S-Pulse 2-1 Yamagata
Takahara 68 ----\\\------ Okubo 88 (pen)
Brosque 94 (pen)
DF Iwashita (Yellow 26)
Kobayashi on for Omae (58)
Edamura on for Ono (68)
Nagai on for Hiraoka (89)
Blimey O'Reilly. Not good for the nerves in any way, and not something that can sugarcoat an otherwise below par performance, but an ending to the game to blow away some of the cobwebs that may have recently gathered around the stands of Nihondaira. When Alex calmly stroked his 94th minute penalty home the place simply exploded.
Yamagata should stay up this year. I hope they do. If they can avoid major injuries and play with the fight they showed in this game then they will. Until we scored, and especially in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, we were struggling to deal with them. Their first penalty, in first half stoppage time, was finely saved after it was made to be retaken by Usui, and this no doubt changed the game.
Edamura was brought on in the 68th minute to create different options in the centre and to allow Alex to move further forward. The effects were immediate. A fine passing move from defence to attack ended in a brilliant run by Ota into the danger zone. He played it across the six yard box to Takahara who knocked in the easiest goal of his career. He's on four for the season and since he's been playing centre forward looks like scoring most games. Great to see him proving some of the doubters wrong. The best is still yet to come I don't doubt.
So yep, job done after a fashion, but three points is what counts. Saturday is off to Saitama for Takahara's old (if short lived) stomping ground. I know he'll be wanting to exorcise some of the memories of his time at the SaiSuta. A period when Urawa should have been building off of national and continental titles but were instead imploding spectacularly on and off the pitch. Not a surprise he couldn't perform under those circumstances. The poor fella as good as ran from Saitama at the first opportunity, and now playing in his old back yard in a stable environment he's showing what he can still do. Another couple on Saturday please mate!
Translated from the Japanese back to English by me. Any mistakes are my own.
"It was a really interesting game. Yamagata fought from start to finish. Especially up to the hour mark we were finding it hard to play our own game against their strong physical style. However, after the hour we were able to start playing our own high paced passing game using space well and scored a great goal.
After our goal we were able to control the game. But we couldn't convert our chances and Yamagata got a penalty, but after the equalising goal we showed great spirit to bounce back. Putting Nagai on mean we had two up front, and if you include the wingers, four. In that formation we could put pressure on Yamagata, create chances and ultimately forced a penalty.
It was a really exciting last half hour for the fans. I was delighted to see the supporters' happy faces at the end. Nihondaira is a special place."
Yet to find full highlights, so here's a few personal videos which tell the story. First, Yamagata's spot kick at the end of the first half. The first attempt was called back for encroachment. Call me a big softy, but seeing how happy the Yamagata fans are when the first kick goes in, I can't help feeling like a dick given the manner in which we beat them.
Taking the lead by way of Bosnar -> Ota -> Edamura -> Ota -> Takahara -> GOAL. Takahara at .40 makes me go :))))
Yamgata get a penalty in the 88th minute and Okubo makes no mistake.
Finally, our last gasp penalty: