Omiya looked like their old selves again at Yokohama, in good ways and bad. They were seconds away from winning 1-0 despite only putting one shot on goal, only to give up a stoppage-time equaliser. The delicate balancing act that helped Omiya rise as high as fourth in the First Stage has been harder to pull off in the Second Stage. Dragan Mrdja, who was an almost automatic starter for much of the First Stage, made his first start since May 21 in the draw at Yokohama. He was substituted a minute into second-half stoppage time, just before Yokohama’s equaliser. Sendai enter the match on the heels of impressive wins over Kashima and Kashiwa, and Omiya manager Shibuya will be wary of overextending his side despite playing at home. It will frustrate the home fans, but it would take something remarkable to shift Shibuya from his safety-first approach thus far. The performance of Izumisawa is heartening after long stretches of uncertainty on the left wing. That, combined with Ienaga returning from injury, means Esaka can move back to the right wing. They will be rightfully annoyed at dropping points despite taking a lead and a man advantage into second-half stoppage time. Their defensive solidity left them when they needed it most, something that has happened with greater frequency in the Second Stage than the First.
Vegalta Sendai came out on top in a wild 4-2 win over Kashiwa Reysol. After Ramon Lopes and Wilson, both assisted by Keita Fujimura, put the team up 2-0 before the 20th minute, Reysol fought back to even it up at 2-2 before gifting a penalty kick to Lopes and scoring an own goal late in the second half. The result leaves Vegalta unbeaten in their last five matches. In addition to Naoki Ishikawa who was forced out of their previous match with an injury, Ryang Yong-Gi was also withheld from the matchday squad due to an unknown ailment. Ishikawa was covered at left back by 18-year-old Masaya Kojima, who made his first professional appearance after several bench selections this season. Keita Fujimura, usually a substitute, earned two assists as Ryang’s replacement. A number of other presumable starters are out injured, including Yuji Rokutan, who hurt his right knee, and Yasuhiro Hiraoka, who will miss a month with an injured right ankle. Kim Min-Tae, who made two short substitute appearance for South Korea in Rio, has returned to training and could start Saturday on the bench.
Verdict & Prediction
Vegalta continue to remain in great form and held it together for a high-scoring win despite missing some key starters. Morale is high overall, and they will need all the help they can get to make it to the end of the month and the upcoming international break. They have a couple injured players and it is wise to secure the draw here.
Prediction: Vegalta Sendai +0.25 AH
Odds: 1.70 Pinnacle