July 29: Football can be uplifting and cruel at the very same moment.
This happened at Komaba on Wednesday night, when Urawa Reds beat Oita Trinita 1-0.
The precise moment was the 78th minute, when Tatsuya Tanaka scored the only goal of the game. It was a lovely, cool finish by Tatsuya, and suggested he is a long way back to full fitness after his terrible injury.
At the same time, I couldn't help but feel sorry for Oita. This was the cruel part.
I thought Oita had been the better team until that moment, and Urawa could not have complained if the match had finished in a draw.
The visitors kept the ball expertly, dictated the pace of the game and then broke quickly to catch the Reds defence unawares time after time. The Reds fans may have jeered this patient, possession football by Oita, but it was nice to watch and so was their passing in the last third of the field.
What was missing, of course, was the finish, as Oita created several clear chances to score. They couldn't, and Tatsuya could at the right time, and that is what decided the match.
Although the Reds fans were whistling their discontent at Oita's tactics, they should have been more concerned about their own team. A five-man midfield with Hasebe, Keita and Ono in the centre could not get the ball, although I do remember a wonderful pass from Hasebe in the first half that sent Tatsuya racing away, and a fierce shot that was tipped to safety by Nishikawa.
That was a rare moment of Reds fluency, though, as I thought Oita played a good match. It was a pity that, in the second half, as they scented a draw and a point, they resorted to some blatant time-wasting tactics to run down the clock.
I always think of a Steve Perryman comment when that happens: that it shows to the opposition you are not good enough to do the job honestly and fairly.
It all came to nothing when Tatsuya found some space and collected a short pass from Uchidate before clipping the ball into the corner. It was a quality finish from Tatsuya, who had shown a refreshing willingness to run at the opposition and to shoot when the goal was in sight. If Osim does call him up, I hope Tatsuya maintains that positive approach.