The men in yellow and blue are still led by the irrepressible Ryang Yong Gi, but the graft and sheer perseverance of 2012 won’t be enough this season. Sendai were able to go ahead early in the second half via a set piece. The headed goal for Watanabe came in the 49th minute, and unfortunately for the home team it only served as a message to sit back and play opportunistic soccer. Relying as they did last year on transitional play, Sendai’s best moments came from crosses which were either headed astray or missed altogether.
Momentum changed after the goal and the newly promoted Kofu suddenly showed why they were comprehensive winners of J2. The visitors were very impressive down the right side, and 25 year old Yoshifumi Kashiwa should be a thorn in the side of any J1 side this year. Kashiwa showed some speed and trickery and was whipping balls into the box on a regular basis. Kofu levelled in the 73rd minute via Brazilian Hugo. It was nothing less than they deserved as the Yamanashi prefecture side began to click and ooze midfield cohesion.
The 1-1 full time scoreline was a better result for Ventrofet Kofu for obvious reasons, but scenes don’t augur well for Vegalta Sendai. Manager Teguramori said of his team’s playing style (earlier in the week), “I’m going to vary our play widely, but it’s sometimes dangerous in the Champions League if we stick to it.” Most people wouldn’t notice any difference in their style in both competitions. It’s all about seizing on the errors of opponents and working hard. Sendai will need more if they’re to repeat last year’s second placed finish.
Meanwhile, defending champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima went down to Urawa Reds 2-1 while at home. The setback comes after Hiroshima were upset in the ACL by Uzbek giants Bunyodkor. Urawa midfielder Yousuke Kashiwagi got scoring underway in the 38th minute, while classy forward Genki Haraguchi made it 2-nil after 51 minutes. It was too big a mountain for the home side to climb. In other results Yokohama F Marinos came from behind to win 4-2 against newcomers Shonan Bellmare, while Nagoya drew with Jubilo Iwata after taking an early lead at home. In the Saturday evening clash FC Tokyo travelled to Oita to take three points off the newly promoted Kyushu outfit.
Next week all eyes will be on Saitama Stadium as Urawa host Nagoya Grampus, while Shimizu S Pulse host Yokohama F Marinos.