Football Tribe SEA Editor
The 2020 Japanese football season arrives with a bang as both Yokohama F. Marinos and Vissel Kobe served up a classic 90 minutes and a shoddy penalty shootout in the 2020 Japanese Super Cup at the Saitama Stadium 2002 today. 2019 Emperor’s Cup winners Vissel emerged out as winners, after edging 2019 J.League 1 winners Yokohama 3-2 on penalties after a thrilling 3-3 draw in regulation time.
With the opening matches of the 2020 AFC Champions League group stage on the horizon for both teams, it came as a surprise that both Ange Postecoglou and Thorsten Fink decided to went all out and deployed their strongest starting lineups from the start. Ange’s Yokohama has new signing Ado Onaiwu lining up together with Marcos Júnior, Erik Lima, and Teruhito Nakagawa in the attacking positions, while the Asian duo of Park Iru-gyu and Theerathon Bunmathan marshaled the defense for the league champions as captain Takuya Kida dictated play alongside Takahiro Ogihara in the midfield. Thorsten’s Vissel lined up with their superstars in Andres Iniesta, Thomas Vermaelen, and Sergei Samper, while Kyogo Furuhashi, who had an excellent 2019, lined up in attack alongside Douglas, a new signing from Shimizu S-Pulse. Guarding Vissel’s defense alongside Vermaelen were Daigo Nishi and Dankler, while the likes of Hotaru Yamaguchi and Gotoku Sakai were also included by Thorsten.
Both teams started off brightly from the get-go and it was Vissel who took the lead after 27 minutes thanks to new signing Douglas opening his account for the Hyogo Prefecture-based team. The Brazilian took advantage of an excellent pass from FC Barcelona legend Iniesta and wasted no time in firing off a shot that went beyond Yokohama goalie Park. 1-0 Vissel.
Stung by the opener, Yokohama quickly pressed on for the equalizer and they got theirs after 36 minutes in rather controversial circumstances. Vissel goalie Hiroki Iikura – a former Yokohama player – was down on the pitch following a collision and Yokohama’s Marcos Júnior took advantage of the situation by heading into the empty net, drawing the scores level.
The scores won’t remain 1-1 for too long though, as Kyogo intercepted a poor backpass from Yokohama’s Thiago Martins in the 40th minute. Catching Park off his line at the edge of his penalty area, Kyogo fired off a low shot that went faster than the onrushing Park, turning the tables back towards Vissel. The score remained 2-1 for Thorsten’s men until the half-time break.
Yokohama emerged out for the second half with all guns blazing and continued the electric pace of the game by drawing level 9 minutes after the restart. Ogihara leveled the scoreline for Yokohama after performing a beautiful loop that went beyond Iikura and into the net. 2-2 and the audience were kept on the edge of their seats.
As the match entered the 69th minute, Vissel once again drew blood after some questionable Yokohama defending. Iniesta’s effort was rebounded onto the path of Hotaru, who slides it home to make it 3-2 Vissel. However, on the 73rd minute, Yokohama added more spice into the match by scoring the equalizer, drawing level for the third time in the match. MVP of the 2019 J1 season, Teruhito sends a pint-point ball to Keita Endo, who passed the ball towards Erik who made it 3-3 on the day with a quick finish.
After the two teams had failed to find a winner in the remaining 20 minutes, the referee blew for full time, bringing an end to what is a classic, end-to-end encounter between two teams with zero hesitation to attack at all. With the absence of extra-time, the match went straight to penalties, and players from both Yokohama and Vissel huddled together for what promises to be a tense shootout.
Yokohama’s Thiago Martins went first and scored, firing a shot that went beyond Iikura. Andres Iniesta stepped up to the plate for Vissel next and he made no mistake at all as he scored past Park. Both Ogihara (Yokohama) and Junya Tanaka (Vissel) dispatched their penalties cleanly, meaning that after 4 takers the scores are tied at 2-2.
It was from this point that things go rather awry. Yokohama’s Edigar Junio saw his shot saved by Iikura, before Keijiro Ogawa blasted the goalposts instead of the goal itself for Vissel. Kota Mizunuma, another new signing for Yokohama, fired his shot into row Z much to the dismay of the Yokohama supporters. And then came a string of failed penalties from both sides – either their shots were saved by Iikura or Park, their shots smashed the goalposts and the crossbar, or their shots went into row Z just like Kota’s. Yokohama’s Ken Matsubara, Takuya Wada, and Keita Endo were guilty of their team’s missed penalties, while Vissel’s Nishi, Reo Osaki, and even Vermaelen couldn’t bask themselves in glory during the shootout. In total, after Tanaka’s penalty went beyond Park’s reach, a total of 9 takers have failed to dispatch their penalties.
The shootout then went into sudden death and it was Hotaru’s turn to shoot his shot after Endo had squandered his chance for Yokohama. Hotaru, Vissel’s vice-captain who has 43 caps for the Japan national team to his name, cooly slots home his penalty past Park to the delight of his Vissel teammates. After what could be described as the worst penalty shootout in ages, Vissel have emerged out victorious.
The 2020 Japanese Super Cup was Vissel’s second major title in six weeks following their Emperor’s Cup win on New Year’s Day. And with the upward trajectory that Vissel’s undergoing ever since Thorsten took over the helms at the Misaki Park Stadium, it should be no surprise that the men from Kobe would be eying up the big prizes once the season comes into full swing – the 2020 J1 title or even the 2020 ACL title. For Vissel’s rivals and the established powers of Japanese football, Vissel’s two titles in six weeks serves as a warning to them – that a new force has finally arrived in town. And its name is Vissel Kobe.