Soccer / J. League

Sagan keep Marinos winless

by Andrew McKirdy

Staff Writer

Sagan Tosu beat Yokohama F. Marinos 2-1 on Saturday to keep former Australia manager Ange Postecoglou waiting for his first J. League win.

Cho Dong-geon put Tosu ahead in the 12th minute after some poor defending from the home team at Mitsuzawa Stadium, before Colombian Victor Ibarbo doubled the visitors’ lead from the penalty spot 12 minutes into the second half.

Portuguese striker Hugo Vieira managed to pull a goal back for Marinos in the 87th minute, but it was not enough to prevent a second defeat in three league games under new manager Postecoglou, who took over from the departing Erick Mombaerts over the winter.

“It was a disappointing game for us,” said Postecoglou, who took the job after unexpectedly quitting the Socceroos one week after leading them to a place at this summer’s World Cup. “We didn’t play well, particularly in the first half. Credit to Sagan, they stopped us playing our game and we didn’t react well to it. It was a disappointing day all round for us.

“I’ve changed a lot in the way we play and I’ve asked the players to change in many ways. It’s very difficult for them because the opposition make it hard for you. They made it hard for us but we’ve got to react better. My job is to find solutions and we’ll work hard in training.”

Marinos struggled to keep up with Tosu in an explosive start to the match, leaving Sagan manager Massimo Ficcadenti satisfied with his team’s attitude after picking up its first win of the new season.

“It was really important that we started the game with the right approach, and today we were aggressive and pressed them from the front,” said Ficcadenti whose team is still unbeaten, following two draws to start the campaign. “It worked out as we planned. We pressed them high up the pitch and that’s how our first goal came.

“But we had chances to score more goals in the second half and we didn’t take them, so that’s something to work on in the next game.”

Yokohama almost gifted the visitors an opener in just the second minute when goalkeeper Hiroki Iikura gave the ball straight to Tosu striker Yuji Ono, who blasted a shot against the underside of the crossbar.

The warning went unheeded and the home side’s defense was again culpable when Cho latched onto an errant Jun Amano back pass and slid a shot under Iikura to put Tosu ahead.

“The goal came from my mistake,” said Amano. “Hopefully now I can do something to make it up to the team.”

Iikura’s afternoon reached farcical proportions when he caught a harmless ball forward outside his box shortly before halftime, although Riki Harakawa failed to punish him with the resulting free kick.

Ibarbo showed no such mercy from the penalty spot in the 57th minute, however, slotting his kick into the corner for Tosu’s second goal after Amano had handled the ball inside the box.

“He wasn’t in great shape in camp before the start of the season, and just when I thought he was ready, a muscle problem kept him out of the first game against Kobe,” Ficcadenti said of former Cagliari striker Ibarbo, who was making his first appearance of the season.

“You saw how good he can be. Whether he’s playing in Italy or Japan, he has a lot of quality. If his fitness continues to improve, he can be a real asset to the team.”

Keita Endo drilled a fierce shot against Shuichi Gonda’s post as Marinos pressed forward in search of a reply, and Vieira ensured a tense finish when he finished off a pass from Ken Matsubara to pull a goal back three minutes from time.

But it was not enough to salvage a point for Marinos, leaving the team with just one point from Postecoglou’s three games in charge and a visit to Asian champions Urawa Reds next up on March 18.

“We need to work hard in training to make sure we play better, and if we play better then we’ll win games,” said the 52-year-old Postecoglou. “At the moment we’re being a little bit inconsistent, but I think that’s in some ways understandable because the players are being asked to do a lot of things differently and it’s taking time to adjust.”

In the day’s other games, champions Kawasaki Frontale beat Gamba Osaka 2-0 to keep Gamba on zero points after three games, while Vegalta Sendai lost their 100 percent record in a 1-1 draw with Vissel Kobe.

V-Varen Nagasaki claimed a 1-1 draw with Urawa, Sanfrecce Hiroshima maintained their perfect record with a 1-0 win over Kashima Antlers, and Kashiwa Reysol and Cerezo Osaka drew 1-1.

Jubilo Iwata beat FC Tokyo 2-0, while in the day’s late game, Shimizu S-Pulse defeated Consadole Sapporo 3-1.