The drive back was a little brutal but I'd gladly take on 5 more minutes if it meant 5 fewer for the Mito side... Mito played fairly well but if not for the final 3 minutes of the first half and the final 2 minutes of the second, it would have been a much more respectable 0-1 score. Including Emperor's Cup matches, the two teams have faced each other 7 times and Kashima has won them all with a total score of 19-2. This marks the third Ibaraki Soccer Festival in a row in which Mito allowed 4 goals.
Mito played a mix of starters and backups and Kashima played either a starting squad or starters and backups (I'm not familiar enough with the players). I was looking forward to seeing two players specifically; former Mito standout Chu-Ho Park and newly acquired Kota Yoshihara. Both are clearly yet to fit into the club and performed below what I'd expected. Park was consistently stopped by former partner Kanazawa, and he didn't seem to have the same ball control that he did for Mito last year. Yoshihara showed considerable talent, but not in the goal-scoring area that he had in previous exhibitions. He was able to keep the ball and feed it very well on the right wing side. In the middle or when trying to drive towards the goal, the ball would soon find itself in enemy... hands. Hopefully he can mesh a bit better in the team and his tactics would fare better against the likes of Tokushima than the best defense in Asia.
A fun outing in any case and the first chance in 2 months to meet many of the fans again.