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.
Vissel Kobe v. Sagan Tosu 1-1 (HLs)
Who would have thought this would have been a top match three months ago or even in the pre-season? Vissel Kobe and Sagan Tosu squared off at the Noevir Stadium for a nice match-up. In their own ways, both clubs attained to internal resources to improve their status from 2020, when they finished with the same number of points in the table (with Sagan though ahead because of goal difference).
Despite the long absence of Andrés Iniesta, Vissel have found a new structure under now confirmed coach Atsuhiro Miura, playing this strange 4-4-2 and counting on the explosion of some players (Furuhashi and Kikuchi among them). The same happened for Tosu, but with even a bigger surprise and no household names, counting mostly on young players from the academy and low budget adds.
Five points adrift from Sagan and with one game in hand compared to their opponents, Kobe fielded a 4-2-3-1 with the usual suspects. The real news? Captain Andrés Iniesta, who started the match for the first time in front of the home crowd. Up front, Douglas was confirmed as the lone striker with Furuhashi and Goke on the wings, while Masika started on the bench.
Different set-up for Tosu, with Kim Myung-hwi resting several players after the match mid-week. Shinya Nakano, Koyamatsu and Yamashita all rested, featuring on the bench from the start and leaving pitch-time to their regular subs, Ohata, Yoshihiro Nakano and Noriyoshi Sakai. It was an experiment, since reserves at Sagan had a terrible run in the J. League Cup.
Nevertheless, against all odds, the guests went ahead in the first minute: with several passages between former J2 players or reserves, Nakano freed Keiya Sento in front of Maekawa: his shot suffered a small deflection, but it was enough to put Sagan ahead. Incredible, but believable: not the best scenario for Vissel, who opted to play more vertical this season and enjoyed waiting opponents on their own half.
It didn’t matter though, because a great connection helped Kobe finding space through the pitch: Samper lowered between the two center-backs and often looked for a run by Goke or mostly Furuhashi. And indeed the no. 11 came tantalizingly close to even the context, with a shot just a few centimeters wide from the right post. But the scheme worked and it brought dividends to Kobe 20 minutes later.
On another long through pass by Samper, Furuhashi ran, but he got Park Iru-gyu on his way. Unfortunately, the Sagan keeper lost control of the ball in the tackle and there was Douglas, who took advantage of the rebound and scored on an empty net. It was his first goal since Matchday 3, when he scored a brace in Tokyo.
The first half almost died like this, but a pattern came out: Sagan were clearly the most interesting team to watch on the pitch, with the most defined identity. Strangely, though, Kobe had several good chances and they could count on the best player on the pitch. No, we’re not talking about Iniesta, who looked tired and didn’t have too many chances to impress the home crowd.
We’re talking about Kyogo Furuhashi, who scored the 2-1 on a cross by Yamanaka, but his header was rightfully ruled offside. In response, Tosu had a couple of outrageous chances to close the deal, mostly with Koyamatsu, who entered the pitch because Iino got injured on his right shoulder. He headed the ball on the crossbar with no chance for Maekawa to avoid the worst.
In all of this, Furuhashi kept on his one man-show, especially when – following a corner kick for Sagan – he started running 70 meters to come in front of Park and missing a great chance by shooting against the Sagan keeper. In the end, it ended 1-1 and both teams could be satisfied of what they got from this match.
Sagan Tosu are here to stay: we don’t know if they’ll effectively reach a Champions League spot, but they’re going to fight until the end, especially if injuries – like the one Iino had – won’t disrupt their starting eleven. On the other side, Vissel Kobe are growing, but what’s most surprising is that they’re better without their main player: Iniesta renewed until 2023, but Kobe looked relying more on Furuhashi and their youngsters. Who knows how this situation will develop.
Júbilo Iwata v. Zweigen Kanazawa 1-0 (HLs)
The restauration by Masakazu Suzuki is going well, we guess. Fernando Jubero was let go slightly less than one year ago and Júbilo Iwata opted for a massive U-turn, mostly giving up on their youngsters and picking expert senators to change their fortunes (like the loan of Yasuhito Endo from Gamba Osaka). Against all odds, it worked: the club ended in playoffs zone last year and they’re in the run for a direct promotion in 2021.
It’s almost unbelievable to write it, also because today’s opponents were Zweigen Kanazawa, who squandered a sure win at home last week against Thespakusatsu Gunma and needed points to turn around the ship. Last but not least, it’s always curious to see Masaaki Yanagishita coming back to Júbilo, the club whom he coached for three seasons (2009-2011).
Suzuki found his line-up and he won’t renounce to that: 3-4-2-1, Ryuki Miura on goal, Matsumoto and Yuto Suzuki (!!!) as wingbacks, Omori and Yamada behind the lone striker, Lukian, who keeps benching Koki Ogawa and now Fabian Gonzalez. The guests counted on the usual 4-4-2, but benching both Ohashi and Shimazu, fielding Rodolfo as a left midfielder and Motozuka on the midfield.
In a strange way, despite Júbilo looked more comfortable on the pitch, Zweigen had the best chances. Hiroki Ito almost scored an own goal, but most of all Yuji Senuma collected the worst miss I could remember in a long time. Júbilo lost the ball mid-pitch and Rodolfo sprinted towards the goal: seeing his teammate absolutely free, the Brazilian offered an easy assist in front of an open goal, but Senuma missed the sitter in a tragical way.
This was enough for Júbilo, who are not spectacular, but they’re solid defensively – strange to say – and can score at least one goal per game. That goal came in the second half, when Matsumoto offered a through pass for Lukian, who freed himself in the last meters and tried a shot from the touchline. Unfortunately, Goto fell for that and left a massive space on the first post, giving Iwata the advantage.
Zweigen had nothing but a few shots from outside the box to respond, while it was Júbilo who almost scored again: Lukian tried a curly shot from 20 meters and hit the post, with Goto incapable of answering that. The whirlpool of changes didn’t produce many changes and Júbilo were able to control the match and avoid major risks. It was the same pattern we’ve seen from a few weeks now.
Big question: will Júbilo able to fight for promotion until the end? We think both Kyoto Sanga and Albirex Niigata are more equipped than Iwata for that purpose, but they’re enjoying a six games-undefeated run and they clinched 26 points in the last 11 matches. Tough to leave them out. Regarding Zweigen, they need to score more points and avoid performance drops during the Summer: if they do that, they’ll be out of trouble.
Thank you all for following us on different channels. As you know, Twitter and the website are the main pillars of this operation, but the activity is growing on Instagram and a new way to follow us. We appreciate your support: 本当にありがとうございます! We’ll catch up soon for another round of action in both leagues. Stay tuned.