Super Reds’ striker Park Kang Jin scored the opener but two goals in three minutes from Taisuke Akiyoshi and Ryota Kobayashi in the second half condemned the Koreans to just their fifth loss of the season.
White Swans’ coach Hiroaki Hiraoka was a satisfied man at the end of the game.
He commented, “Our team depends on spirit rather than skill at the moment. The team is still young and they have a lot to learn, so if they maintain the level of motivation, spirit and concentration for the next few games, we can have a lot of victories.”
The match started at a frenzied pace as the Super Reds were bent on seizing the initiative as early as possible.
In fact, the three-week break must have done them some good as the players look energized and active, so much so that they created at least five good chances in the first five minutes of the game.
In the 2nd minute, winger Choi Dong Soo showed early signs of his threat when he dazzled three White Swans’ defenders on the byeline before cutting the ball back to striker Park Kang Jin.
Park’s snap shot was smartly tipped over by Norio Takahashi – the experienced custodian probably knew that he was going to be a busy man for the whole game.
Efforts from Choi and Jung Young Chun, as well as a freekick from captain Park Ki Wook, drew a few good saves from Takahashi. He was even indebted to the crossbar when it prevented a near-certain Super Reds’ opener.
As the game invariably slowed down due to the niggly fouls that were committed in the next few minutes, the White Swans managed to regroup and they were able to exert more control over the game’s proceedings.
A header from Ryota Doi from a Shunsuke Sunaga freekick in the 12th minute signaled the start of a mini period of White Swans’ dominance.
Their best move came in the 23rd minute when Saito Nomura passed the ball to Keisuke Ogawa on the left flank. Ogawa was given a lot of room to dribble the ball and he relayed a pass to Akira Takase. The striker’s shot went agonizingly past the post.
Despite the White Swans’ chances to score, the Super Reds deserved their lead in the 26th minute when Park scored his fourth goal of the season.
Oh Ddog Yi went on one of his trademark mazy runs and he executed a smart through pass to Park.
The 19-year old showed quickness of thought to fire a shot instantly inside the penalty box and that gave his side the 1-0 lead.
With the lead safely in their hands, Jeon Kyeong Joon’s men played smart football as they dictated the pace of the match.
The White Swans tried to break down their opponents’ defence with intricate passing and movement – only to be met with a strong defensive wall ably marshaled by the lanky Joo Ki Hwan.
The second half continued in the same vein as the White Swans tried to grab the game’s equalizer.
The Super Reds banked on their efficient counter-attacking strategy to frustrate the White Swans – it needed an act of inspiration if the Japanese were to haul themselves back into the game.
The moment of inspiration duly arrived in the 66th minute when Ogawa sprinted past right-back Choi Wan Geon to deliver a tantalizing cross.
The unmarked Taisuke Akiyoshi headed the ball past custodian Kang Su Ho to make it even stevens at 1-1.
The goal must have sprung the White Swans into life. Suddenly, their passes looked more incisive, their tackles more clinical and their movement more dangerous.
A corner kick three minutes later got the Japanese side a deserved 2-1 lead. Akiyoshi’s swinging freekick was converted by defender Ryota Kobayashi – another piece of slack defending by the Koreans undid them twice in three minutes.
The roles have now been reversed as the Super Reds were chasing the game while the White Swans were depending on the counter-attacks.
The Super Reds tried their best to carve out openings but the confidence that they exuded earlier in the game vanished as soon as the White Swans’ second goal was scored. Another blow for the Koreans was star striker Oh Ddog Yi was stretchered off during the game in 86th minute due to a bad leg injury.
Super Reds’ coach Jeon was left pondering on what could have been at the end of the game. He said, “Losing the three points was a big blow tonight but at least there are four more matches left to be played.
“We will still have to play SAFFC, and they have a game with Home United, so we have to be prepared for those games,” said Jeon as he tries to chart his club’s title aspirations.
The result leaves the Super Reds third on 66 points, one point behind SAFFC and behind Home United on goal difference with just four matches left.
With the victory, the White Swans jump over Woodlands Wellington into seventh position as they try to cement their mid-table status before the end of the season.