After the defeat against SCC at the opening game of the season, Nippon was well motivated to get the victory against Aioli. We had a decent squad and planned 1) to keep running for 90 minutes and 2) not to play "kick and rush" football. 1st half : 1-1 Nippon possessed the ball in the first 10 minutes with a good pace, and it didn't take much time to break the deadlock. Uchida scored from a direct free-kick. After that Aioli came back by using both deeper sides with strong wingers. Nippon struggled with building up from DF line and missed from long balls. Before half-time their striker levelled with a header from a corner kick while Kakimoto's strike into the top corner was denied by the offside flag. 2nd half : 0-1 Nippon made two changes including the goalie but still had difficulty to break their DF line. On the other hand, Aioli was quite sharp when they stole the ball and turned the game by taking one chance. Nippon made another three substitutes to break through this situation, but our efforts didn't pay off. Nanai's header was also denied by the foul to their goalie. Although Aioli showed the great spirit throughout the game, Nippon still have problems to improve such as building up, how to deal with set pieces and effective attacking. Every single player of Nippon needs to learn something from this game and focus on the next game to gain the first victory of the season. Thanks to Aioli and the referee for the fair play.
After a disappointing defeat last week, we bagged an important 3 points against a very good Nippon side to get our season up and running. With no less than 6 changes to our starting line up we knew it it was going to require a huge effort against a fit and technically strong Nippon. Luckily we managed to replace quality with quality. Matt and Thomas came in to give a French flavour to our defence. Ichi, Tito and new signing Jamie T came in to the midfield, and Marko slotted in up front. Despite that, we were on the backfoot early on and Nippon deservedly went ahead from a free kick, which was curled in from about 30 yards out. We improved a bit after that, Ichi and Marko in particular causing problems with their physicality. The equaliser then came from a lovely in-swinging corner from Peter, met by Ichi out-jumping Nippon’s keeper for 1-1. Shortly after we had a huge chance to take the lead - Peter playing another delightful ball for Tito one on one with the keeper but, with more time than he realised, his shot went just wide of the post. Nippon also had their chances, including a disallowed goal for offside. HT 1-1. Second half we knew we needed to keep it tight, stay disciplined and try to break quickly when we had possession. That’s exactly what happened, with Nippon having a lot of the ball but struggling to penetrate our back four of Ivan, Harry, Matt and Thomas. We got a great second goal after Jamie T picked up the ball on the right and played a beautiful cross for Marko to power home a header. 2-1 with 30 to play. A lot more Nippon possession and a couple of late scares but we held on for a big win. Scrappy game from our perspective but great commitment shown from everyone to get the 3 points, which even included a 3 minute cameo from the new gaffer. MOM for us - Jamie T, excellent debut, covered a lot of ground in the middle and great delivery for the winning goal. MOM for Nippon - their new striker, number 22 (as voted for by Ichi) Also, special shout out to Cosmo Joe, who didn’t quite manage to make his Cosmo debut after Sippy’s intense warm-up proved too much for him, but great to see him finally wearing the shirt. Thanks to Nippon and the ref team for a good, fair game.