Seven years to see Kashiwa Reysol in live action and then I end up seeing them play on consecutive weekends! The previous weekends game at FC Tokyo was a kind of bonus as when I looked at the fixture list a while back the main match in my mind was the one yesterday at home to Sanfrecce Hiroshima; the team that I went to watch whilst I was over that way during Golden Week.
This was my first time to visit the Hitachi Stadium since the 23rd of November, 2004 when I saw them get thrashed 4-0 by Urawa Reds. Back then we were lucky enough to get some tickets off a tout at face value but there were no such problems this time as we stumped up ¥2,800 yen for tickets in the home end behind the goal.
Having met up with my former neighbour Gideon, we made our way to the stadium which is about 20 minutes walk from the station and located amidst an area of natural greenery so that you’re actually unable to see it from afar. Once inside we really struggled to find any vacant seats as we were fairly late to enter.
We walked from one side of the stand to the other in search of vacant seats in what seemed like a helpless situation. In the past I’ve sat smug-faced whilst watching the late-comers search for a seat but now the boot was on the other foot. We finally managed to find a couple of seats towards the corner which were amazingly right in front of two guys that Gideon knew. In a crowd of 11,352 people, what were the chances of that?!
The atmosphere was cooking on a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon amidst a sea of yellow tops, flags being waved and a chorus of songs and chants. What I like about the Hitachi Stadium is that it’s a proper old-fashioned rectangular shaped stadium with all four sides close to the pitch which makes for a better spectacle in my opinion. As I mentioned in my last post the atmosphere at J-League games is different to what I’m used to back in England and nowhere was that more apparent than when the two teams entered the field. Back home, this is the moment when hope and expectation of a victory for your side leads to a hotly greeted reception for the sides but that didn’t seem to happen here as not much changed in terms of the crowd volume and anticipation. The crowd was still in full voice but there was no noticeable upturn in noise which surprised me.
A fantastic free-kick in the 28th minute from Brazilian striker Christiano put Reysol 1-0 up but the lead didn’t last long and Sanfrecce had the ball in the net twice soon after although the former was ruled out for offside.
The Hiroshima-based side soon took the lead early on in the second half with a brilliant piece of skill that Denis Bergkamp would have been proud of. Although the Brazilian Douglas fell over he still managed to clip it in and ridiculous team celebrations ensued. It was then Reysol all the way as they searched for an equaliser. The corner kick and shots on target count grew and grew as they battered on the door but just couldn’t get in.
In a game with far too many unsuccessful flicks and back heels I was most glad to see one finally come off and a brilliantly worked equaliser finally came about on 86 minutes. Heartbreak for the home team just two minutes later robbed them of a deserved point as Suzuki headed past his own keeper under pressure from a corner kick. Only four days earlier, Reysol had drawn 3-3 at home to leaders Urawa Reds but there was to sadly be no repeat of that scoreline.
Whilst things have been going well for Reysol in the Asian Champions League (ACL) the same cannot be said of their league form and following this defeat they slide ever closer to the drop-zone. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching my adopted Japanese team these last two eventful matches but am not sure when my next game will be. That may be no bad thing as they’ve lost both of the games I’ve been to and all three that Gideon has been to! Maybe we need to stay away for the good of the team!
You can watch the YouTube highlights here
For other things to do in the area take a look at the Top 10 Chiba sights here