(Vissel Kobe dominate all but the scoreline, as Kashima Antlers’ revival continued with a 2-1 success at the HOME’S Stadium. Antlers are in tenth place as Division 1 action is suspended for the international break, Vissel two points and four places behind)
Vissel found domination, desire and a not insubstantial amount of desperation could not trump defensive errors on a mild evening at the HOME’S Stadium in Kobe, becoming masters of their own downfall as Lee Kwang-Seon erred twice to gift Kashima Antlers the victory in Akira Nishino’s first match in charge. The garlanded former Gamba Osaka manager, whose tenure at the Suita club came to an end shortly after the 2011 J.League season finished, was visibly shocked at the ease with which his side conceded both goals, Lee removed shortly after Shinzo Koroki had stroked the ball into the Vissel net from short range.
After the opening exchanges had seen Vissel camped inside Kashima territory, and Toru Araiba nearly caught in possession by Tsubasa Oya, Takeshi Aoki cleared long downfield. Lee, covering on the right and alert to the presence of Juninho, misjudged the flight of the ball and found air rather than a clean connection, allowing the 34 year-old Brazilian to head on and thump past Kenta Tokushige to give the visitors an unlikely lead after only seven minutes had been played.
Six minutes after the restart Takeshi Aoki picked out the run of Juninho’s compatriate Dutra perfectly, controlling in his stride to advance into the penalty area. In pursuit of the midfielder, however, Lee exacerbated his earlier mistake, failing to make a challenge and allowing Dutra to prod the ball to his right past Tokushige to give Koroki one of the easiest goals he will score.
Koroki could have made the game completely safe as a defensive fallibility was exposed once more, Dutra heading forward from a ball out of midfield, and although the stalwart Kashima forward could not apply the right touch to steer past Sogahata for his second, he was able to fend off Takahito Soma all too easily.
It was a case of what might have been for the home side, as among the number of opportunites they created, and boasting 60% of the possession and double the number of shots attempted, the nimble Ryota Morioka came close to scoring one of the goals of the season inside 65 minutes. Gathering a Gaku Shibasaki pass thirty yards from goal, he embarked on a weaving run which left both Mitsuo Ogasawara and Daiki Iwamasa on the floor, and his strike on the edge of the area didn’t bend quite enough to beat Hitoshi Sogahata low to his left.
Six minutes were left on the clock when Keijiro Ogawa floundered in front of goal, leaving the teenager to beat the turf in frustration. Morioka and fellow substitute Yuzo Tashiro’s one-two on the edge of the penalty area enable Morioka to pull back for the striker to score, but he could only send his effort several feet over Sogoahata’s crossbar from six yards.
The goal which gave Vissel a life line as the game entered added time would have been a worthy winner of the contest had Vissel made their pressure count. Holding up play to the right of the penalty area, captain Yoshito Okubo laid off to Keiji Kitamoto, and within two touches via Morioka, Yuzo Tashiro was through on goal to slot past Sogahata. Instead it was not enough to recover the two-goal deficit, the four minutes added time insufficient to create a further chance to equalise.
The onus will be on Nishino to resolve on-going concerns at the back while improving the return upfront. While his team’s goalscoring record could be described as adequate at this stage of the season, Vissel can only point to two teams conceding goals at a higher rate. For a manager whose sides were previously been built on movement and attacking football, it is an ambitious project for Nishino to have taken on, but having won all there is to offer in Japanese and Asian club football, and shaping Gamba Osaka from a team which had never finished in the top four into perennial J.League contenders, there should be few doubts as to his ability to thrive in what is a difficult environment.
|Vissel Kobe||Kashima Antlers|
|Masahiko Inoha||49||Hitoshi Sogahata||85|