After having to go through one of the most difficult periods in recent memory, Japan was finally ready to re-start it’s domestic football league nationwide as thousands of supporters braved largely terrible weather to come out and support their beloved clubs. This opening weekend of football was not only important in a sporting sense but also in a psychological sense as it gave many people back their cherished sense of ‘normality’ and hope that the nation has now passed through the worst of the disaster that struck last month.
Due to the damages incurred at their stadium from the mega-quake, Kashima Antlers have adopted the Tokyo National Olympic stadium to be their ‘Home’ venue until sufficient repairs to Kashima stadium have been completed. As such, what was supposed to be an away game in Ibaraki, ended up becoming an away game at a stadium that we have a notoriously bad track record at…
Fortunately, though there was an own goal scored, it WASN’T courtesy of Yuji Nakazawa!!
In the build-up to this game the press was keen to point out that Kashima, being one of the ACL teams that has been playing recently, would likely have an advantage due to being “warmed-up” to playing soccer on a competitive level. A fair point really when you consider that we have just had a few kick-abouts with some University teams and a pair of J2 teams during the interim in comparison…
However, what we saw on the pitch in Tokyo was not the Antlers team that always runs circles around us before finding the net, but actually a team that appeared to lack some basic organization skills. This lack of cohesion was quickly put under the spotlight in the 3rd minute when a poorly passed ball from the Kashima defence was quickly intercepted before being drilled home into bottom left corner by a hungry Shohei Ogura. Though his shot took a slight deflection off a Kashima defender, his desire to smash the ball into the goal sent a very clear message to the home team that we were there for all 3 points which no doubt rattled them somewhat as their defence continued to look shaky for the ensuing 10 mins or so after the goal.
Kashima slowly began to bring themselves back into the game and came closest with a shot from Ogasawara that just went wide of the right post, causing a few gasps of relief among the Tricolore faithful. Kashima continued to take a few more shots on goal but either hit them wide or found our keeper, ending the first half 1-0 down the visitors and looking in desperate need of striker with a better pair of shooting boots on.
The second half got under way with a much more determined F.Marinos side as we pushed hard down the flanks and passed the ball around very smoothly in each build-up attack on the Kashima goal. Our efforts paid off in the 76th minute when after being awarded a corner, Kunhoan headed the ball toward the goal only to see it deflect back out into the path of Yuzo Kurihara who smashed the ball straight into the crossbar and into the back of the net. 2-0 F.Marinos.
At this point, Kashima were clearly beginning to look a little demoralized and though they continued to do their best to quell the F.Marinos attack, it was only a matter of time before they would capitulate another.
…Which was exactly what happened when the ball took another cruel deflection off a Kashima defender, this time from a shot by Kurihara, (It was probably going in anyway but, still..) to see the visitors cement their lead with a 3rd goal in the 94th minute.
Looking back I have to say that what really hurt Antlers was the absence of Marquinhos. I know he’s left the club but to me, he was always that dangerous guy up front that would always bag a goal against us. Antlers lacked an aggressive striker that would make the most of their chances and that was probably a huge factor in what cost them the game in my opinion.
In short, a well deserved 3 points from a no-nonsense Marinos team that played a fantastic game of football! Thanks guys, same again when we play at home this Friday, please!!
Here’s the game highlights:
Kashima Antlers: Sogahata, Nakata, Iwamasa, Alex, Araiba, Aoki, Ogasawara, Endo, Nozawa, Koroki, and Carlao
Yokohama F.Marinos: Iikura, Hato, Nakazawa, Kurihara, Kobayashi, Ogura, Taniguchi, Hyodo, Nakamura, Watanabe, and Ono
F.Marinos Substitutions: Watanabe → Kunhoan (60), Ono → Aria (87)
Goals: Ogura (3), Kurihara (76), Own goal (90+4)