Vegalta Sendai 3-0 Vissel Kobe
This match certainly went against the form book, although, as soon as I saw the first cards handed out to Vissel Kobe by an over-zealous referee, I tweeted that Vissel would do well to end the match with a full team on the field. You should have laid money on that one at as, sure enough, early in the second half Nilton saw red for an attempt to reach the ball that overstretched him - indeed, he actually received his second yellow card as he was carried off - but was in no way malicious, in this writer's opinion.
The cards that were going the way of all the foreign players - not just Vissel, which made it even harder to take, as Vegalta's Ramon Lopes also saw yellow before half time for a challenge that could have been settled by a little chat from the referee - clearly frustrated the Vissel players, especially Leandro and, when the Brazilian forward was upended in the area for a clear penalty kick that the referee completely ignored, you just knew where the game was going and could have taken the Japanese J.League Betting Odds on the home team win at this point.
Enough with the "report"... suffice to say that Vissel's faint hopes of winning the 2nd Stage and qualifying for the J1 Championship Play-Off went up in smoke, thanks to some dubious decisions affecting the players' game, but a team that wants to win the league in Japan has to learn to take this in their stride. What a disappointment for a team that has grown together this season, and despite many injuries has reached unexpected heights. Now, if only the team can stay together next season - this is being written as the silly season for transfer rumours begins, with agents unsettling their own players with talk of, often unwanted moves. Pedro Junior to Kashima Antlers anyone? Surely the timing of that rumour dropped at the wrong time and affected the team.
Enough said. Nice try Vissel, you played some great attacking football, and, in Nilton, you have one of the potential best Braziian J.League imports in a long time. Can he grow along with the team and help them scale new heights next season?