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.
Blaublitz Akita v. FC Ryukyu 1-1 (HLs)
In a long trip from Okinawa to the North, FC Ryukyu were ready to face Blaublitz Akita. The two sides have been surprising in their own way: as J3 Champions, Blaublitz stunned everyone and they’re building a nice and quiet season in the mid-table. At the same time, Ryukyu keep showing their entertaining brand of football and they’ve been in the Top 3 from the start of 2021.
In Akita, the hosts opted for the usual 4-4-2, which still missed two heroes from the 2020 season, central defender Kaito Chida and almost-MVP / master of set pieces Nao Eguchi. Neither of them was even on the bench, but for now Yoshida seemed satisfied with what he could work with. Nakamura and Saito were confirmed as the pair up front.
The guests, instead, were missing one of their two key-center backs, since Ri Yong-jik was now starting. But that’s not the only member missing, since the third keeper – Keisuke Tsumita – had now taken the place who was in the hand of Dani Carvajal first and Junto Taguchi then. All confirmed instead from the midfield onwards, with Ren Ikeda behind the lone striker, Takuma Abe.
I can’t deny it: it was an ugly match and it probably helped Akita controlling the flow of the game. The guests weren’t at their best and the first half basically went by almost with no chances. Only Blaublitz shot a couple of times on goal, with Tsumita forced to deflect the ball on the crossbar from a shot by Shige. Tsumita was called again to save Okino’s shot and Keita Saito had a decent chance with a header, slightly over the bar.
A nice header by Ikeda – easily saved by Tanaka – was all Ryukyu had to offer in the first 45 minutes. It didn’t change that much in the second half, where Akita just waited their opponents, who shot more than before, but never really caused any trouble to Tanaka… until injury time, where everything happened.
On the 91 minute, Abe was assisted by Uesato, run through a couple of opponents almost to draw away from the penalty box and shot with his weak foot. Unfortunately for Tanaka, the shot took a strange rebound on the pitch and Akita were fooled: down one goal in injury time. That’s not good.
Lucky for them, in the final assault, two headers brought the ball to a sub, Yosuke Mikami, who had to dribble one player and then shot on goal to find the equalizer. That was enough to clinch a point and avoid a home loss, which happened rarely for Akita this season. In the end, it’s another brick in the wall of safety, built by Yoshida and his group with tenacity and dedication.
About Ryukyu: is the tank empty? It might be, at least in terms of their promotion run, because there are teams who seem in a better shape (not just Albirex and Kyoto, but also Iwata and even Kofu and Machida). It’s not a problem for Higuchi and his group, because the real goal was to avoid J3 and maintain the category: this pace might be enough to do just that.
Roasso Kumamoto v. Azul Claro Numazu 0-1 (HLs)
In the first J3 match we’ve ever had the pleasure to comment, expectations let us a little bit down regarding this game. Surely Kumamoto fans must have been disappointed as well, because their beloved club – after a good run of results – tumbled against a mid-table side in their run for promotion. And it’s not the first time this has happened for Roasso in these three years in the third division.
Oki confirmed his 3-5-2, with Asakawa and Takahashi starting as a pair up front. Since his return from an early injury, Takahashi has found the net a couple of times and the pairing with Asakawa – the best striker in this division – seems a positive. Shun Ito started from the bench, while the rest of the young bunch was featuring, without Kei Uchiyama: the keeper from 2020 was still on the bench and Yuya Sato started.
Different discourse for Azul Claro Numazu, who are clearly trying to develop new players, trying a small renewal within the roster. Nomura started on goal, Uryu – who signed from JFL Champions, Verspah Oita, last Winter – is the man behind the lone striker, young Ryo Watanabe. Junya Takahashi and expert Kazuki Someya are instead on the wings, ready to strike if needed.
The game saw a clear problem: in the last 30 meters, despite keeping the ball as much as possible, Kumamoto couldn’t really assist their two strikers, who had to create chances for themselves. A single shot by Asakawa was the best they produced. On the other hand, the guests just waited with their 4-4-2 when they didn’t have the ball, but still had the best chances of the first half.
First a low shot by Takahashi required a dive by Sato, while just before halftime Uryu shot slightly wide from a good position. This brought the game to the second half, where Azul Claro had to manage not one, but two injuries: both central defenders were pulled out of the match and they had to be replaced. One of those entering the game was Masayuki Tokutake, one of the veterans within the squad.
And he was the match-winner, because in the 60th minute he headed in a nice cross from the left side, being left completely alone in the middle of the penalty box. Kumamoto have never been extraordinary in defense, but this was dreadful. At that point, a whirlpool of subs entered the match, but it didn’t change that much for Roasso, who struggled even more to find the net being 1-0 down.
Just when the guests were close to doubling the advantage – they hit the woodwork with five minutes to go –, Roasso had two major chances to even the context. One was by chance, with Iwashita’s cross being deflected on the post; the other materialized on the foot of Yuhi Takemoto, but the young midfielder found Nomura ready to oppose his shot and preserve the win.
What about the future? This might be just an accident for Azul Claro: they’ve been inconsistent, they’ll keep playing that way. On the other hand, Kumamoto didn’t look like a promotion contender in the pre-season and they became one throughout 2021, but they keep having stumbles like this one (or the home draw against Vanraure, to make an example). Will they find their way to the top, sooner or later?
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