Sunday, May 2

Vissel 1 - 2 Niigata

We are now sitting uncomfortably at the bottom of the table after today's loss to Niigata. I knew we were in trouble before today's match but I was clinging on to the hope that a couple of teams will continue to play just a bit worse than us. Now I know that this is a false sense of security that I have developed over the past 9 months as a WHU supporter.
I didn't see the game so I will ask my La Famiglia compatriot to compile some kind of match report.

Well here it is.
Unfortunately it's another sad report after yet another very worrying loss which now leaves us, after other results this weekend, at the bottom of the table. It was a game we couldn't afford to, and shouldn't have lost, although at least there was improvement from our last game. With Okubo and Tokura starting together for the first time and Yoshida in a forward midfield position I was quietly confident at the start, and it was a good one for us. In the first 20 minutes Okubo was on fire in the box and had 4 shots at goal, the best being a nicely worked corner which he struck first time from the low cross and went agonizingly close to going in. With the initial forays forward not producing the desired results they started to revert to the bad habits of recent of holding onto the ball in midfield and playing the ball between the defenders. Of course this allowed Albirex to settle and get more of the ball. On the 35th min from a free kick outside the box they played on quickly, catching our defence off guard and opened the scoring. To compound the misery, Enomoto sustained what looked to be either a groin or hamstring injury in attempting to stop the goal and was immediately substituted. We were lucky not to be 2 down as they missed a 'gimme' right on half time.

2nd half Park replaced an ineffective Popo and added a little more bite up forward and after being overshadowed by Okubo up to this point of the game Tokura scored with a nice left foot goal in the 65thmin. Just after that Yoshida missed a great chance to put us in front and in what is becoming a worrying habit for us once we fail to capitalize on possession and chances the opposition invariably does. A clever substition by their manger saw them exchange forwards and you can guess the rest. 2 minutes after our goal, exposed at the back we're behind again and the new forward is a hero. Miura reacted by taking off Ishibitsu for Ogawa but it wasn't the right move as it forced some changes at the back and if it wasn't for Kishi making 2 great saves, one from a penalty things would've looked a lot worse. Hide would have been a better player to have brought on under the circumstances. Ogawa is too easily brushed off the ball and because of this of a very promising move brokedown and brought out a collective moan from behind the goal. We never really threatened to equalize and Ogawa's late shot inside the box went well over the crossbar and with it our hopes of salvaging a point.

The scoreline was a fair reflection as after a promising start we failed to maintain that level. I believe Okubo and Tokura can work well together up forward and it's up to Miura to devise plays that can utilize the options we now have available with a tall running forward and Okubo's speed and strength in the box. It's a test for Miura because he has to do something, he may be familiar with J2 but the rest of us aren't and we don't want to go down that road again.

by Greg

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