Saitama – On Wednesday, a trio of aging superstars headlined Yokohama FC’s starting eleven in a valiant defeat against league-leading Kawasaki Frontale.
On Saturday, it was time for the kids to step up, with Yusuke Matsuo scoring twice in a confident 2-0 win over Urawa Reds at Saitama Stadium.
Yokohama manager Takahiro Shimotaira’s squad did not include 53-year-old Kazuyoshi MIura, 42-year-old Shunsuke Nakamura or 39-year-old Daisuke Matsui, the former Japan internationals whose appearance at Todoroki Stadium drew worldwide attention.
Instead the side’s average age dropped from 31.91 years to 27.45, with 37-year-old Brazilian Leandro Domingues, the oldest player on the pitch for the visitors, making his first start of the season after appearing as a substitute against Frontale.
“On Wednesday he came off the bench and did well against Kawasaki, and I wanted to use his ability again today,” said Shimotaira. “His assist (on the team’s second goal) was a pass that only he could make.”
Despite Urawa boasting nearly two-thirds possession by the 16th minute, it was Yokohama who scored first on a counter with Matsuo delivering a right-footed curler that whipped around Urawa keeper Shusaku Nishikawa and inside the far post.
“I felt good about my shot heading into today, and last year I scored a similar goal so when the chance came I focused on taking it calmly,” Matsuo said after the match. “
Matsuo’s second of the day came in the 36th minute courtesy of a long Domingues through pass that enabled the winger to jet past Reds defender Thomas Deng and easily beat a diving Nishikawa.
“He’s been setting up the same passes in training and I knew if I moved in that direction he’d send the ball, so I’m grateful to him,” Matsuo said.
Seeking to narrow the gap in the second half, Otsuki sent on veterans Tomoya Ugajin and Shinzo Koroki but neither was able to add the killer instinct needed by Urawa in the final third.
Urawa’s best chance to score came at the end of the 70th minute, when Leonardo had a clear opportunity to chip in over Yokohama goalkeeper Yuji Rokutan but instead sent the ball over the crossbar.
Yokohama defender Yutaro Hakamata was lucky to avoid a yellow card in the 75th minute when he appeared to stiff-arm Takahiro Sekine in the face, with referee Hiroyoshi Takayama electing to play on rather than call a foul.
“We understood heading into this game that Takayama tends to let play continue and we made sure the players were aware,” Reds manager Tsuyoshi Otsuki said. “With so many games in such a short time, sometimes it’s hard to control your body and players are worried about getting injured, so sometimes contact looks rougher than it is.”
The loss extended an inconsistent September for Urawa, who have not won consecutive games since mid-August against Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Gamba Osaka.
Earlier in the day at Toyota Stadium, Nagoya Grampus defeated Shimizu S-Pulse 3-1 through an early Hiroyuki Abe goal and additional scores by Naoki Maeda and Yuichi Maruyama.