A new column has started from a few months 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.
Hokkido Consadole Sapporo v. Oita Trinita 2-0 (HLs)
A cry for help, a huge chance to shift their position: the match in Sapporo represented a big chance for Oita Trinita to snatch three points and try to climb the table. Consadole were the hosts in this match: their season probably started without any clear goal and it’s going further like this, with another surprise shift. Anderson Lopes, their top-scorer, is close to join a Chinese side, so… no center forwards?
Mihailo Petrović started his team with the usual three center backs line-up, but no one was a born-CB: Fukumori, captain Miyazawa and Tanaka featured, with Komai lining up as a central midfielder and Lucas Fernandes starting as a right wing-back. This helped the manager to field Kaneko closer to goal, as a right winger, but watch out for the striker: Takuma Arano! Jay Bothroyd wasn’t available and Douglas Oliveira started from the bench, so… a central midfielder as lone striker.
On the other hand, it was clear how it wasn’t going to be an easy day at the job for Tomohiro Katanosaka (who had never lost against Petrović in four previous games). No Shimoda, no Watanabe (starting on the bench) and no Takazawa, with young Kenta Inoue starting as a no. 9. It seemed utterly clear from the first minute of game that Oita didn’t stand a chance with this line-up.
In fact, the first half was a monologue by Sapporo, who didn’t even push too much to wrap up the match in the first 45 minutes. After nine minutes, the hosts were already ahead: a majestic through-pass by Akito Fukumori – best left-footed player of the league, tied with Akihiro Ienaga – found Takuro Kaneko behind enemy lines. The no. 9 needed a couple of moments to control the ball and shot, but he defied William Popp for the advantage.
The whole first half barely saw the guests crossing the halfway line, so Sapporo had other chances: for example, a good run by Chanathip ended with a shot slightly wide from Popp’s goal. In the 20th minute, though, the same Kaneko found the net another time: a carefully aimed low-shot found the left angle of Oita’s goal and the brace from the winger had been completed in a few minutes.
Consadole had other chances to increase the advantage: Arano showed his “striker-skills” by heading a cross from Chanathip slightly over the bar. Sapporo saw themselves the 3-0 disallowed because of Komai, offside when the action started and ended with Chanathip’s goal. The only chance Oita had to offer was a shot by Machida, who went way over the bar and didn’t worry Sugeno.
The second half didn’t change the plot that much: captain Miyazawa almost scored the third with a header on a corner kick from Fukumori. Trinita gave some signs of life when they decided to put on the pitch both Arata Watanabe and Shun Nagasawa. Then, a relaxed home side just pumped the brakes and left many chances to the guests.
Nagasawa hit the crossbar with his specialty – a header, of course – on minute 85; meanwhile, Watanabe tried three times to worry Sugeno and he did, forcing the Consadole keeper to many saves to keep his clean sheet. But this didn’t change the final outcome. Actually, mistakes from William Popp almost gifted the 3-0 to Consadole, with Douglas Oliveira ready to celebrate and Keisuke Saka clearing the line at the last gasp.
Lessons from this match? Consadole Sapporo are doing the job. If you look at their goal for 2021 (just avoid relegation) and their wins in this season, they’ve been effective: they won against Yokohama FC, Vegalta, Vortis, S-Pulse, Reysol and Trinita. They basically defeated all the contenders in the relegation race. Only doubt? If Anderson Lopes is set to go, who can replace his goal count? Jay isn’t fit all the time; Douglas Oliveira is a gigantic question mark… can youngsters Ogashiwa and Nakashima do the job?
And if the credits are rolling on the reign of Petrović in Sapporo, the same we could say on Katanosaka’s at Oita. Saving this squad will dreadfully hard. The replacements from this Winter are not working: especially the defense has lost a lot in just one year. Suzuki off to S-Pulse, Iwata to Marinos and Shun Takagi isn’t the plus-value he used to be in 2019. And the other two keepers are not J1-material. Relegation seems inevitable like this.
Giravanz Kitakyushu v. Ehime FC 0-2 (HLs)
This match was basically a six-pointer, since Giravanz had been struggling since the beginning of this season and Ehime were tipped to be relegated by anyone. Instead, we approached the match at the Mikuni World Stadium of Kitakyushu with a surprise: after replacing their manager – Shigenari Izumi was let go, hiring Noritada Saneyoshi –, Ehime are surprisingly doing well.
Giravanz are still relying on their 4-2-3-1, hoping that the fantasy of Daigo Takahashi and Taiga Maekawa will be enough to scrap some points. Unfortunately, they’re still missing a reliable striker – Zen Cardona is young and unexperienced (for now). The guests, instead, counted as always on their 5-3-2, fielding Yoshida and Fujimoto up front and featuring without Toyama and mostly Kawamura.
Ehime have a clear plan to avoid relegation: just wait for the opponent to come forward. Eight players plus the keeper crowded Ehime’s half of the field and it became hard for the hosts to find some gaps, especially since their production this year has lowered a lot (they scored 15 goals in 18 games, while in 2020 they bagged 33 after the same number of games. And they were at the top of the table! Oh, dear J2…).
Giravanz could only count on long-range attempts, which never aimed at Akimoto’s goal. On the other side of the pitch, instead, Ehime began to build some nice chances and found the breakthrough on minute 39: ball recovered by Fujimoto, who went to the touchline and crossed for the incoming Makito Yoshida, who touched the ball before his opponent and clinched his fourth goal in 2021.
It was pretty sudden but deserved. Ehime have been in control of the situation, despite the choice of not applying any pressure to their opponents. But the pattern worked and repeated itself five minutes later. Another lost ball by Kitakyushu found Yoshiaki Fujimoto, who began to run from the midfield line. When he got the penalty box, he fired a surprising screamer to grant his team the double advantage before the interval.
Despite other 45 minutes, it never seemed like Kitakyushu had an answer for their problems of offensive production. Actually, it was Ehime to almost score the third in a couple of chances, like when Motegi backheeled a corner by Uchida and found a Giravanz player clearing the line. The impressive data from the second half was the amount of time lost to injuries and substitutions: just think that two players, Kaisei Ishii and Takuya Inui, entered the pitch and then had to leave the game in five or ten minutes.
A game going until the 97th minute wasn’t enough for Kitakyushu to find a silver lining. The squad and their manager are not relegation material, but they’re missing two-three players to be safe. They have to do some work on the recruiting market, even with loans. About Ehime, we didn’t expect them to be here: the Saneyoshi-method is working, and they might have a slight shot at avoiding relegation (which in our opinion would automatically grant Saneyoshi the “Manager of the year” award).
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.