[Pre-season] Yokohama F·Marinos 3-2 Manchester United
Yokohama: Marquinhos (1), Fabio (49), Yoshihito Fujita (87)
ManUtd: Jesse Lingard (19), Masakazu Tashiro (og31)
Shinji Kagawa’s homecoming was spoiled by a late Yoshihito Fujita strike, as Yokohama F·Marinos beat Manchester United 3-2 in the Kagome Re:Generation Challenge on Tuesday night.
Much to the delight of the home fans, Kagawa played the final half-an-hour after only reporting back for pre-season duty the previous day. But Fujita’s low finish from 15 yards in the 87th minute denied him a perfect night in front of an adoring Yokohama crowd.
Indeed, despite the result, five goals and a healthy sprinkling of further chances, the night was still all about Kagawa. Shinji’s every touch during his cameo was cheered as if it was a goal. Had his curling left-footed shot found the net just five minutes after his arrival instead of nestling tamely in Rokutan’s hands, the fans inside the Nissan Stadium may well have thought they had died and gone to heaven. After all, in this part of the world, Shinji Kagawa is God.
In the end, Kagawa couldn’t help the Reds to victory, although he and his team-mates were always going to find the task tough after conceding with just 27 seconds on the clock.
Patrice Evra’s lax pass gifted the ball to Brazilian forward Marquinhos, who fired a stinging shot goalwards from 22 yards. David De Gea did brilliantly to parry the effort high into the air but when the ball fell to Marquinhos again, courtesy of a touch of Fabio, he buried his volley in the bottom corner.
It handed the home side a surprise early advantage and it wasn’t until the 10th minute United mustered a meaningful effort on goal. Evra’s left-wing cross was diverted by a Yokohama centre-back but van Persie’s sweeping effort on the half-volley fizzed just over the bar.
Three minutes later, former Celtic midfielder Shinsuke Nakamura came within a whisker of scoring direct from a corner when his right-wing inswinger was headed off the line by Adnan Januzaj. With their tails up, the Marinos continued to push forward and Marquinhos was denied a second goal only by De Gea’s outstretched left foot.
Jesse Lingard then had a shot blocked at the other end before levelling scores a minute later from barely a yard out. Van Persie and Lingard had combined well in the centre-circle to release Wilfried Zaha down the right wing. He drove into the penalty area before firing a low ball across the six-yard box.
Masakazu Tashiro tried valiantly to clear the danger but succeeded only in presenting Lingard with the easiest of tap-ins.
The Reds then took the lead in bizarre circumstances on the half-hour mark. An Adnan Januzaj free-kick seemed to be posing no danger when it looped towards the back post. But goalkeeper Enomoto’s punch struck the hapless Tashiro, who couldn’t race back to goal and clear the ball before it rolled slowly over the line.
Patrice Evra went close with a header and Januzaj forced a routine save from Enomoto before the break, but the Marinos stood firm to keep the margin down to one goal at the interval.
The home side took just four minutes after the restart to bag an equaliser, Marinos defender Fabio heading powerfully home from Shingo Hyodo’s left-wing corner.
A heavy touch in the penalty area prevented Danny Welbeck (on at the break for van Persie) from immediately restoring the Reds’ advantage, while the Longsight-born striker was frustrated moments later by a brave save by half-time substitute Yuji Rokutan.
By then, the majority of the home crowd were more concerned with Shinji Kagawa’s warm-up on the touchline. When he eventually stepped onto the pitch, with just under half-an-hour remaining, the roar was deafening.
Kagawa’s arrival coincided with the game’s tempo dropping, as the summer heat began to take its toll. Perhaps it was this that created the crack in the Reds’ defence that allowed Fujita to net the winner with just three minutes remaining.
Whatever the reason, David Moyes’ men left the Nissan Stadium disappointed, although the workout the Reds received will have a gone long way towards ensuring United hit peak fitness in time for the start of the 2013/14 season.
United: De Gea; Fabio, Jones, Evans (Smalling 67), Evra; Anderson, Zaha (Giggs 78), Cleverley, Lingard (Young 46), Januzaj (Kagawa 62); van Persie (Welbeck 46)
Marinos: Enomoto (Rokutan 46); Kobayashi (Amano 75), Tashiro (Kumagi 62), Dutra (Hanato 62), Fabio; Hyodo (Higa 84), Sato (Narawa 46), Nakamachi (Jeong 88), Nakamura (Fujita 20), Tomisawa (Kida 88); Marquinhos (Ogura 69)