Montedio Yamagata 1-1 S-Pulse
Yamazaki 80 ---------------------------------------------- Iwashita 55
GK K. Yamamoto (yellow 72)
DF Muramatsu (yellow 46, red 89)
FW M. Yamamoto (yellow 66)
Omae on for Takahara (20)
Hiraoka on for Jong a Pin (71)
Nagai on for M. Yamamoto (82)
In the end, we were lucky to get the draw, but this was a game we should have had wrapped up by half time. Despite the early blow of losing Takahara, to say we dominated the first half would be an understatement. Yamagata looked bereft of any options besides attempted counters and long balls and we were leisurely - too leisurely - knocking the ball all over the pitch while gently crafting out chances.
But apart from Brosque hitting the bar, having run onto a perfect through ball by Jong a Pin, did we really force their keeper into too many saves? But it felt like we were there for a practice game and that the goals were just a matter of stepping up the pace. But then came half time and in 15 minutes we forgot how to play. Well, that and Yamagata remembered they were taking part in a game of football and starting behaving accordingly.
Montedio came out stronger, but we took the lead from an Omae free kick swung over to the far post. Lucky for us, the Yamagata keeper fell over just as it was reaching Iwashita, and he headed home unimpeded. But then at one up it all went a bit wrong. We sat back, inviting a desperate Yamagata side onto us, and they really did need no invitation. They were allowed to play, and from then it was just a matter of time.
It took a spectacular goal line clearance from goal scorer Iwashita to keep us in the lead, but the home team finally equalised in the 80th minutes after a ball hiked forward was met by the head of Yamazaki on the edge of the area. He directed it past Yamamoto who was caught off his line. It went from bad to worse when Muramatsu left out a leg in the area and the blue and white attacker threw himself, up, over and then down to gain a 90th minute penalty.
The penalty was low and into the bottom left corner, but Kaito went the right way and at full stretch palmed it over one handed. It really was a stunning stop and a save that would have shattered my right wrist (God forbid) into a thousand pieces. It got us out of jail, but seriously. we should have had this game won long before Montedio (who if they stay up I'll be very surprised) were allowed a sniff.
BUT! Jong a Pin was all over the place, winning balls, taking it forward and creating chances. It'll take time until all the cogs are moving in sync but he looks like a class act. Something I'm keen to remind myself is that this is a transitional year (some people were predicting a struggle to stay up, remember) but as long as we are learning and growing (and I believe we are), we have a lot to look forward to. The way we played in the first 45 is a glimpse of what we can do and how we can play.
A long personal video of Kaito's penalty save.
BARRY WRITES... I really should have thought of doing this as soon as highlights became available officially on YouTube a while back. Be...