柏レイソル (Kashiwa Reysol) 2 清水エスパルス (Shimizu S-Pulse) 1

Tatsuya Masushima (kneeling) is surrounded by teammates Wataru Hashimoto (22), Ryohei Hayashi (11) and Masato Kudo (19) after scoring the winning goal for Kashiwa Reysol in their 2-1 victory over Shimizu S-Pulse on 24 March (Image courtesy of J's Goal/J-League Photos)

The Sun Kings left it late at the Hitachi Kashiwa Soccer Stadium, two goals from the unlikely source of central defender Tatsuya Masushima in the 81st and 86th minutes earning reigning champions Reysol their first J.League Division 1 win of the season.

The pre-match talk had been of rumours that Hiroki Sakai had agreed a deal which would see him transfer to Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund in the summer and join fellow Samurai Blue Shinji Kagawa in their pursuit of the German league championship. Although no agreement has been confirmed and the rumour appears unfounded, Sakai’s performance was uncharacteristically unsettled, the right-back guilty of a number of unenforced errors in both defence and in his distribution.

Sakai, however, was by no means the only culpable player, particularly in a first-half which saw the visitors dominate territory and create the majority of the opportunities. On six minutes Alex Brosque received a pass 25 yards from goal, but with an unmarked Toshiyuki Takagi appealing for the pass to his right and with a single defender bearing down on the Australian striker, he chose to ignore the attacking midfielder, taking a shot left-footed which Takanori Sugeno easily held. After eight minutes a lofted ball into the penalty area was again met by Alex, but his header was directed straight at goalkeeper Sugeno.

12 minutes had been played when S-Pulse had another excellent opportunity to take the lead, Yosuke Kawai delivering a whipped cross, but Alex couldn’t control his header and the ball sailed over the crossbar.

Four minutes later, in a rare opening for the home side, Sakai provided one moment of the exhilarating attacking flair for which he has become known and a subject of interest for many of Europe’s premier clubs. Picking up the ball midway in S-Pulse territory, he dropped a shoulder, deceiving Calvin Jong A Pin, and sped past the Dutch left-back. The cross from the right reached Hidekazu Otani, who headed narrowly wide of Akihiro Hayashi’s left post.

With Shimizu S-Pulse pressing intently, quickly closing down the centre-back pairing of Daisuke Nasu and Masushima, Reysol were struggling to find any sort of passing momentum, and rarely did they trouble the S-Pa defence. Leandro Domingues, the J.League Player of the Year, in particular struggled to find space between the visitors’ lines, Taisuke Muramatsu paying close attention to the Brazilian whose frustration was clearly etched on his face. The opening quarter for Reysol was summed up by Jorge Wagner attempting to shoot from fully 37 yards, the ball merely cannoning off defender Yutaka Yoshida standing two feet away.

Domingues had an opportunity after 34 minutes to break the deadlock, Calvin Jong A Pin pulling his shirt three yards outside the penalty year, and the Brazilian dead-ball specialist lined up to take the free-kick. The chance was wasted, however, as hiss right-footed effort bent not only over the S-Pulse wall but well beyond Hayashi’s crossbar.

It was to be S-Pulse who would instead use a free-kick to their advantage. Genki Omae, the diminuitive forward, was brought down on the right-hand side, and with Omae stepping over the ball, Ki Je Lee swept a left-footed cross to the edge of the six yard box. Keisuke Iwashita cleverly ran between Sakai and Nasu, and he rose to head the ball to Sugeno’s left into the bottom right of the Reysol goal.

The scoreline did not flatter Shimizu S-Pulse as referee Toshimitsu Yoshida blew for half-time, but the performance of the Sun Kings was of concern, particularly having humbled 2011 AFC Champions League runners-up Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in mid-week. Clearly manager Nelsinho Baptista needed to make changes, and it was no surprise that the hitherto anonymous Jorge Wagner who was the first to leave the field, Masakatsu Sawa taking his place in the Reysol attack.

Three minutes after the restart both sides came close to scoring. Hayashi let a shot squirm to safety which bounced dangerously in front of him, before an immediate counter-attack found Takagi in space, his venomous low shot from the left edge of the penalty straight at Sugeno who gathered at the first attempt.

Domingues, who had been well marshalled in the first half, had begun to discover room around the S-Pulse penalty area, but was still most untypically astray with his passing and set-piece delivery. Unmarked and under little pressure on the edge of the 18-yard box, he could only blaze over the crossbar on 50 minutes. Four minutes later, he would take a free-kick deep inside the opposition half, but his cross was easily cleared. Then, with half an hour remaining, an exquisite cross from left-back Wataru Hashimoto would find Domingues, but his attempted left-footed volley was skewed horribly wide. Domingues’ frustration began to extend to the officials, waving imaginary cards after being fouled twice in quick succession, venting his anger at referee Yoshida for failing to deal with what he saw as unfair treatment from the S-Pa defence.

With a quarter of the match remaining, Reysol were dominating both territory and possession, but still failed to create much of note. 23 minutes had been played when a cross fell to substitute Ryohei Hayashi in the S-Pulse penalty area, but before he could connect the ball was cleared by Lee. Masato Kudo fired in a low shot from 22 yards, but it was well held by Hayashi, diving to his left. It would be no surprise that the equaliser would be scored through a hint of good fortune.

Genki Omae was booked for a dangerous challenge on Masakatsu Sawa when Yoshida could easily have produced a red card. The resulting free-kick was taken by Domingues, Yutaka Yoshida and Daisuke Nasu both challenging for the cross short of the six yard box. The ball rebounded off Nasu’s back and kindly into the path of Masushima, who made no mistake in driving the loose ball home with nine minutes of ordinary time remaining.

After 84 minutes Reysol nearly took the lead. Masakatsu Sawa picked up a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area, and his deflected shot looped over the S-Pa defence, and with goalkeeper Hayashi struggling to recover his ground, the ball crashed against the crossbar and was hastily cleared downfield.

Two minutes later, Masushima would have his second goal of the game and just the seventh of his career in over 130 appearances. Domingues swept in another lovely cross, and with Taisuke Muramatsu failing to track Masushima’s run, the defender powerfully flicked his header beyond Hayashi before he had time to react.

As the 90 minute mark approached, the assistant referee signalled that an additional three minutes would be played and S-Pulse launched one final attack. Jymmy Franca, who had earlier replaced Shinji Ono, was the recipient of an extraordinary pass from Ki Je Lee which found him unmarked in the Reysol penalty area. Franca, however, completely misjudged his header which fell into the Sugeno’s grateful hands. Kashiwa Reysol’s first league victory of the season had been secured.

Kashiwa Reysol Shimizu S-Pulse
Goalscorers Min Goalscorers Min
Tatsuya Masushima 81 Keisuke Iwashita 38
Tatsuya Masushima 86
Substitutes Min Substitutes Min
Jorge Wagner
Masakatsu Sawa
46 Shinji Ono
Jymmy Franca
58
Ricardo Lobo
Ryohei Hayashi
63 Toshiyuki Takagi
Daigo Kobayashi
74
Hidekazu Otani
Akimi Barada
74 Genki Omae
Naohiro Takahara
87
Cautions Min Cautions Min
Wataru Hashimoto 37 Taisuke Muramatsu 19
Ricardo Lobo 46 Alex 21
Ryoichi Kurisawa 64 Keisuke Iwashita 51
Hiroki Sakai 70 Akihiro Hayashi 72
Genki Omae 81

Kashiwa Reysol: 4-4-2 (Yellow); Shimizu S-Pulse: 4-1-4-1 (Grey)

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