A new column has started from a few weeks and we’re trying to bring forward this weekly appointment. Every weekend we’re gonna try to watch two games, one from J1 and one from J2. Maybe sometimes there will be space for J3 in the int’l breaks, but those two will be our main topic. “The Regista Diaries” reviews two games we watched throughout last weekend, so let’s start.
Sagan Tosu v. Tokushima Vortis 2-0
What should have been a six-pointer in the relegation race became a strange game, where the third-placed Sagan Tosu were ready to host another revelation, since Tokushima Vortis gained a decent number of points despite their coach, Dani Poyatos, wasn’t able to coach his squad because barred from enter the country. At the same time, Sagan and Tokushima didn’t face each other since 2014.
Kim Myung-hwi, the head coach for Sagan, opted to keep the same eleven for this match, with this strange line-up, which theoretically starts as a 3-4-2-1, but becomes something else when in possession. On other side, the guests had Kakita and Watai both benched, while Fujita was absent. Cristian Battocchio claimed his debut in J. League, with Konishi picked as a right winger and Miyashiro as the lone striker.
In the end, it was really interesting to see Sagan playing. Their fluidity on the pitch was impressive: when in possession, Nakano and Iino were pretty high, basically on the midfielders’ line, while Sento and Matsuoka lowered their position to help building the play. At the same time, it’s incredible to see two former wingers – like Sento and Tomoya Koyamatsu – have become such transformative profiles.
The first half went by without massive chances, but surely Sagan were in the control seat. That was enough in the second 45 minutes, when a through ball by Higuchi was controlled by Yamashita: his deflected shot wasn’t flawless, but it meant the advantage and was his sixth goal in just 13 games in J1. Vortis then changed many men on the pitch – fielding Kakita, Watai, Fujita and Cacá, the new arrival for the defense –, but it wasn’t near enough to change the flow of the game.
In fact, it was Sagan to find the second goal, although in an accidental way: on a corner kick, the slight deflection from the header of Hayashi was enough to stumble Tamukai, unable to clear the area. The ball went to a lonely Sento, who tripped on himself, but found the right formula to grant the hosts a comfortable 2-0. Actually, it was Tosu almost scoring the third in the final minutes with Hayashi missing the target.
It was the first time I’ve ever seen the “new version” of Sagan Tosu and I have to say I’m impressed: the fluidity on the pitch was amazing to watch and players like Iino or Nakano confirmed their quality. The roster isn’t so deep, so the absence of one of the key-pieces could be crucial…. But they should earn an easy salvation this season. They have already 26 points after 12 games: it’s their path to find until the end of 2021.
About Tokushima Vortis, I wouldn’t be worried… yet. They racked up some points, some clubs are going through bigger struggles than expected (e.g. Kashiwa, Gamba, Consadole) and they didn’t count on Fujita for this game (who proved to be a crucial piece for this squad). Battocchio needs time and Vortis heavily rely on Kakita. Last but not least, I hope Watai will find more inspiration in matches to come.
Tokyo Verdy v. Omiya Ardija 1-1
A match between squads in trouble, although minor problems were probably expected. Tokyo Verdy were lingering towards the relegation zone, where Omiya Ardija have been in this first part of the championship (despite a heavy win at home against V-Varen Nagasaki). This could have been a game to turn the ship around, especially for the guests, who were living a five games-winless streak.
To win this battle, Hideki Nagai chose to rely on the usual suspects. Yuhei Sato as regista, Ryoga Sato as the main striker, Junki Koike on the right wing, but there was a news: Jailton Paraiba is back and he was ready to play with his no. 10. On the other side, Ken Iwase opted to field Kurokawa as a right midfielder, while up front Seiya Nakano and Kiichi Yajima were confirmed.
Throughout the whole first half, it seemed like the hosts were the side in control of the game. No flashy chances, with Verdy counting a lot on Jailton to find his groove back, the one he showed in his first stint at the club in 2019. Unfortunately, many of his shots were dangerous enough to test Kljajic. Actually, the best chance was on the left foot of Nakano, who missed another sitter after a good assist by Mawatari.
The second half brought some changes, but mostly unlocked the game. And it was a surprise to see the guests go in front in the minute 57: Masahito Ono showed his solid skills in dribbling and found the space to shot from within the penalty box, a curler which left no escape to Matheus. With the advantage, Omiya hoped to administrate this small cushion, but it wasn’t meant to last.
Just three minutes later, Fukumura put the ball in the box, but a slight deflection brought the ball to Junki Koike, who produced a screamer, touching the internal part of the crossbar and ending its run at the bottom of the net. A great goal by Koike, who scored his eighth in 2021 and most of all his 63rd goal within J2, overcoming in the all-time scorers’ table an excellent former Tokyo Verdy: Givanildo Vieira de Sousa, also known as Hulk.
While producing more efforts than the first half, Verdy squandered the opportunities to go front: Nduka Boniface hit the crossbar with a header, Kljajic saved on Koike and Ryoga Sato couldn’t finish a nice counterattack. Another screamer by Ono almost brought Omiya ahead. In injury time, Ryoya Yamashita – who came in for 20 minutes – didn’t serve an easy assist, closing the match on equal terms.
It’s tough to draw a line after this match. I don’t think neither of this team will actually go down, but they have different problems and outcomes in the long run. Tokyo Verdy have a more defined identity: the arrival of Jailton will help, but they need to find a different keeper and solidify their defense. As long as Koike and other produce heroics like today’s, they’ll be fine in avoiding the drop.
It’s a different matter for Omiya Ardija: the guests are probably more at risk for this season, but they have some gems within the roster – Ono is among them, Masaya Shibayama is undeniably one to watch – and they need their forwards to be more efficient in front of goal (that’s what Nakano is lacking to become a J2 star). Their project is promising on the medium term, but Ken Iwase needs results… now.
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