GIANT KILLING – 24
Akasaki’s not making any mistake with the rebound off Natsuki’s shot, as he totally buried the chance before him to bring ETU within one. As we’ve pretty much come to expect from Tatsumi, he’s thought several steps ahead with his game plan too, particularly when it comes to the stamina of their opposition. Wearing out Kobuta turned out to be one part of his plan, whom Sugie tired out much faster than even Tatsumi anticipated. With him out of the game, Osaka’s sustained pressure in the offensive zone was bound to decrease and open the field up to counters. Dulfer didn’t seem to mind so much with Shimura around to pick up the slack, but Tatsumi doesn’t fail to surprise me with how he’s taken that into account as well. In addition to taking Kubota out of the game earlier than expected, Kuroda showed that he shut down and got under Hauer’s skin enough to draw a yellow card. That makes two of the opposition’s four forwards that ETU’s effectively taken out of the game.
At that point, it seemed inevitable that the rest of ETU’s game plan would come down to breaking through Osaka’s defense and scoring a couple of more goals to take the lead; however, their game plan extends even further than that with the focus on Hiraga all this time. Ever since the start of this match, I’ve been suspicious about how Gino’s long passes haven’t been connecting with Tsubaki and brought up several times in my previous posts how it might be all part of Tatsumi’s strategy. Admittedly, I suspected that Gino’s look of dissatisfaction was more of an act to throw Hiraga off rather than disappointment that his successful pass percentage is dropping, but the end result of wearing out Osaka’s captain by having him chase after balls against Tsubaki’s speedy legs was in line with what I was thinking. To that end, I just love how Gino had to let him in on how he’s been purposely making him run all game, just when Hiraga started suspecting that those long passes weren’t due to ETU’s playmaker having an off-day. It was like a big kick in the face to show how he’s been had yet unable to sub out because Dulfer has never taken his captain out due to the predetermined ones he sticks to.
Things don’t end there though, as Tanba subbing in for Kiyokawa as a left side back when he’s normally a left side midfielder was banking on the fact that Katayama would fall back to support his tiring captain. This in turn opened up the left side of the field for Tanba to send Tsubaki stretch passes down the wing and blow by Hiraga, who looks like he’s resorted to taking a yellow card instead of letting that happen. I can’t say that I buy everything playing out exactly like Tatsumi planned, but it’s hard to deny that there’s a systematic approach to his strategy at both ends of the field. Because of that, it sure makes for one hell of an exciting game when everything starts coming together. Next time it looks like Sera will finally get his chance to put one away and tie things up, with the real enemy against ETU right now being the clock. It’s probably safe to say that ETU will pull off an upset here, though I’m not sure if it’ll be a win or a tie. I think I speak for everyone when I say it better be a win!