The 2015 J1 season got underway yesterday, and newcomers Matsumoto Yamaga almost arrived on the big stage with a bang. I was in Toyota to see their game against Nagoya Grampus…
TOYOTA, AICHI – Matsumoto Yamaga was denied a dream start to life in J1 on Saturday, conceding twice in as many minutes late on to draw 3-3 with Nagoya Grampus in a breathless encounter at Toyota Stadium.
The debutant twice took the lead against the 2010 J.League champion and was at one point two goals ahead thanks to strikes from Obina, Tomoki Ikemoto, and Kohei Kiyama. Grampus persevered, though, and could have snatched all three points had Tulio not missed a last-minute penalty to add to his earlier goal and those of Tomoya Koyamatsu and Milivoje Novakovic.
“Tomorrow is my birthday,” Matsumoto coach Yasuharu Sorimachi said after the game. “I think after that my life expectancy may have dropped. We really wanted to win, but this is J1.
“If you looked at the team sheet before the game, pretty much everyone had zero J1 experience and, to be honest, I thought we’d be more nervous and that it would take time to get used to this level. In the beginning, maybe we were a little, but I thought the content of our play was good.”
The visitors certainly didn’t look like a team which had only joined J2 in 2012, although it was Grampus who dominated possession and made the clearest chances in the opening half hour.
Despite that, it was Matsumoto which drew first blood in the 32nd minute. Yuzo Iwakami sent in a corner from the left and Seigo Narazaki failed to command the situation under pressure from Obina. The Nagoya keeper got to the ball first, but could only pat it down onto the Brazilian’s head, from which it bounced into the net.
“In preseason we were bad at defending set-plays as well,” Grampus coach Akira Nishino lamented post-match. “That continued today.”
Yamaga weren’t able to bask in the glory of their first top-flight goal for long, however, and within a minute Nagoya was level.
Akira Takeuchi sent an arrowed pass forward from just inside his own half and Kensuke Nagai did very well to cushion it into Koyamatsu’s path with his right foot. The 19-year-old made no mistake on his first start, and slid clinically into the bottom right-hand corner of the net as Matsumoto keeper Tomohiko Murayama advanced.
Yamaga looked a little more assured going forward in the second half, and Iwakami almost reestablished their lead in the 62nd minute. The lively midfielder, who was excellent throughout, played a nice one-two with Ikemoto and bent a curling effort towards the far corner with his left foot, but his aim was slightly off and it arced just wide.
Grampus should have paid heed to that warning, and just seconds later Matsumoto were back in front. Narazaki was again indecisive when dealing with an Iwakami corner, and Ikemoto could scarcely believe his luck as the ball dropped to him in the six-yard box, stabbing gleefully home in the 63rd minute.
The joy of the traveling masses of fans – who made up a healthy proportion of the 33,558 attendance – increased shortly afterwards, as Kiyama drilled home from close-range after a smart assist from Obina in the 76th minute, but again Yamaga failed to seize control, conceding within two minutes.
This time Tulio found the net for the hosts, heading just beyond Murayama after Asahi Yada’s wedged ball into the box in the 78th minute, and then in the 80th, Novakovic broke Matsumoto hearts.
The Slovenian international turned sharply after substitute Kengo Kawamata had nodded the ball across the box, and made no mistake, firing sharply home.
It was backs to the wall for Matsumoto for the last 10 minutes, and Tulio could have struck the killer blow, only to see his penalty repelled by Iwamura.
“To not win at home is disappointing,” Nishino said. “But to come from two goals behind and take a point has to be seen as a positive.”
Elsewhere, 2014 champion Gamba Osaka continued their slow start to the season and also had to settle for a share of the spoils after conceding late on, drawing 2-2 with FC Tokyo.
Last year’s treble winner came into the game on the back of two defeats in the Asian Champions League, but goals from Patric and Takashi Usami gave it a commanding two-goal lead at Banpaku Stadium. Yoshinori Muto struck twice in reply for Tokyo, though, with his equalizer coming in second half stoppage time.
Meanwhile, Montedio Yamagata’s return to J1 was not a happy one, as it lost 2-0 to Vegalta Sendai in the Michinoku Derby – Wilson bagging both goals.