Read the full story on SportsLook - [JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Vissel Kobe Capture Their First J.League Title
And then? Manager Takayuki Yoshida's squad made a glorious transformation from mediocrity to excellence in the nearly completed 2023 campaign, culminating with Vissel's first J.League crown.
On Saturday, November 25, the Kansai-based team earned a title-clinching victory, 2-1 over visiting Nagoya Grampus. It was Vissel's 20th victory of the season, which began in February, in 33 matches, giving them 68 points heading into their season finale. Their record also includes eight draws and five defeats, with 59 goals scored and 29 allowed.
In winning a J1 title for the first time, Vissel's Haruya Ide and Yoshinori Muto scored in the 12th and 14th minutes to stake the hosts to an early 2-0 lead. Grampus pulled within 2-1 on Kasper Junker's 30-minute tally.
The rest of Saturday's match was both exhilarating and agonizing for Vissel fans as they waited for the final seconds to tick off the clock.
Reigning champion Yokohama F. Marinos (with 64 points and 19 wins, seven draws, seven defeats) can finish no better than one point behind Vissel in the standings.
For Vissel Kobe, Steady Improvement a Focal Point
"I'm sure the supporters have been waiting a long time for this day," Yoshida said after Saturday's match, according to Kyodo News. "We've looked to improve each day.
"I've shown the players video after every game, showing what we're not doing right, and we've made adjustments each time on our way here. It's been a steady process and I'm proud of them."
Yoshida, 46, began his third stint as Vissel manager in June 2022. He previously guided the team in 2017-18 and 2019.
Vissel's final match of the season is on Sunday, December 3 against host Gamba Osaka.
Osako Basks in the Championship Euphoria
An irreplaceable part of the team's starting lineup, Yuya Osako, 33, brought valuable experience from his many seasons playing in Germany (2014-21) when he returned to the J.League two years ago.
"I came back to Japan for this and I couldn't be happier," said Osako, according to Kyodo News. "We just believed in ourselves and trusted our teammates. It's really great to have won and I'm thankful to everyone."
Sasaki Raises Profile in 2023 J.League Season
In pro basketball, especially in the NBA, there's frequent talk about the need for a "Big 3" to become a championship-caliber team, referring to a lineup featuring three superstars. Common opinion states that you can't win titles in basketball with just two superstars.
There are, of course, always exceptions to the rules.
On a similar note, soccer clubs with only two consistent goalscorers aren't as dangerous as squads that have three or more players with a large chunk of the team's goals.
Take a look at Vissel's scoring statistics this season. Veteran star Osako is the J1 leader in goals (22), one more than Marinos' Anderson Lopes. Muto has 10. That's more than 50% of the team's scoring output.
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Author: Ed Odeven