I've just about recovered from the weekend so felt it was about time I gave my two cents on the team's performance the other day against Marinos. Although our equalizer came in the dying seconds of extra time, we fully deserved the draw on this occasion. That being said, I will acknowledge the power of 15 beers to turn a "lucky extra time equalizer" into a "hard-earned draw!" This, however, was not one of those.
There were a few noticeable changes to the starting lineup. Mogi was demoted from his FW role to left back (thanks for reading La Famiglia, Mr. Miura!) in place of Kobayashi who I presume was injured, Tanaka came in for the injured Edmilson, and Tokura started up front next to Okubo.
We started the match quite positive and I think we caught them a little by surprise. We had the majority of possession in the first half, which admittedly you would expect being the home team, but Marinos have been in scintillating form of late and we don't normally wake up until about the 70th minute anyway. Despite this, we just couldn't seem to break down their solid CB pairing of Nakazawa and Kurihara who, as much as it hurts to admit, were very good. Any hopes of finishing the first half at a respectable 0-0 were dashed when a disastrous Kitamoto error gifted them a goal in the 32nd minute. He tried to back pass/trap a long ball but ended up playing it right at the feet of Watanabe who easily slipped it past Enomoto. It's hard to criticize players who normally work their socks off for the team, and we all know that defenders make mistakes sometimes, but this one cost us 2 points.
The second half was again dominated by us constantly pushing forward to find the equalizer while Marinos relied on the odd counter (which you would expect) to make us keep 4 back. Okubo spat his dummy around the 65th minute and began stropping around the field like a spoilt child. It turns out he has suffered a recurrence of the knee injury (keeping him out of the national squad to face Serbia), but either way he should have been taken off. But Miura opted to bring on Botti for Park in the 60th minute and Ogawa for Tanaka 15 minutes later. Personally, I was hoping to see Yoshida as he has been in excellent form for us this year.
Just before I had a chance to pop open the last beer and drown my sorrows, we won a free kick just outside the area and Popo hammered home a lovely shot into the top right corner (see video taken by yours truly). Game over.
Finally, just a quick comment about Ken Tokura's first game of the season. Considering he was up against the best center back pairing in the league, I thought he had a good game. He seems to be the player we need up front right now as he gives us the three things that we have been lacking in a striker for the past few seasons; he takes the odd pot shot on goal, he's fast and he wins headers. He even made an audacious attempt at an overhead kick that almost resulted in a goal!
He gets my nod for the next game. (I know you're reading this Miura...)