Mito pulled off a big win in Osaka today, picking up the first win streak of the year, the first away win since last year, and snapping Osaka's winning streak which prevented that team from getting its first ever 8 wins in a row. Osaka fans had hoped the nearly sure win against Mito would boost the team into first place over Hiroshima, who drubbed heavyweights Shonan 5 - 2 in what was supposed to have been a difficult match for the top team. As it looks now, Mito's win puts Hiroshima even further from Osaka's grasp as the end of the first half of the season looms. At this point Hiroshima would need an Avispa-style meltdown to risk promotion to the top division.
For this game, Osaka needed only to play its usual quality to pull off a record eighth straight, but while strong, there were too many fouls and missed linkups allowing Mito to take a few chances. Mito's two goals would come from each... A foul in the first half allowed midfielder Akahoshi to fire one that brushed an Osaka defender and directly hit the goal's back net. A missed pass in the second half allowed Akahoshi to place a fine one touch pass to forward Arata, who rarely misses when one on one with the keeper. His goal brings his yearly count to five, tied with forward Nishino who has been out with an injury. The end of the game saw Osaka press dangerously close to a drawing goal, but unlike the several similar situations bringing heartbreak to Mito fans this year, the team was able to hold on this time.
Osaka outclassed Mito with ability, but Mito's strategy was much more effective. Instead of attempting Osaka's shotgun approach of continual forward pressing, the team played incredibly smart, focusing on keeping the ball and pulling out a scrappy, hard pressing defense. Mito barely pulled off half the shots of Osaka, and only had two corner kicks to work with.
Despite Arata's winning goal and Akahoshi's involvement in both, the player of the game has to be keeper Honma. He pulls off amazingsaves each week, but this match saw him stop at least three shots that could have been sure goals had any other keeper been there.
Again, Korean Olympic team member Park showed great brilliance and has cemented himself as a cornerstone of the team. It seems that old faithful Biju might be pushed back to the defensive line when coming back from injury.
Up next for Mito is Tosu at home and despite the winning streak, the Wednesday night game with a distant opponent means a likely small crowd. Hopefully Chono has a lot of fans in Ibaraki to bring interest to the game and bring the crowd above 2,000 fans. The team goes into the match up to 13th place and with both Biju and Nishino fit to return. Forward Endo looks like to return to the bench for Nishino, but it will be interesting to see where Biju fits in. The pressure will be there to make Mito's first ever 3 game winning streak.
And just published, Osaka manager Culpi's comments:
「水戸がうちと対戦した試合、去年の第4クールの試合と今日の試合は、すばらしいサッカーをされたと思います。逆に、水戸がこの2試合のようなサッカーをしていれば、リーグでも上位にいてもおかしくない、それぐらい激しいマーク、すばらしいサッカーをしていた。 ... 水戸のディフェンスが非常にすばらしかったと思う ... あとは水戸のキーパーも2度3度といいセーブをしていたと思います」
"Against Mito, in the 4th leg last year and this game, Mito showed us wonderful soccer. If Mito always played at this level, it wouldn't be wrong to think that they would be at the top of the league, as their hard marking and great soccer are that good... I think Mito's defense was incredibly brilliant... And I think Mito's keeper made two or three good saves.