Mito's winning streak increases to three with the team's first home win against Tokyo Verdy last night. While only 1000 home fans and about 200 away fans would come in the wet cold weather, those who did or watched on TV were treated to one of the more exciting matches of the round, as has become customary for Mito.
The first half featured hard and aggressive play from both sides, pressuring the opposing team and stealing the ball in a display that rarely left the midfield area. The teams would combine for only 7 shots in the first half and the most eventful thing to happen would be a leg injury via foul to defender Nakamura, who then would be replaced by Hosaki.
In the second half, Mito would dominate with little from Tokyo to concern keeper Honma. Veteran Kota Yoshihara proved his worth with more of the tenacious play he has shown since joining the squad. This culminated in an incredible sprint to overtake a defender and strip the ball away, and single-footedly take it to the goal. In taking his shot for what seemed to be a sure goal he would trip up, but as the defender was making contact the official called the foul and award the penalty kick. Yoshihara would take it himself for his first goal of the year, and his show of appreciation for the fans afterward as well as the the expression of appreciative joy as he ran back to the field was inspiring. Ten minutes later, he would ask to be taken out due to a nagging left ankle and be replaced by Arata. Arata was in a drought for goals until that point and it only took ten minutes for him to show why he was last year's top rookie. Running toward a keeper pass to the defense, he'd strip the ball and push forward for a one-on-one with the keeper. He rarely misses those and chipped it over the keeper to double the lead. With that padding in place, there was no effort to waste time or try and hold the ball as was necessary in the last two games. For the last twenty minutes Mito would keep pushing against Verdy and make more chances on goal.
Coach Kiyama is clearly a skilled leader and has developed the team to be strong on both sides. Unless something unexpected happens this combination of players will be hard to beat. Perhaps the hopeful estimate of a top eight finish was too conservative.