Andres Iniesta inspired Vissel Kobe to a 3-2 victory over Yokohama F.Marinos on Sunday to seriously damage the chances of Ange Postecoglou’s men booking a spot in the 2021 AFC Champions League.
The Spaniard scored once and was generally influential as Kobe shocked the in-form champions who had collected 13 points from the previous five games. Yokohama were on top for most of the game but were left with nothing
The defeat sees the champions slip into sixth, eight points behind Cerezo Osaka in third-place and with having played two games more.
With Yokohama only having 11 fixtures remaining, time is running out for the Kanagawa club to secure continental football as the league title is out of reach with Kawasaki Frontale 22 points ahead, and 12 clear of FC Tokyo in second.
While Junior Edigar gave Yokohama a third-minute lead in front of their fans, Douglas levelled soon after. After 11 minutes Iniesta stepped forward to put Kobe, who recently appointed Atsuhiro Miura as head coach to replace Thorsten Fink, ahead.
Ten minutes after the restart, the World Cup winner won the ball in midfield to start a counter-attack from the big-spending Kansai club that ended with Kyogo Furuhashi extending the visitors’ lead.
Ryuta Koike notched a consolation for Yokohama deep into stoppage time.
While Postecoglou had blasted his team for a 1-1 draw against struggling Sagan Tosu four days earlier, the former Socceroos boss was complimentary about the performance of his team on Sunday, which had two-thirds of the possession.
“They had three attempts on goal and scored three, while we had 25 opportunities against a team that had plenty of men in defence but we just couldn’t get the goals,” Postecoglou said. “We performed well and our desire to win was strong but we just were unable to get the victory.”
Kobe was delighted to get away from the home of the 2019 champions with the three points.
“We won but it was a very difficult challenge for us,” said Miura. “Even when we got the goals, they were still controlling the game and creating good chances. We made some changes at the break and we improved in the second half.”
Yokohama, who resume the 2020 AFC Champions League next month, face Oita Trinita on Saturday and then take on two rivals for the coveted third spot in Gamba Osaka and then Cerezo Osaka.
Oita defeated Australia’s other coach in the J.league on Saturday, running out 2-1 winners against Peter Clamovski’s Shimizu S-Pulse. The loss leaves Shimizu with 12 points, three above bottom team Shonan Bellmare.
Shimizu, who are free from the fear of relegation as the J.League decided to close the trapdoor in this coronavirus-affected season, take on mid-table Sanfrecce Hiroshima on Saturday.