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.
Yokohama FC v. Shonan Bellmare 2-0
There was no doubt about who was in their finest form between the two teams. Despite some relegation scares, Shonan are punching way above their weight, counting on a young core and some key-arrivals from last Winter (Nago, Nakamura): Bin Ukishima and his squad had collected 10 points from the last six games, staying unbeaten even against Grampus.
Different tale for Yokohama FC, who languished at the bottom of the table as the only winless team with a certain number of games played. In fact, they also changed their manager a few weeks ago, ditching Tomohiro Katanosaka and replacing him with an internal solution like Tomonobu Hayakawa, former player at the club and coach within the youth ranks until a few weeks ago.
The course of results, though, didn’t change that much despite his arrival, so Hayakawa tried a different strategy against Shonan Bellmare: no Tashiro starting, Matsuo on the bench and a defensive 4-4-1-1, with Maguinho playing as a right midfielder and Matsuura being the partner up front for Kléber, picked over Watanabe and Germain. The keeper situation has changed again, with third keeper Akinori Ichikawa starting from a few games.
The vibe is radically different at Bellmare, where 3-5-2 is working well for Ukishima and the line-up is pretty much the same: Shun Nakamura is playing as the demiurge in place of Miyuki, while Takahashi and Okamoto are a solid pair of wingbacks for this formation. Surprisingly, Tarik Elyounossi has found his place back in the starting eleven, this time pairing with Machino up front.
Unfortunately for Bellmare, they had a rough start: Yokohama FC went in front immediately, with Yota Maejima finding his first J1 goal. A loose ball was picked up by the no. 23, who shot right away with his left foot and found Tani unprepared, with his vision completely covered. This goal stunned the course of the game and the hosts opted to protect their advantage, hoping their midfielders would have then caught the guests unprepared on counterattacks.
Another key-episode, though, happened on minute 30: after a corner kick and two separate attempts, the rebound came to Takuya Okamoto, who seemed to anticipate Ichikawa and score the equalizer. The hosts didn’t know though that VAR was going to be on their way, again: the referees observed how the no. 6 actually kicked the opponents’ goalkeeper and it took five minutes to revert the decision.
So no draw and no lifeline for Bellmare, who had real struggles in creating chances. The hosts wanted to slow down the pace and they made it. Bellmare started the second half by creating some chances, especially with a header by Naoki Yamada, which didn’t though find the net. Actually, Yokohama had a couple of chances to close deal in counterattacks, with Maguinho shooting wide after a decent run up the field.
And just in midst of several changes and shots from any position, Yokohama found the second goal: long ball from Maejima, Tani opted to come out of his position, but there was already a defender on Takuya Matsuura. A misunderstanding between keeper and defender favored Matsuura, who jumped Tani and scored the second goal in an open net. 2-0 and match over.
It didn’t matter that Wellington posed a bigger threat to Yokohama, with Ichikawa putting on corner a shot from distance by the Brazilian striker. The game’s pace slowly faded out, with no real threats for Yokohama FC. In the end, the hosts got what they wanted: their first win doesn’t really change the flow of their season, which seems going to a drop to J2… but at least it’s a first step in a better direction.
Different matter, instead, for the guests: they had a really good run of eight matches without a loss, so this should be just an incident. Nevertheless, they have to manage better the games when they go down in the score. And most of all, their relationship with VAR incidents is something that should be looked into (they’re really, really, unlucky with technology).
Renofa Yamaguchi v. SC Sagamihara 1-0
Susumu Watanabe against Fumitake Miura and a rainy afternoon in Yamaguchi: surely this wasn’t the best that J2 League had to offer, but the game represented a good chance to evaluate for the first time how the Watanabe-revolution was going in Yamaguchi and if Miura had some cards to play in their relegation battle (especially after Romulo left the club a few days ago).
Watanabe opted for a 3-4-1-2, moving Hiroto Ishikawa to center-back and Daisuke Takagi to wing-back. Captain Ikegami was behind the pair up front, Takai and Umeki. About the guests, Agenor and Eduardo were confirmed in the starting eleven: Yuri started from the bench, while Fujimoto was moved up front to assist Shu Hiramatsu, fielded again as the lone striker.
Renofa were on a streak of wins and they seem to have found a certain identity: the work of Watanabe worked already and they had the upper hand from the start on Sagamihara. Fujimoto threatened Seki a couple of times with some shots, but the hosts always had the control, although they were a little bit ineffective in the last 30 meters. No problems, though, since the second half brought what they needed.
In a pretty empty half, Renofa had the couple of chances we witnessed. First a header from Renan was saved on the line by Wada, but Yamaguchi helped themselves with the changes mid-half. Yatsunori Shimaya, in particular, was back on the pitch after he played just three games in this season. At the first chance, he tried to lob Agenor from almost 35 meters, with the Brazilian keeper avoiding the worse at the last moment.
Unfortunately for him, the mistake was behind the corner: on a cross, Agenor misjudged his exit and Naoto Sawai – who entered the pitch in the second half – headed home the advantage, exploiting the confusion among the defenders of the hosts. It was enough for Renofa to grant them three points and another win. In the end, Yamaguchi can be satisfied: minimum effort and third win in the last four games.
Things are looking bleak, instead, for SC Sagamihara. Romulo left the club and their offensive force seems blunt: with Yuri starting from the bench and a 3-5-1-1 to face J2, it’s gonna be tough scoring (they have the worst attack of the division, tied to Gunma… and Yamaguchi). Can they get out of this slump? It looks hard to even imagine that.
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