It was dismal week or so for Zelvia as we salvaged a measly one point from three games.
Matchday 27: FC Machida Zelvia 2 – 3 Renofa Yamaguchi
The mood around me was buoyant as I took my seat for this game as the feeling was that we should beat Yamaguchi easily after our 2-0 victory earlier this season. Well, you can never discount Renofa, especially a Renofa that were coming to Nozuta looking for revenge.
Revenge was certainly theirs, and I’m sure it must have been sweet for them. Machida got the goals in early, with newly-prolific scorer Yuya Nakamura netting a brace before we were the full twenty five minutes in. Both of these were the result of set plays from corner kicks taken by our captain Ri Han Jae. I’ve been taken by surprise by the number of goals from this type of play this year as back in J3 there were corner kicks galore but very few results. For me that, and the less defensive play overall by the majority of our opponents this season, is the big difference between the two leagues – and very welcome differences these are too.
Of course, Renofa spoiled our party and, to add insult to injury, in additional time to boot! Their trademark speedy, decisive passing made the difference not once but twice, with goals coming from Yatsunori Shimaya three and four minutes into additional time. A brace to match our brace – ouch! Ex-Zelvia midfielder Yoshihiro Shoji didn’t help matters much by assisting with the first one. I’ve been somewhat critical of Shoji in the past as he had a tendency to pass the ball backwards rather than attack, but now that has been drummed out of him he has become a strong presence on the field. It’s a shame he didn’t make much of a mark when he was with us.
Although the visitors took a while to get going in the first half, they dominated the second. Their third and final goal came less than ten minutes before full time. As Renofa’s Masato Nakayama and Zelvia’s Ryota Matsumoto vied for possession (whilst both were downed!) Yuji Hoshi seized his chance and hit the ball past Toshiyasu Takahara, and that was that. Our parade was well and truly rained on.
The mood in the cheap seats was not forgiving of Zelvia’s performance and the place was rapidly emptying out even before the final whistle came. When the team came to our section to make their customary bow, they were greeted by minimal clapping and many folded arms accompanied by pointed glares. That’s pretty strong stuff for our part of the world, and the players had the sense to look somewhat sheepish as they half-heartedly took their bows.
Apart from Renofa’s impressive comeback, the game was memorable for another unfortunate reason; our top goal scorer and fan favourite Koji Suzuki suddenly fell to the ground in agony during the first half and had to be taken off in a stretcher. Later it became known that he had injured his Achilles’ tendon and had to undergo an operation to repair it, so that will be him out for the rest of the season. It’s terrible news not just because he is an essential part of the team but because, in this supporter’s opinion, he more than anyone was key to our promotion to J2. He always seemed to take it harder than most when we failed to qualify other years, and now that we are finally back it’s sad that he will have to miss out on his full reward. Here’s to a complete and speedy recovery.
Here are the match highlights:
Matchday 28: Tokushima Vortis 1 – 1 FC Machida Zelvia
Zelvia’s inability of late to hold onto either an early lead or a clean sheet continued on Thursday. However, a couple of other recent developments, namely goals resulting from corner kicks and the rising star that is Yuya Nakamura, also made their mark.
Nakamura really is coming into his own these days. He was used sparingly last season and didn’t have much of an impact when played, but this year Naoki Soma has consistently put him in midfield on the wing, and this seems to suit him better than his previous position as forward. He started as a forward today, covering for the injured Koji Suzuki, and I was worried that this might cramp his style, but his confidence seems to have soared having scored 6 goals so far this year and all doubts were put to rest when he scored his seventh just over ten minutes into the match.
Like our two goals last week this one also came from a corner, this time taken by Takafumi Suzuki. Vortis initially blocked our attack but we collected the ball and restarted, with a cross from Takafuki to Nakamura resulting in a nice header into the net by way of a helpful deflection off the inside of the post.
Vortis seemed somewhat subdued by this turn of events, but after fifteen minutes or so they got back into the game, and from then on it was an exciting battle for supremacy between the two sides. They scored the equalizer just over thirty minutes in when a long shot from Alex to Rikuto Hirose was passed along to Daiki Watari, who sliced the ball over the back of a diving Toshiyasu Takahara. It was good, decisive play and reminiscent of that of Renofa Yamaguchi. Overall, Tokushima were challenging opponents, speedy on the counter attack but ultimately failing to breach Zelvia’s strong defence more than the once.
Although there were no more goals, it remained an enjoyable match, and one in which the goalposts featured not once but three times! I mentioned before that a deflection off the post assisted Nakamura’s goal, but it hampered what could have been a second one toward the end of the first half when a shot by Yudai Inoue hit the post. Then five minutes into the second half another one, a Ri Long Shot™ this time, also struck the woodwork!
Here are the highlights of this match:
Matchday 29: Kyoto Sanga 1 – 0 FC Machida Zelvia
I’ve been somewhat unlucky with the timing of business trips of late. I was sent to Osaka the week after we played away to Cerezo, and to Amagasaki – only an hour by train from Nishikyogoku – the week before this match.
On the aforementioned trip to Amagasaki I went to see Kyoto versus Cerezo just out of curiosity and was rewarded with a six goal clash, so I was hoping for some fireworks from this game. I wouldn’t like to say I was disappointed because although we did lose and there was only one goal, it could have easily been a 3-1 defeat.
The first (could-have-been) goal came seven minutes after kick-off when Kyoto were awarded a corner. The subsequent header deflected off our Yuki Nakashima and almost went in, but luckily the post played its part (again!) and the ball was deflected across the front of the goal to Takafumi Suzuki, who kicked it to safety.
The real goal was considerably longer in coming and again involved a deflection, this time off our own goalkeeper rather than the post. It was fifteen minutes before the end of the game, and Koki Arita, who had come on as a substitution less than ten minutes earlier, shot directly on target. Takahara tried a sliding save and was in position to succeed, but the ball hit his outstretched leg and bounced over it and into the net. A most unfortunate development indeed.
The third (could-have-been) goal came 84 minutes in and came from another corner kick. What is it with corner kicks of late?! I suppose given that Kyoto were awarded a whopping 14 of them to our 3 I should count myself lucky that I’m not sitting here contemplating a 6-0 match report! Anyway, Zelvia’s defence cleared the ball, but Kyohei Uchida collected it and took a chance with a shot on goal. It wasn’t particularly powerful and initially didn’t look threatening to the extent that Machida’s players watched it trundle through their midst, right on target, without doing anything to stop its leisurely progress, save a slight deflection off Takafumi’s ankle, until Takahara, realizing he had a possible own-goal on his hands, had to hurriedly dive in to save it!
In all honesty, Zelvia looked the better team to me, but they were up against a twelfth man in the form of the brutal Kyoto humidity. Kyoto is surrounded by mountains so the hot summer air is trapped in the city, making playing conditions very challenging indeed. The Sanga players train in these conditions and are no doubt as used to it as they can be, but Zelvia looked wrecked. I’ve noticed in previous matches that our players don’t seem to cope as well with high temperatures as those from other teams do. The team was relatively fresh during the first half, with Ri Han Jae mustering up two of his Long Shots™, and attempts by Takafumi Suzuki and Tatsuya Yazawa looking threatening. But they were drenched in sweat during the second half and looked exhausted by the end of it. Thankfully, the next game is at home this coming Sunday and the heatwave in Tokyo seems to have broken, so they will no doubt be thanking their lucky stars that they likely won’t have to play in these conditions again this year.
Here are the highlights from this match:
Finally, here’s the latest table: