KOBE - Cellar-dwellers Yokohama F. Marinos showed on Sunday that star power is not always the answer as they beat Vissel Kobe 2-0 on the road.
Second-half goals from Takefusa Kubo and Teruhito Nakagawa gave Marinos their seventh win of the season and first in three league and cup matches.
Kobe suffered its second heavy defeat in four days after Sagan Tosu handed it a 3-0 midweek cup loss, but unlike that match, Spanish midfield maestro Andres Iniesta played a full 90 minutes. However, even he could not sway the result at Noevir Stadium Kobe.
“It was a difficult game. Obviously, they are a good side and they’ve got some very good individual players, but we worked hard,” said Marinos’ Australian manager Ange Postecoglu.
“The first half was pretty even and then little Taka scored a great goal. We had to defend, and we did well today defending. We kept a clean sheet, I thought it was good reward for our players.”
After weathering a first half in which Vissel were the more incisive team, Marinos put together a wonderful box-to-box drive in the 56th minute that concluded with Ken Matsubara picking out a free Kubo on the edge of the box, from where he struck decisively.
Marinos’ second goal came from a bungled back pass from Kobe defender Masatoshi Mihara that was pounced on by Hugo Vieira, the Portuguese player directing the ball toward Nakagawa, who slotted into an empty goal with approximately five minutes remaining.
“We want to press teams and our second goal came from Hugo Vieira pressing hard right to the end,” said Postecoglu.
“The players worked hard, they worked hard because I believe we have the best supporters in the league, all year they have supported us even through the difficult times we wanted to give them a reward today.”
There was a similar upset in Sunday’s other early match, when Nagoya Grampus put four past Urawa Reds. Jo netted his second hat-trick in four matches and his 10th goal in five for his struggling team.
The match opened with Nagoya conceding an own goal in the 22nd minute, but just seven minutes later, Keiji Tamada evened it up. Jo then scored just before halftime and twice in nine minutes in the second to complete the 4-1 rout.
Sagan Tosu, 16th in the league and in the final relegation spot, remained one point behind Marinos with a 3-0 home thumping of next-to-last Gamba Osaka. Spaniard Fernando Torres completed the scoring with his second goal in Japan and his first in the league.
Elsewhere, Shonan Bellmare put a dent in FC Tokyo’s title ambitions by holding the visitors to a scoreless draw. Tokyo remains third in the league, but trail leaders Sanfrecce Hiroshima by 11 points.