KENYA BROWN - Monday, October 8, 2018
Leo Osaki and Vissel Kobe stopped their freefall as they came away with a tie in Japan while Mix Diskered and Ulsan Hyundai shared the points with the league leaders in South Korea.
Both goals would come in the first half as Vissel Kobe shared the points with relegation-threatened V-Varen Nagasaki after a 1-1 tie at the Noevir Stadium.
There were high expectations for Kobe coming into the J. League season as the owners, e-commerce giant Rakuten, spent big with the signings of former German international Lukas Podolski and Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta over the past two seasons.
Despite the signing of two of the world's best, it has not resulted in wins on the field and a challenge for the J. League crown as they have been hovering around the middle of the standings for much of the season. To make matters worse, they were entering their next game with a five-game losing streak.
However, there was some hope the bleeding would stop as they face league debutants Nagasaki who were sitting at the bottom of the standings, but not out of the fight for survival.
Osaki, who joined Kobe over the summer break, started at center-back for the team in the tie.
Nagasaki started the game in a determined manner and were rewarded with the opening goal in the 22nd minute through Takashi Sawada. Daichi Tagami sent his pass to the forward, who then spun around his marker, allowing him to run into the area and fire his shot past goalkeeper Seung-Gyu Kim.
However, the host would find the equalizer eight minutes later when Masatoshi Mihara connected on a half-volley following a header from teammate Wellington to put the ball past Kenta Tokushige.
The second half would see several close calls for both teams as they looked to add more goals. Kyogo Furuhashi had an excellent chance to give Kobe the lead, but Tokushige's outstretched leg would deflect the ball out of danger.
Nagasaki would have even better chance to give themselves the lead later on when Sawada's cross from the right found teammate Hijiri Onaga in the area. The midfielder headed the ball into the path of Juanma who had a clear shot at the goal from point-blank range, but he skied his shot over the bar.
It was a missed chance for both teams to claim all three points as the J. League takes a break for international week.
Kobe now sits in 11th place in the standings with 37 points.
Ulsan Hyundai had a chance to claim a big win over K League 1 leaders Jeonbuk Motors, but a penalty well into stoppage time saw them only come away with a point as both teams settled for a 2-2 tie at the Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium.
Mix Diskerud took up his regular place in the Ulsan's starting lineup in thier 4-2-3-1 formation.
The game was important for both teams as Ulsan wanted to bag a win over the leaders while Jeonbuk had a chance to secure the league title for the season.
It was a scoreless first half, but both teams provided the fireworks in the second that led to a very exciting game in the end.
Ricardo Lopes would give Jeonbuk the lead in the 54th minute when his right-footed strike beat Ulsan goalkeeper Kim Yong-dae. Lee Yong provided the assit.
The host went on to level the score just minutes later through Han Seung-gyu as he fired a right-footed shot in the back of the net off a pass from Kim In-sung.
The game was winding down when Ulsan found what should have been the game-winner in the 82nd minute when Junior Negrao's shot was saved by Jeonbuk goalkeeper Song Bum-keun, but Kim pounced on the loose ball to put away the follow-up.
Then disaster struck for Ulsan deep into stoppage time when the referee pointed to the spot for a penalty as it was judged that Kang Min-soo brought down Son Jun-ho in the area. Lee Dong-gook stepped up to convert the penalty and give Jeonbuk the K League crown.
Ulsan remains in third place in the standings with 53 points.
We have been covering the performances of Daniel Schmidt since we discovered that the Japanese-American goalkeeper was playing at Vegalta Sendai. However, it appears that he has commited his international career to the Japanese national team as he has been called up for their upcoming friendlies. Therefore, per Yanks Abroad's policy, we will no longer include him in our recaps.