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An eventful night at Mitsuzawa

24 Apr 2006(Mon)

Tokyo, April 21, 2006 -- A free kick from midfield general Yamaguchi to Jo; a Kazu cross, a Jo header and a goal...

This article may sound like a sentence from "All Our Yesterdays", particularly in the build-up to the 1998 World Cup, but in fact it all took place at Mitsuzawa Stadium on Tuesday night.

It was Yokohama FC against Vissel Kobe in J2, and the stadium was so packed that fans were hanging from the balconies of the apartments overlooking the ground.

(Actually, this is an exaggeration, as the attendance was 3,286 -- and there are always people watching from their balconies at Mitsuzawa...but I am trying to build an atmosphere here, folks!)

As we all know, Yokohama won 2-1 with two Jo headers, the first from a pinpoint Kazu cross from the left, after the one-time king had beaten the offside trap, and the second in controversial circumstances when everyone else had stopped playing, believing there had been an infringement. It was all a bit messy and extremely unsatisfactory, and matters got worse for Kobe when goalkeeper Ogi moved up for a corner in the closing seconds, and then ran into his opposite number, Sugeno, after the YFC keeper had collected the ball.

It was comical and amusing more than violent or malicious, but Sugeno decided to take the law into his own hands and chased after Ogi to the edge of his penalty area. A Yokohama player then pushed Ogi (I couldn't see who it was because I was laughing so much), and then several other players got involved, too, before Ogi was shown the red card. What you might call a case of: "Ogi, Ogi, Ogi, off, off, off!"

It was more like a scene from "The Keystone Cops" or even "Benny Hill" when everyone is chasing everyone else, but the Vissel camp were not laughing on the final whistle.

All in all, though, excellent value for money for the home fans, as they had also seen former Flugels star Atsu Miura back on his old home ground as Vissel captain, as well as charismatic Kobe manager Stuart Baxter with his new assistant, Rafa Benitez...I'm sorry, I mean Pedro, but just check him out next time. From the stand, Pedro is the double of Liverpool's Spanish manager!

I had a nice chat with Takuya Takagi before the game, and he was very calm and pragmatic about his new job and about Yokohama FC's recent upturn in fortunes.

He told me to watch out for midfielder Uchida. He was wearing the No. 10 so I presumed he must be a "fantasista", but Takagi-kantoku shook his head and said Uchida ran much more between the two penalty boxes and was always looking to score.

"More like Lampard, then?" I asked.

"Little Lampard!" came the reply (Uchida is 1.66 metres and weighs only 58 kgs).

There's lots going on in J2 these days, and it's well worth taking in a game when the J1 schedule permits.


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