We finally got back to winning ways in the league in front of 12,696 fans at Banpaku as visitors Albirex Niigata suffered from our clinical attack and their lacklustre forward line. 3 goals in the space of 15 minutes made the difference after a solid start for Albirex.
Kenta Hasegawa made one change to the starting eleven with Kenya Okazaki falling out of the team entire as Futagawa took his spot. On the bench we saw the return of recently injured Oh Jae-Suk and Hiroyuki Abe with Yuto Uchida the other casualty from last weekend’s matchday squad.
It is fair to say that Albirex were the better side in the first 30 minutes or so with decent chances being wasted by Ibusuki and Okamoto, the latter coming from a player avoiding a tackle by Nishino who dived out of defence in a high position before laying off to Okamoto who through on goal fired wide of the far post.
For us in the first 30 minutes, we continued with passing mistakes at the back but going forward Usami’s driven cross to Patric was just cleared whilst Patric fired right at Morita after Fujiharu broke well. Patric started to stretch the Niigata defence whilst winning free kicks in decent crossing positions. The second free kick led to the opening goal, with Endo’s cross met by Takaharu Nishino to head home freely to net his first J1 goal.
The goal settled us and Patric was at the heart of it, dragging us forward whilst Usami threatened the goal by playing a lovely one-two with Kurata before battering his effort off the bar. And it was Kurata who made it 2-0 in the 39th minute – Endo with a wonderful cross-field pass to Yonekura whose cross to Kurata was just as good, the number 11 making a fabulous run into the box before heading into the far corner from the best part of 12 yards – brilliant goal.
Futagawa made it 3-0 just before half-time after Usami played a lovely pass and the veteran found himself free to shoot at goal with his effort getting a massive deflection which looped the shot over the stranded Morita. At half time we had all but killed the game but Niigata had threatened us a few times.
That did not stop at half time though as for the first 25 minutes of the second half, Albirex should have got at least one goal back. It took them 15 minutes to start making goal-scoring chances with Kobayashi volleying off the outside of the post from 25 yards and Ibusuki then lost Iwashita before firing just wide of the far post. Two golden chances wasted.
Abe came on for Futagawa then shortly after Sato came on for Patric with the latter looking to make an impact following his hat-trick in the Step-Up League and he did not disappoint one bit. He broke clear of the Niigata defence following a top pass from Fujiharu but he was forced wide slightly and fired right at Morita whose parry came to Kurata who made it 4-0. I really love Sato and wanted him to score… next time!
With the game dead Lins came on for Kurata and he made it 5-0 in the 90th minute. He superbly controlled a chipped pass from Endo before sliding the ball into the bottom corner to wrap up a superb scoreline. The substitutes did excellently when they came on and whilst we got a bit of luck, we didn’t get any last week so it all evens out. Overall, a pretty good performance with improvements still to be made but it was good to get back to winning ways.
Man of the Match
Whilst I believed that Patric was excellent during his shift in terms of helping the team out, Kurata just edged him as our best player. He pushed forward to support Patric and Usami which really helped when we were on the attack and his influence during the game was massive. I said last week that he looked like he was improving and he showed us his best form today with 2 great goals whilst still putting in all his effort and desire to get the 3 points for us. Excellent day at the office for Shu!
Higashiguchi – 7
Yonekura – 8
Nishino – 7
Iwashita – 7.5
Fujiharu – 8
Futagawa – 7.5
Endo – 7
Konno – 7.5
Kurata – 9.5
Patric – 8.5
Usami – 7.5
Abe – 6.5 (Sub)
Sato – 8 (Sub)
Lins – 7.5 (Sub)
We rose one place to 7th following a draw for FC Tokyo at Kashima Antlers whilst other rivals – Kobe, Kashiwa and Hiroshima – all won to keep close to us in the table. We created a 6 point gap to Albirex in 11th which more than likely will assure a near top-10 finish the season. Good for us to be looking ahead once more.
Photo taken from J’s Goal. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.