A minute later and Botti, Kim and Okubo pressured the Antlers defence in the corner and came out with the ball. Okubo's lob found Mogi wide open and his volley hit the side netting. The fact that the assistant referee had raised his flag not excusing the fact that another unmarked Vissel forward had found space. The home fans could smell blood!

In the 35th minute, Uchida had a go from 35 yards, showing how desperate Antlers were becoming, and the long clearance found Mogi on the right wing and Antlers were on the back fo yet again. He turned his defender cut to the outside and his shot had Sogohata beaten with ease but Mogi saw his shot sail inches wide of the post.

In the 37th minute, out of nowhere - the sign of a champion, perhaps - Osako received the ball and crossed for Danilo finding a little space, and his header hit the bar, although Enomoto had it covered. Perhaps a little danger would solidify the Vissel reserve!

Antlers started to look a little more creative towards the end of the 1st period as Vissel tired of the constant pressing and their attacking fluidity. The fans could only hope that the break was more productive for the home team than the away, or those missed chances would be regretted.

The teams took the field for the 2nd half with the same line-ups - both managers feeling that their half time talks had done the trick, perhaps! But it was Vissel who began as they'd left off, with Kondo and Matsuoka doing the stuff that most were expecting of Uchida and Araiba. Kim and Miyamoto continued to seal up the middle, and Botti and Koga were spraying creative balls all over the park. Then, suddenly, there it was again - an Antlers corner and Aoki narrowly wide with a header - a half-chance from nothing reminding Vissel that they were up against the best. More danger, as Vissel tired? What would coach Miura do to make sure the concentration and energy stayed high?

54 minutes and Mogi was sent racing clear, Sogohata narrowly beating him to the ball on the edge of the area. By this time Antlers coach Oliveira had seen enough and tried to shuffle up things with the introduction of Tashiro for the ineffective Koroki up front.

In the 57th a long cross from Matsuoka found Mogi who headed down to Okubo, the return pass finding Mogi in space and his shot was blocked by three desperate defenders... seconds later, Matsuoka was inches wide of the post with a low shot across Sogohata.

In the 64th minute, after some sustained Antlers midfield possession, without effect, Okubo turned Aoki on the half way line and was taken out, the referee inexplicably waving no foul when a minimum yellow card was in order. Seconds later and Mogi was free on the right but his low cross was too quick for the chasing Vissel midfield. The game really was opening up now, too, with Antlers perhaps sensing that, if Vissel were not going to get a second goal they could commit more to attack. This could bring the goal they need or leave them open to the counter-attack, but Vissel were not taking the chances given to them so, maybe it was the thing to do?

67 minutes and, indeed, off came a centre back - Oiwa - and on came a midfielder - Nakata - and Antlers went a little more attack-minded. To counter this, or just for fresh legs, Vissel replaced Kondo with Kobayashi. For now, Kobayashi slipped in at right back but the option was now there for a flat three if needed.

With 16 minutes to go, Antlers boss Oliveira, seeing nothing to lose and little improvement on the field, replaced Osako with Sasaki as a good portion of the 17,432 crowd got behind Vissel for a rousing finish.

In the 79th minute Matsuoka weaved his way through four players in midfield and threaded a ball through to Okubo who raced towards goal and only blocked by a last ditch tackle from the only defender within 30 yards - both teams were now visibly tiring and we were in for a nail-biting finish for sure. Antlers were being limited to long hopeful balls towards four attackers, while Vissel were visibly slowing on their counter-attacks, but still going for it. With 8 minutes to go, Botti was replaced by Yoshida for the final holdout.

On the Vissel bench, all seemed calm, but the hearts of all must have been beating wildly as Antlers tried to get a point out of the game. Five minutes to go and the Vissel faithful had their hearts in their mouths as Ogasawara and Danilo lined up behind a free kick, but it was touched aside to Danilo and the Brazilian's shot went into the wall. Then Uchida robbed Okubo on the right and headed for the area to be brought down by the Vissel striker for a yellow card and another free kick. This one cleared by the desperate Vissel defence.... and the clock showed three minutes to go! The crowd got louder.... the Vissel players looked more determined, yet so tired and the seconds passed. Then a most bizarre event.... Sogohata came out of his area and caught the ball, pointing to the assistant referee who was flagging for offside. But the whistle had not sounded. The referee bottled his decision and gave the offside even though, technically the whistle had not been blown and Sogohata should have been walking to the shower!

And then.... three minutes of lost time were shown as the clock ticked past 90 minutes. The crowd got louder and the Vissel players tried to hold the ball and take some time.... a famous victory neared.... surely nothing could go wrong now?!

Sasaki and Matsuoka tussled for the ball on the Vissel left and the referee gave a foul to the Vissel player and the crescendo grew as more time was eaten up.... a Kashima corner was surely the last chance? Sogohata came up to the Vissel area but Araiba's header was wide and Okubo broke with the ball as the Antlers keeper rushed back.... but the whistle went before the Vissel striker had the chance to embarrass the Kashima custodian.

It was all over.... Vissel Kobe 1-0 Kashima Antlers... and there could be absolutely no complaint from the away team that Vissel did not deserve this victory!!

In the post-game press conference, Antlers coach had nothing to say and just waited for questions, and his answers to the two questions posed were short and sweet - he was visibly beaten!

Vissel coach Miura thanked the fans for coming out in such high numbers and stated he was more than happy with the way the tactics went although another goal would have helped!

So, all in all, a great day at the office for Vissel Kobe. A very welcome and well-deserved three points.

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