27 April 2008

Mito 3 - 3 Sendai

One of the best decisions I've made as far as my free time was to travel to Sendai for yesterday's match, which was a really amazing experience, and easily the most exciting game either team has had in a very long time. I'd planned to go to Kashima to support Tochigi SC against Ryutsu Keizai University in what should be a great JFL match, but after yesterday I'm still exhausted and nursing a throat ache despite sleeping in.

The two teams played so evenly, splitting 39 shots, defensive saves, chances, and possession time, and both teams scored three goals for the first time in the season. The only thing lopsided was, as to be expected, fan support. Mito had a pretty respectable 150 who made the trip but Yurtec Stadium amplifies the cheers of the hardcore 10,000+ who come to each game. They aren't the most polite crowd (booing heavily when two Mito players had legitimate injuries and needed substitution, or when keeper Honma was about to perform a free kick or goal kick) but they are impressive. Even the ball boys, Sendai's junior youth team, were yelling and cheering and jeering, to the point where Sendai keeper Hayashi once had to yell at one to pay attention and throw the ball to him.

The first half was fairly eventful with both teams pushing hard and defending even harder. Mito would strike first with forward Arata finding himself one on one against Hayashi, and he deftly looped a shot around the keeper in a goal reminiscent of his game winner against Kofu. The first half ended with that Mito lead, and it would stay that way for most of the second half. Sendai's North Korean national team striker Ryang would tie it up with a great goal. Some minutes later, Sendai's Hirase would head it in for the lead. Mito's first drive after the kickoff would result in another goal, as within 30 seconds Nishino fired a great shot into the upper left of the net for the drawing goal. Later, Hirase would get his second with less than 5 minutes to go, putting Sendai up 3 - 2. All seemed finished until Mito put up a set play at 88 minutes for Nishino to head in his second for the game.

Nishino's two goals put him in second place in the division's goal ranking. He has 5 goals, just under Yokohama striker and former Mito teammate Anderson. He is tied with Osaka's Germano at the moment and is the top Japanese goalscorer in J2 at the moment.

On the way back from Sendai, I stopped at a highway rest area to get some food. I sat down with my ramen and the entire team happened to stop in to eat about five minutes later. I spoke with keeper Honma, Nishino, Biju, and a bit with defender Ozawa about his injury. He'll almost surely be out of Tuesday's game against Gifu.


dokool said...

What an awesome story! So glad you were able to make the trip out and have such a memorable experience. Will there be photos and such anytime soon?

Also v. jealous that you got to meet the players and chat with them. I keep meaning to make the trip out to FC Tokyo's practice field (turns out it's actually on the same train line I live on) but never quite have the time...

Vendo Thefastlane said...

Well, when fans are few and you stand out among them, it's hard not to strike up a chat. Especially when cleaning the locker rooms, you get approached by players asking about something in English or advice from the new players about Mito city.

The surprising thing this year was when new players knew who I was before I could even place faces to names. Of course there are good points, but it really demystifies the team and makes the players much less special than they used to be...