S-Pulse 2-1 Urawa
Okazaki 17 ----------------Ponte 22
MF Honda (yellow 25)
Takeda on for Nishibe (HT)
Nagai on for Fujimoto (79)
Takaki (yellow 88) on for Tsujio (83)
On a gorgeous Saturday afternoon third placed Urawa trekked out to the home of football in Japan, Shizuoka, for their biggest game of the season so far. Due to the prospect of a bumper Golden Week crowd, S-Pulse chose to stage this one at Ecopa. It was a decision that paid off as just shy of 39000 turned out to see the league leaders in action. The vast majority went home smiling like Cheshire Cats after Frode Johnsen rose in the 93rd minute to head home and claim three points for S-Pulse. His stoppage time header ensured we remain top of the table and extended our unbeaten start to the season to nine games - eleven in all competitions.
The game, and the occasion as a whole, was a cracker. Both sets of fans were in full voice as two teams with genuine title ambitions had the opportunity to stake their claim over the other. Within seconds of the start both ourselves and the other lot had had shots on target and it was clear the game was going to live up to expectations. The thing is, games like this are all well and good for the neutral, but for supporters of either team it means ninety minutes of heart-stopping tension and goal-mouth scares.
Okazaki opened scoring from a corner, glancing a header across goal and into the far corner. Our celebrations didn't last too long though. Five minutes later Ponte repeated his feat of the same fixture last year, firing it home in front of the home end. Nishibe got a hand to it but it wasn't quite enough. Not long after, a poorly timed sliding challenge by Yamada led to lengthy treatment for our keeper. He managed to play on till half time, but was suffering from concussion and so was substituted at the break for youngster Takeda.
Ono went achingly close to restoring our lead, once directly after skilfully avoiding a defender and shooting just wide, and once with a world class pass into Okazaki's path who just failed to chip to advancing keeper. So it was all square at half time, a scoreline probably more suited to the away team.
The second half was equally anxiety ridden, and with the chances coming less frequently it was evident that one goal was probably going to win it. When we hit the bar in the 92nd minute that looked like our time was up and we'd have to settle for the draw, but cue the big Norwegian to pop up and head home from point blank range.
I've not known an explosion of delirium on the terraces like that since Cho Jae-Jin's stoppage time winner against Jubilo back in 2007. Being a home game with 35000 orange-clad maniacs in attendance, the noise when Johnsen's 93rd minute header hit the back of the net was something incredible. The goal won us all three points and maintains our place at the top of the table.
Onwards and upwards - next is Kyoto away on Wednesday. On the road the first priority is avoiding defeat. If we can play a tight game and stay top, then it's home to Niigata next Saturday. The games can't come quick enough!
From a personal cam, Okazaki's opener:
And Johnsen's winner: