It's been more than 5 years since Mito beat Fukuoka, and it was a great relief for Mito fans to finally win against that team in an away setting.
The match itself was one of the harshest in recent memory and shows the newer aggressive nature of Mito's club doing anything to win: six yellow cards taken by six different players and plenty more fouls to go around too. Mito scored early on with a header by midfielder Tae-Yeon Kim coming off a corner kick, which was his first pro goal in Japan since joining Kobe in 2006. Fukuoka would tie it up and the first half would close as a furious even encounter. The second half saw Mito in much more control, and midfielder Kikuoka took the winning goal via free kick just outside the penalty box. He shot it toward the top left corner, but striking the wall of defenders it veered to the right, past the Fukuoka keeper who had no chance. Mito's defense tenaciously kept the ball safe, cleared, and the offense took turns stalling for time and taking shots where reasonable.
Coach Kiyama's aggressive techniques appear to be paying off. In 3 matches, Mito has scored 4 goals, and under the policy of all players preparing to score at any time, no goals have resulted from the usual suspects. Two have been first time scorers and the other from players not expected to score more than 2 or 3 a year at most. Mito currently lies in 7th place, safely in the top half of the rankings, and even briefly lay in the top third before the Kofu result came in. Last year, it took the team 14 matches to get two wins. This year, three matches. If this progress continues against struggling Tokyo and Kumamoto, both at home, Mito may find itself in the top three teams in the standings this time next week. If it can continue against stronger teams, Mito may find itself challenging for promotion long before anyone expected.