Wednesday saw Japan’s three representatives in the 2020 AFC Champions League once again taking the pitch to play out their rescheduled J.League 1 matches. Defending J1 champions Yokohama F. Marinos host Sagan Tosu at the NHK Spring Mitsuzawa Stadium, while last year’s J1 runners-up FC Tokyo navigate a tricky away tie at Urawa Red Diamonds. Defending Emperor’s Cup champions Vissel Kobe, still without a head coach after Thorsten Fink’s resignation, host high-flying Nagoya Grampus at the Misaki Park Stadium. Now with Atsuhiro Miura in charge of the team, Vissel etched their third straight win after Thorsten’s departure with a closely-fought 1-0 victory over Nagoya, courtesy of a second half strike from FC Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta.
Life underneath Miura was a stark contrast to the 7-match winless run in the league that prompted Thorsten’s departure, with both Tosu and Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo shipping four goals as Vissel triumphed 4-3 and 4-0 against them respectively in the two league matches that Miura had taken charge of. Wednesday’s rescheduled match saw a tougher challenge for the Hyogo Prefecture-based side as an excellent Nagoya team paid the Misaki Park Stadium a visit.
Iniesta showed his class as he powered Vissel’s first chance of the game in the 13th minute. The Spaniard floated a cross that was met by a powerful volley from Vissel’s Brazilian striker Douglas, however Douglas’ attempt could only struck the Nagoya crossbar.
Vissel were not to be denied in the 60th minute though and the men in crimson managed to nick themselves the lead. Kyogo Furuhashi initiated a Vissel attack from the left wing, with the Japan international passing the ball off towards Douglas. Former Shimizu S-Pulse man Douglas moved the ball towards Iniesta, who played an intelligent one-two with Yuta Goke before the Spaniard rifled in a volley towards the bottom left corner of the Nagoya goal from just outside the penalty box, with the shot leaving Nagoya’s goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak well-beaten. Langerak dived into the right direction in an attempt to save his team’s goal, however Iniesta’s shot was too fast for the Australian to react.
Miura’s Vissel almost made it 2-0 in the 83rd minute, with Douglas sending a through pass towards Furuhashi. The 25-year old attacker then unleashed a low shot towards the Nagoya goal, only for Langerak to deny a second goal for Vissel. Nonetheless, the three points have been secured and the 1-0 win ensured that Miura had taken 9 points out of 9 from his first three matches as Vissel head coach.
Wednesday’s other J1 action saw FC Tokyo eking out a 1-0 win over Urawa at the Saitama Stadium 2002 thanks to a first half strike from Kensuke Nagai – the Gasmen’s first win at Urawa’s backyard since 2003. Last but not least at the NHK Spring Mitsuzawa, Tosu almost pulled off a famous win over defending champions Yokohama, however Yokohama’s Brazilian striker Erik managed to save Ange Postecoglou’s men in the 84th minute, salvaging a solitary point for the defending champions in a 1-1 draw.