KENYA BROWN - Monday, February 25, 2019
The J1 League started its new season over the weekend with Leo Osaki and Vissel Kobe sputtering out of the gate despite having a World Cup-winning laden team.
Vissel Kobe's start to the 2019 J1 League season was not what they were looking for as a late goal from Tatsuya Yamashita saw Cerezo Osaka come away with the 1-0 win at the Yanmar Stadium.
Vissel is unlike any other team in Japan's top flight as their owner, e-commerce company Rakuten, has splashed the cash on signing top players the past few years who have been World Cup winners. First, they signed former German international Lukas Podolski followed by former Spanish internationals Andres Iniesta and David Villa.
On paper, the team should be the favorite to lift the J. League crown. However, with last season as evidence, their performances on the field have been below par.
With the slate wiped clean, Vissel would certainly want to start the new season off on the right foot against Cerezo Osaka.
And the visitors did appear show signs of promise as they put pressure on Cerezo, with Villa having the best opportunity in the first half with a curling effort at goal, but it was well saved by goalkeeper Kim Jin-Hyeon.
However, the momentum started to shift towards the host, and Cerezo started to come very close to breaking the deadlock with a goal.
And they would finally break through in the 77th minute with the only goal of the game as would run in to head the ball into the back of the net off a corner kick.
A tough way to start the season, but it will be interesting to see how Osaki and Vissel Kobe will respond when they face Sagan Tosu in their home opener on March 2.
Chris Cortez, who signed with Thai League 1 team Chonburi United during the winter transfer window, has been sent out on a short-term loan to second-tier team Ayutthaya United FC. He played his first game for Ayutthaya in their 6-0 loss to Police Tero.
After three games Ayutthaya FC sits in 14th place in the standings with three points.