Tokyo, August 28, 2007: Even without suspended goal machine Ueslei, Sanfrecce Hiroshima were a good match for Yokohama F Marinos in a 2-2 draw at Nissan Stadium on Sunday evening.
I particularly liked their midfield four of Komano on the right, Toda and Aoyama in the middle and Hattori on the left.
Komano and Hattori not only provide natural width going forward, they also cover the flanks for the three-man defence, which was anchored by the former JEF favourite Stoyanov.
With Toda, in his 2002 World Cup position of central midfield, and current Olympic team player Aoyama alongside in the engine room, the team looked compact, balanced and flexible in their 3-4-2-1 formation.
The “1” was Hisato Sato, whose running into the channels behind the Marinos back four caused problems all night for the home defence. Sato really is a bright and inventive player, a natural finisher in the box but much more than that around the pitch.
Thanks to the four players strung across the middle, Kashiwagi and Koji Morisaki could feel free to support Sato in attack – and both of them scored a goal by doing exactly that.
Kashiwagi is making his mark in Japan this season, graduating from the youth team to the Olympic team and establishing himself in the top flight. He is still only 19, though, and cannot be expected to turn it on match after match, even though fans look forward to his next goal celebration.
I wrote recently about his left-footed masterpiece in open play from the edge of the box against Vissel Kobe, as that goal marked him out as a player with special talent. Let’s hope he keeps working hard, keeps growing and keeps a smile on his face, as he is a breath of fresh air in Japanese football.
Even though Sanfrecce are only five points clear of the play-off place of 16th, I cannot see the Three Arrows being dragged into the relegation dogfight on the evidence of Sunday night.