0 Min: Hello, and thank you for joining me for today’s live-blog in which I’ll be covering the J.League Division 1 fixture featuring hosts Albirex Niigata and Vegalta Sendai. I’ll have team news for you in just a moment.
0 Min: Albirex Niigata – Higashiguchi; Uchida, Suzuki, Ishikawa, J-S Kim; Homma, Kikuchi, Tanaka; Yano, Michael, Bruno Lopes
0 Min: Substitutes – Ozawa; Oi, Murakami; Mikado, Alan Mineiro, Koyano; Hirai
0 Min: Vegalta Sendai – Hayashi; Tamura, Kamata, Uemoto, Park; Tomita, Kakuda, Ota, Sekiguchi; Yanagisawa, Wilson
0 Min: Substitutes – Sakurai; Uchiyama, Harada; Matsushita, Ryang; Muto, Nakahara
0 Min: Two changes to note for Vegalta from the side that comprehensively defeated FC Tokyo 4-0 on Matchday Seven. In come Naoya Tamura and Atsushi Yanagisawa, who replace the injured Naoki Sugai and Shingo Akamine respectively.
0 Min: There are three changes for the home side which lost 1-0 away to Sagan Tosu, Naoya Kikuchi in for Yuta Mikado, Atomu Tanaka replacing Alan Mineiro and Kisho Yano starts instead of Shoki Hirai.
0 Min: It’s a warm and bright afternoon in Niigata, 22 degrees and low humidity, perfect conditions for a game of football at the Niigata Stadium Big Swan.
1 Min: And at precisely 08:04 BST/16:04 JST, we’ve kicked-off, Vegalta Sendai commencing proceedings.
3 Mins: Vegalta very quick to snap into tackles and close down any Albirex possession, and the ball is staying predominantly in Albi territory.
4 Mins: Naoya Tamura concedes a needless free-kick in a dangerous area to the right of the penalty area. Can Albirex capitalise?
6 Mins: GOAL DISALLOWED Tamura’s infringement very nearly leads to the opening goal of the game. The free-kick is bent in by Tanaka, and is flicked on by Kisho Yano before being half-cleared by Joo-Sung Park. It falls to Naoki Ishikawa in the penalty area. He controls and thumps a volley beyond Takuto Hayashi. Hayashi appeals for offside, complaining of a player directly interfering with his view of the ball, and after a period of consultation between the referee and his assistant, the goal is ruled out.
6 Mins: Albirex Niigata 0 Vegalta Sendai
12 Mins: While the goal was ruled out, they appear to have settled and it is a strong period of pressure for Albi. Kisho Yano is found on the right-wing, but as he directs a ball across the penalty area Bruno Lopes’s tumble in the penalty area is ignored in favour of a corner, to be taken by Atomu Tanaka. His cross is again to the near post, but this time it’s cleared for a throw-in.
12 Mins: Another let-off for Vegalta Sendai. Kishi Yano is narrowly offside as he reacts to a rebound in the penalty area. Hayashi got his body behind Yano’s shot, but it would have fallen to Bruno Lopes, with an open goal in which to slot a finish.
16 Mins: Vegalta have their first corner of the match, bent in by Yoshiaki Ota, but Higashiguchi gets a strong fist to the ball, and it is well-cleared by the Albirex goalkeeper.
20 Mins: The league leaders are struggling at the moment. Wilson is especially isolated in attack. Albi’s nominal 4-3-3 on paper is much closer to a 4-2-3-1, and Vegalta are struggling to find a way through the extra men supporting the defensive line, while the three attacking midfielders are doing an excellent job in tracking Vegalta players in possession.
20 Mins:Atomu Tanaka wastes an opportunity from a set piece, firing well clear of Hayashi’s crossbar from 25 yards.
23 Mins: Vegalta have also been suspect under high balls, with crosses and long throw-ins from the Albirex left regularly being met by one of their own players.
26 Mins: A second corner for Vegalta taken by Ota, but it’s well-claimed by Higashiguchi. He launches a very quick clearance, which Bruno Lopes plays on to Michael and the counter-attack ends in a corner for the home side.
26 Mins:Tanaka’s corner is swung in to the near post again, but Michael’s attempted heel-flick fails, swept upwards and easily saved by Hayashi to his left.
28 Mins: Bruno Lopes and Michael are linking well for Albirex Niigata, and a lovely quick exchange within the penalty area sees a return pass just miscontrolled by Michael bearing down on goal.
31 Mins: Kunimitsu Sekiguchi creates space for himself on the left-wing, stepping over the ball and forcing Daisuke Suzuki backwards. He whips a dangerous cross into the penalty area which is dealt with by Naoki Ishikawa. The ball is returned to Wilson out wide, but the forward is immediately surrounded by four players, and under pressure he can only concede a goal kick.
35 Mins: Ten minutes left to play in an eventful first period which the home side have largely dominated, it’s Albirex Niigata 0 Vegalta Sendai 0.
36 Mins: Atomu Tanaka earns his side a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, pulled back by Jiro Kamata. Lenient refereeing from Futoshi Nakamura allows Kamata to evade a first booking of this match.
37 Mins: Tanaka fires the free-kick straight into Vegalta’s three man wall, but the ball is worked out to Naoki Ishikawa, who gains a further corner for his side, taken again by Kamata.
38 Mins: Kamata chooses this time to swing his cross a little deeper into the penalty area, but while Yano connects, it’s weak and directed straight at Hayashi.
40 Mins: A glancing header from Makoto Kakuda fails to trouble Higashiguchi from Tamura’s in-swinging cross out right, falling a couple of feet wide of the post.
41 Mins: Kisho Yano is pulled back by Joo-Sung Park close to the Vegalta goal-line. Tanaka attempts to find Bruno Lopes, but it is headed clear strongly by Taikai Uemoto.
45 Mins: Kisho Yano is brought down yet again by Joo-Sung Park, and his kick into the winger’s chest brings the first booking of this context.
45 Mins: Tanaka standing over the ball on the right touchline, but his delivery is poor and it’s easily cleared away from the Vegalta penalty area.
45 Mins: Kisho Yano is booked by referee Nakamura for returning to the field of play before he is permitted to do so, much to the crowd and Yano’s bemusement. It is, however, a perfectly legitimate yellow card.
45 Mins+1: The man in black brings the first period to a close.
HT: Vegalta Sendai’s expected strong start only lasted for roughly five minutes, and they have been dominated by an energetic Albirex Niigata team preying particularly on a perceived and real weakness in Vegalta’s ability to deal with a high ball. Their passing has also been eye-catching at times, the movement of Yano, Michael and Lopes causing numerous problems for Vegalta’s normally robust defence.
46 Mins: Perhaps after a stinging rebuke from manager Makoto Teguramori, Vegalta Sendai emerge from the tunnel early for the second period. Albirex get the final 45 minutes underway.
47 Mins: Masaaki Higashiguchi is quickly off his line after a through ball from Wilson nearly finds Atsushi Yanagisawa, the goalkeeper diving to clasp the ball at the striker’s feet.
49 Mins: Yoshiaki Ota nearly finds a break for Vegalta Sendai. Drawing across the penalty area from the right touchline, he plays a quick one-two with Wilson, and only the quick feet of Daisuke Suzuki prevents Ota from going clean through on goal.
50 Mins: A corner for Vegalta which Naoki Ishikawa attempts to clear with a scissor kick, but it drops to Taikai Uemoto to the left of the penalty area. He volleys on the turn, but it is clear of the crossbar, and Higashiguchi sends the resulting goal-kick long downfield.
51 Mins: A piece of wonderful control from Ota on the right-wing is followed by a disappointing cross which is much too close to Higashiguchi in the Albirex goal.
53 Mins: Kisho Yano is perhaps fortunate to escape a yellow card after putting a knee into the back of Taikai Uemoto.
54 Mins: As dominant as Albirex were in the first half, the roles have been reversed ten minutes into the second period. Vegalta significantly the stronger side, but they will need to find much better delivery from their set pieces if they are to force Masaaki Higashiguchi into making a save.
58 Mins: Jiro Kamata concedes a corner in clearning Jin-Su Kim’s cross from the Albirex right.
59 Mins: Tanaka’s cross is once again to the near post and is cleared, but Tanaka recovers, and wriggling his way past Wilson and Makoto Kakuda, he fires a ball across the penalty area which is just too high for Michael.
61 Mins: Bruno Lopes sends Michael clear 15 yards outside the Vegalta 18-yard box, but Jiro Kamata is very quick to close down and puts a strong foot in to prevent the forward continuing his run.
63 Mins: Bruno Lopes is shown a yellow card for a strong but seemingly fair challenge on Makoto Kakuda, which results in a free-kick ten yards in Albirex territory.
63 Mins: It’s so close to a goal for Vegalta. Yoshiaki Ota delivers a cross to the back post which Kakuda heads across goal, and it’s inches away from being turned in by Atsushi Yanagisawa.
64 Mins: The home side now have a free-kick 26 yards from goal. Atomu Tanaka waits to take the set piece.
64 Mins: Tanaka hits the wall, and while the ball rebounds to Jun Uchida, his first time effort from 22 yards is well wide of Takuo Hayashi’s right upright.
66 Mins: Naoya Kikuchi is the next into the book, as he takes away Jiro Kamata’s legs with a cynical trip.
67 Mins: Makoto Kakuda tries from distance, but his low shot, covered by Higashiguchi, drifts left of his right post.
72 Mins: Atsushi Yanagisawa is replaced by Toshihiro Matsushita For Vegalta Sendai. Yoshiaki Ota is finding plenty of space for the away team, drifting across the penalty area from his typical position in right midfield. Albirex, however, have produced a performance which belies their current position in the table.
75 Mins: Into the last quarter of an hour, it’s Albirex Niigata 0 Vegalta Sendai 0.
75 Mins: Ota thinks he has scored, but it’s into the side netting. Wilson received the ball in space on the left, and played a lovely pass to an overlapping Matsushita. His cross is good, but Ota’s header is safely knocked wide by Higashiguchi who puts safety first.
76 Mins: Taikai Uemoto puts Joo-Sung Park into enormous difficulty after a dreadful crossfield pass is intercepted by Michael. The forward beats Uemoto and brings the ball onto his left foot in the penalty area, but he fires wide of Takuto Hayashi’s upright.
78 Mins: Albirex’s Jun Uchida makes way for Yusuke Murakami.
80 Mins: Yoshiaki Ota leaves the field for Yuki Moto.
80 Mins: 10 minutes of normal time remaining, but we remain scoreless, Albirex Niigata 0 Vegalta Sendai 0.
83 Mins: An excellent piece of defending from Joo-Sung Park takes the ball away from Bruno Lopes’s feet, with the forward almost one-on-one with Takuto Hayashi.
87 Mins: PENALTY! Wilson, who has been largely anonymous during this match, is judged to have been fouled by Daisuke Suzuki. Suzuki puts his arm across Wilson, and is booked for the offence, but it appears very harsh on the Albirex central defender.
88 Mins: Alan Mineiro is on the field in place of Atomu Tanaka.
88 Mins: Wilson is ready to take the spot kick while Albirex’s protests against the decision continue.
88 Mins: GOAL! Masaaki Higashiguchi, who has been commanding in goal for the home side, is unable to prevent Wilson scoring. The goalkeeper dives to his right, Wilson sending the ball into the opposite corner of the net.
88 Mins:Albirex Niigata 0 Vegalta Sendai 1
90 Mins: A furious Bruno Lopes is shown a second yellow card and sent off the field of plau. He continues his protest with Nakamura, sarcastically applauding the official on his way off the field, which will potentially result in frther punishment for the forward, who has to be dragged away by staff on the touchline.
90 Mins: There are four minutes of added time to be played.
90 Mins+2: Wilson is substitued, Tayayuki Nakahara on for the remaining moments of this match.
90 Mins+4: Four minutes of added time have been played, but the match continues, which is assumed to be for the delays to the match following Bruno Lopes’s sending off.
90 Mins+6: The referee whistles for the end of play, which is met with a significant and hostile reaction from the home support.
FT: Albirex Niigata have significant reason to feel aggrived by the decision which swayed the outcome of this match. A game they had largely dominated, albeit in which they had created few clear-cut opportunities, was almost certainly heading for a draw until Futoshi Nakamura pointed to the spot to allow Wilson to give Vegalta Sendai the victory. Albirex’s overall performance may give manager Hisashi Kurosaki some comfort, but they may face a prolonged period without forward Bruno Lopes after his furious reaction to being shown a second yellow card.
FT:Albirex Niigata 0 Vegalta Sendai 1
FT: Thank you for joining me. A full match report will appear on this website on Sunday 29 April.