What a fantastic way to kick off the new season, a convincing 2-0 victory at home to Kyoto Sanga, the mob that finished 2 spots above us last year. The dreary weather was not enough to keep the fans at home, either. Yesterday's crowd (19,506) was the biggest since the Gamba game in April last year, and the third biggest crowd in 2 years.
The starting lineup had many of the points that La Famiglia has been screaming out for since early last season. In Popo (hereafter referred to as "Vamos Popo") we appear to have a striker who can run, Matsuoka was back in his real position in the midfield, and Miyamoto was on the bench. It's not that I am anti-Miyamoto or anything (although it may have sounded like that over the last year or so), I just can't see what he brings to the team apart from a bit of extra revenue through merchandising. He's not good enough to start in his position of center back, and hasn't performed well enough in the position he was forced into last summer. Miura obviously realized this when appointing Okubo captain for this year. The back line looked rather familiar - Ishibitsu and Kobayashi on their respective sides with Komoto and Kitamoto in the middle. Despite being fairly solid for the majority of the match, they showed their vulnerability on a several occasions - mainly on Kyoto counter attacks. Considering the fast pace of the game, particularly the first half, this was bound to happen with both Kobayashi and Ishibitsu pushing forward a lot. Kobayashi actually had one of our best chances after only 10 minutes when he zipped in through the center of the box (yes, he's a LEFT back!) just failing to make decent contact on a lovely Vamos Popo chip. For a change, we seemed to handle most balls in the air rather well.
In the center, we started with Matsuoka and Edmilson at the back, and Yoshida and Park pushing forward. However, Yoshida played the majority of the match interchanging with Vamos Popo in a third striker role, and showed that he still has a lot to offer despite being our oldest player. Apart from the two goals, he had our two best chances of the match and was unlucky not to score both times. His work rate was second to none and this performance should definitely earn him another start next week. We controlled most of the first half but it wasn't until 2 minutes before the break that we got our well-deserved first goal of the campaign, a quick thinking snapshot from Vamos Popo (Yoshida assist) that bounced in off the bottom of the left upright.
5 minutes after the break, we caught them completely off guard with a blistering counter attack that gave us a 3 on 1 (keeper) advantage, with Park unselfishly gifting Vamos Popo his second of the day - and a dream start to his new career at Kobe. Game over. We continued to control the match, even enough to make a cheeky substitution bringing on our injured captain Okubo in the 63rd minute for Vamos Popo.
Worthy of mention also is our new man in the middle Edmilson who slipped straight into Kim's position, even taking his number 6. It's early days and I'm still trying to come to terms with the loss of my favorite Vissel player, but I will say that Edmilson looks good in both defense and attack, and it was his beautiful long ball that set up our second goal.
Next week, I assume that Miura will stick with almost the same lineup, but make a straight swap with Okubo in for Mogi. Hiroshima will be a tougher test, but I'm betting that all purple teams will leave Home's this year with nothing, except renewed respect for a Vissel Kobe team means business in 2010!!