This could very well be the greatest Vissel Kobe victory ever. The mighty Urawa come to Kobe with their thousands of fans every year, no doubt expecting to get an easy 3 points. And in all honesty, we almost expect them to take the points home. But looking at the match up over the last couple of years, Vissel have actually done quite well against them - winning more than we've lost. But when we were reduced to 10 men a few minutes before half time, no one would have predicted the outcome to this match.
I wasn't surprised to see Tomita and Mogi playing out of position again respectively at left and right backs, but it was Mogi this time that looked the most vulnerable. I felt sorry for him, not only because he was forced to play in the position he failed at last time against Gamba, but also because Kitamoto did him no favors at all, responsible for the majority of the left sided attacks through his missed tackles, headers and poor positioning. We did have a couple of nice shots on goal though in the first 45 thanks to the usual suspects, Okubo and Botti, and we almost looked like we could maybe snatch a draw. That is until Mogi was shown a second yellow card for an almost identical offense (dragging a player down just outside the area) and most of us were preparing ourselves for a heavy defeat.
It was obvious we had to lose a striker in the second half to play a 4-4-1 with 10 men and Tokura was the one to be sacrificed, replaced by Mihara.
Time to defend and rely on the counter. And what a gorgeous counter it was! Matsuoka, who had dropped back deep in defense for the second half made a blistering run down the right flank, drew 3 defenders and found Okubo open in the center just on the "D". Okubo slipped under pressure but somehow managed a miracle pass while laying on the floor through to Mihara who made no mistake, grabbing his first ever J.League goal.
And the Vissel supporters went absolutely NUTS. One up against Urawa - with only 10 men.
With 40 minutes left, most were still assuming that the game would finish 2-1 to Urawa, we would all give our lads a "yoku gambarimashita" send-off at the end, and that would be it.
But, no. Though we did sit back for the most part, the remainder of the second half was a pretty impressive defensive display, thanks mainly to Komoto, Edmilson and Matsuoka, but we weren't afraid to try our luck on the counter a few times, once with Okubo hitting the post!
40 minutes of tension was brought to an end with the final whistle, sending the home fans into the kind of rapturous frenzy I have only seen a few times in the last 5 years. A truly wonderful victory that will go down in Vissel folklore!
I'd still trade it for a victory against Gamba though...