Ryotaro Araki was the hero for Kashima Antlers on Sunday night as his injury-time goal saved his team from defeat at the hands of Vissel Kobe. Playing their J.League 1 Matchweek 10 match at the Kashima Soccer Stadium, Kashima were trailing 2-1 prior to super-sub Araki’s goal, which forced a 2-2 draw.
In a match attended by Japan national team head coach Hajime Moriyasu, both Kashima and Vissel played out an exciting match in Ibaraki Prefecture. After a bleak period that saw Kashima fail to win any of their first 6 competitive matches underneath new head coach Antonio Carlos Zago, the Brazilian tactician have somewhat steadied the ship, with the Antlers winning 3 of their last 4 matches in all competitions. Kashima are seeking to make it 4 wins out of 5 as star-studded Vissel paid them a visit on Sunday night. The away side, despite the quality within their ranks, are still haunted by inconsistencies in form that rendered them unable to challenge the top dogs in the league.
It was Vissel who first drew blood in Sunday night’s repeat of last year’s Emperor’s Cup final, with Brazilian center-back Dankler scoring his first ever J.League goal. In the 19th minute, Vissel were given a corner, which was taken by former FC Barcelona maestro Andres Iniesta. Iniesta’s corner was deflected towards the far post, however Leo Osaki was there to head it back towards the goal. Dankler then volleyed the ball home with his first touch, scoring the game’s opener.
Dankler’s countryman Everaldo then came up with a response for Kashima, with the Brazilian striker heading home the equalizer in the 38th minute after receiving a cross from Rikuto Hirose. Rising above the Vissel defense, Everaldo scored his 7th J1 goal of the season, which kept him well in the hunt for the league’s top scorer award.
With neither team finding a breakthrough after Everaldo’s equalizer, the scores remained at 1-1 as the referee blew for half-time.
Early into the second stanza, Ryuji Izumi almost gave Kashima the lead after firing off a shot that struck the Vissel goalpost. Hirose was once again the contributor to this opportunity, with the Vissel defense clearly struggling with his crosses.
Despite everything that Kashima threw at Vissel, it was the Hyogo Prefecture-based side that took the lead once again in the 61st minute. 21-year old midfielder Yuta Goke capped off a Vissel attacking maneuver powered by Iniesta with a powerful low shot that went beyond the reaches of Kashima’s 18-year old goalkeeper Taiki Yamada.
With Vissel leading 2-1, Zago made the fateful decision to introduce Araki into the game in the 73rd minute, replacing Izumi. The move proved to be a masterstroke as Kashima pushed on and on for the equalizer. Zago’s men refused to throw the towel just yet, with Vissel goalie Hiroki Iikura preventing a Dankler own goal and denying Araki’s close-ranged follow-up in the 83rd minute.
However, there was no denying 18-year old Araki in the fourth minute of injury time.
With defeat looming close for Kashima, the Antlers made the decision to mount a last-ditch counterattack. The Vissel defense were caught flat-footed by this, which allowed substitute Itsuki Someno to slip the ball within the packed Vissel penalty box. Araki received the ball and found himself surrounded by Vissel defenders, however the Kumamoto-born midfielder managed to poke in his shot between the sea of Vissel defenders and into Iikura’s goal, ensuring that the spoils were shared on Sunday night.
With the 2-2 draw and the solitary point, Kashima slowly made their way back to the top half of the J1 table, moving up one place to 11th. Vissel, on the other hand, remained 9th.