Miyamoto's decision to run towards the home end in the first half, only the 2nd time in memory for me, was an unusual one that obviously paid off in the first minute when Okubo latched onto a throw-in that went straight through the Kashima defense and coolly slipped it past Sogahata. The crowd went nuts sensing that an upset could be on the cards.
The rest of the half was played at a relatively high pace and fortunately for us Kashima were way off their game in terms of attacking flair, despite having a few good opportunities that they wasted. I think the absence of Marquinhos up front played a big part. With all due respect to our back four of Matsuoka, Komoto, Kitamoto and Gakuto who all played well, we were able to keep a clean sheet for the third game in a row in part thanks to Kashima's inability to finish on the night.
We also had chances to extend our lead, but with Koga and Botti playing very wide (which, in hindsight, worked out in the end), our attack was dominated by crosses and long balls and we were unable to get the second goal that would've taken the pressure off a little.
Regarding individual performances, man of the match Okubo showed his class throughout shrugging off defenders on the edge of the box and making darting runs either side of the goal. We probably would have scored against Hiroshima had he played. I did notice though that his speed is effective over short distances and that he is not that fast on the break.
Miyamoto and Nam Il were immense just in front of our back line and this combination seems to be working for now.
As I mentioned earlier, Koga and Botti played like true wingers and the crosses were a lot more accurate than usual. This also kept at bay their two fullbacks who are known for their attacking prowess.
Mogi was solid as usual playing up front although I personally think he's more effective out wider.
Kitamoto and Komoto worked hard in central defense and were both dominant in the air. Kitamoto really needs to work on his clearances though. Good teams have center backs who can pick out players when they deliver the long ball - he can't. Anyone can boot the ball up field.
Gakuto played well again and appears to be gaining confidence. I remember him making a great block to deny them a close shot on goal.
Matsuoka linked up well with Koga on the left and almost scored towards the end with a low shot that missed the post by centimeters. I still think he's out of position and left back, though.
Enomoto was fantastic as always and in a sense won us the game with a couple of brilliant saves. We take him for granted and why he never gets man of the match is beyond me.
All in all, an exciting game, a great (much needed) win, and a brilliant night for Vissel Kobe fans.