(Highlights from the Saitama Stadium as visitors Yokohama F-Marinos down Urawa Red Diamonds 2-1. The Marinos claimed their first back-to-back victories of the 2012 campaign, while the Reds slipped back to fourth place, seven points behind top of the table Vegalta Sendai)
Yokohama F-Marinos clinched a thoroughly deserved first away win in any competition this season at the Saitama Stadium, a 2-1 result being sufficient to claim all three points courtesy of goals from Manabu Saito and substitute Marquinhos. The Reds will almost certainly point to feeble defending from set pieces as the cause behind conceding twice, but inadequate positioning in man-to-man marking at free-kicks and corners from both sides would have seen a greater scoreline with better finishing.
Playing in front of a vociferous crowd of 44,422 and buoyed by Matchday Eight’s victory at Nagoya Grampus, the Reds went in to this fixture in the knowledge that they could claim sole custody of second place with a victory over a struggling Marinos side, and the first ten minutes were a reflection of their superior position in the league table. Tomoaki Makino should have headed his side into the lead with only seven minutes on the clock, Marcio Richardes delivering a cross to eight yards which the unmarked defender could only send over the crossbar. Andrew Kumagai was to blame for so much space being afforded to the centre-back, as he failed to follow Yosuke Kashiwagi’s run, and inadvertently created a screen which blocked off teammate Yuzo Kurihara from tracking the Urawa player’s movement.
Three minutes later, Reds goalkeeper Nobuhiro Kato was grateful to see Tadaaki Hirakawa’s defensive header pass beyond his crossbar, the right wing-back losing Yuzo Kurihara from Shunsuke Nakamura’s deep corner, and nearly finding his own side’s net. It would be a further Hirakawa mistake which enabled the guests to go in front on eleven minutes from Nakamura’s ensuring set piece. The 32-year old could only head the ball downwards to the edge of the penalty area to a waiting Manabu Saito, and although he attempted to atone for the error by closing down the winger, Saito had time to control before arrowing a volley into the net which Hirakawa and Kato could only watch as it whistled past.
It was not only lapses in defence which were plaguing the Reds. Marcio Richardes frittered away chances in advanced areas, the most conspicuous of which were two free-kicks in threatening positions within the space of three minutes. The first, 25 yards away and slightly to the left of Hiroki Iikura’s goal, flashed past the near post, while the second, a better opportunity, cleared the goal by some distance. However, it was to the Marinos’ credit that the majority of the opportunities they furnished the opposition with were from long range. With the hard-working forwards Masashi Uguro and Yuni Ono subjecting the three Reds defenders to pressure any time they were in possession, and wingers Shingo Hyodo and Saito quick to shut down wing-backs Umesaki and Hirakawa, there were relatively few points in the match where the home side were able to exploit gaps in midfield. The Marinos’ ability to stifle both channels left the most expressive of Reds’ players isolated, Yosuke Kashiwagi so ineffectual that he was substituted on half-time, while Richardes and Popo never looked like adding to the seven goals combined they have scored this season.
Twelve minutes after the interval an incomprehensible piece of officiating from Toshimitsu Yoshida could have had a far more significant impact on the outcome of this match. A delightful pass from Oguro was collected by Ono inside the Reds penalty area, and as he attempted to dance around Makino, the defender, stumbling to the ground as the forward evaded his challenge, pulled the ball away from Ono’s feet before handling a second time, but no decision was forthcoming for the conspicuous infringement.
The relief was palpable on Makino’s face, and it was his wonderful piece of improvisation which brought his side level. 78 minutes had elapsed when the centre-back received a pass from Umesaki outside the Marinos 18-yard box, and although there appeared few prospects of advancing on goal and his teammates were well-covered, the Hiroshima native dropped his right shoulder and sped past Kumagai, before switching feet and guiding a right-footed shot past Iikura’s dive into the top-right corner. On the balance of play it was undeserved, and the Reds, sensing an unlikely victory, started to dominate possession and territory in the last ten minutes of the match, the Marinos defending more deeply. Nonetheless, the openings when they came continued to fall Marinos’ way, and it would be Marquinhos who would have the final say. The 2008 J.League Top Scorer and Player of the Year was allowed a run on goal by Yuki Abe, who had taken the wrong position in front of the Brazilian striker, and the forward headed Nakamura’s whipped cross into the bottom left corner to give his side a welcome and warranted win.
The three points were sufficient to lift Marinos into thirteenth place, and they next face a Consadole Sapporo team lying adrift at the bottom of the table having won their first J.League game of the season two months in. Yasuhiro Higuchi’s men will be quietly confident of a result at home, the win at the Saitama Stadium to add that of Matchday Eight in downing Vissel Kobe for their first back-to-back victories in 2012.
|Urawa Red Diamonds||Yokohama F-Marinos|