KASHIWA SMASH AND GRAB DOWNS SPURS IN AL KASS CLASSIC
Kashiwa Reysol conjured an incredible 3-2 victory against a superb Tottenham side in a pulsating final game of Al Kass Day Two.
Kashiwa are now veterans of the International Cup and, at each edition in which they have appeared, they have impressed with their fast-paced possession football. The 2018 side are clearly modelled along the same lines.
Meanwhile Tottenham, appearing in Doha for the first time, displayed similar attributes to their Japanese opponents, making for a fascinating spectacle in which both sides combined maximum endeavour with well-drilled technical virtuosity.
Indeed, in the opening period, the two teams cancelled each other out, competing stoutly for every ball and ensuring that chances were at a premium.
Midway through the first half, lively Spurs forward J’Neil Bennett was unfortunate to see his cross-cum-shot elude keeper Leo Kokubo and cannon onto the crossbar, with the Japanese backline scrambling to clear the rebound.
Five minutes later, Rayan Clarke stung Kokubo’s right hand with a low, venomous shot from just inside the area that the Japanese keeper did well to keep out.
Spurs were now in the ascendancy, as Reysol’s defenders struggled to keep their composure – and their clean sheet – in the face of sustained pressure.
So it was completely against the run of play when Kashiwa took a shock lead on 37 minutes. There seemed little danger as Daichi Maeda advanced down the right wing. He swung in a speculative cross that struck centre back Luis Binks’ outstretched arm. Referee Mohammed Yousef had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, and Mao Hosoya had no hesitation in burying the resultant penalty high into the Tottenham goal.
Moments later, Clarke had a golden chance to level matters, arriving late into the area to meet right-back Maximus Tainio’s cross, but the Spurs striker could not connect properly and the ball drifted over the bar.
Undeterred by going a goal behind, Tottenham raised their level still further and, moments later, were dreadfully unlucky not to equalise.
Edmund Maghoma shrugged off a couple of challenges as he advanced down the inside left channel before unleashing a magnificent curling effort that struck the far post, when it had seemed destined for the top corner.
The Spurs number 10, operating notionally in a left-sided position in midfield, was hugely impressive as he operated between the lines and fed the Tottenham attack. But it was another of their midfielders who drew the scores level in spectacular fashion in the dying moments of the first half.
Dilan Markanday picked the ball up just inside the area and jinked his way past several challenges before curling a fabulous shot into the top left corner. It was the last meaningful action of an absorbing opening 45 minutes.
As the second period commenced, Spurs continued as they had left off, and might have snatched a lead within a minute of the restart when Maghoma advanced into the area before feeding Bennett, who could not convert.
Undeterred, Kashiwa came back strongly, launching a series of attacks that culminated in a magnificent goal to retake the lead. Yuusuke Shimizu picked up the ball 25 yards out and advanced into the area before calmly chipping into the bottom left corner.
Now it was Tottenham’s turn to push forward, with Maghoma firing a long-range free kick narrowly over on 65 minutes.
With 20 minutes remaining, former England international Scott Parker sacrificed defender Dennis Cirkin for forward Enoch Asante, as the Tottenham manager went all out for victory. Kokubo’s goal came under sustained assault and, on 78 minutes, Spurs were level after Markanday fed Bennett, who slotted past the Kashiwa stopper.
By now, Reysol were hanging on by the skin of their teeth, as Clarke cut in from the right and fired a low shot that slammed against the foot of the post and bounced clear.
And yet, astonishingly, it was Kashiwa who once again took the lead when Hosoya pounced on a loose ball in the area to fire past Spurs keeper Oluwaferanmi Oluwayemi, his opposite number Kokubo running the length of the pitch to join in the ecstatic celebrations.
Tottenham should have levelled with the very next attack, as Asante’s header drifted agonisingly wide of the right post, with Kokubo beaten. Their desperate onslaught continued as the fourth official signalled four minutes of added time, setting up a frantic finale. But Reysol held firm to earn a famous victory, on an evening that lit up the Aspire Zone.