March 20, 2012
Sky Blue allows game-winner in 85th minute in 1st leg of Japanese tour
KAGOSHIMA, Japan -- INAC Kobe Leonessa used an 85th-minute goal to edge Sky Blue FC in the first leg of a two-match series, 2-1, on Tuesday.
Sky Blue took a 1-0 lead into halftime after forward Casey Nogueira drove home a powerful half volley in the 45th minute before a crowd of 7,300 at Kagoshima Prefectural Kamioke Athletics Stadium.
Sky Blue faced a tall task against a team that had not tasted defeat in more two years, but the American side proved it was very much up to the challenge. INAC used the trademark Japanese style of play in patiently knocking around the ball from the kickoff.
The hosts nearly found an answer in the 12th minute. Striker Nahomi Kawasumi chipped a feed to Sinobu Ohno, who raced onto the ball and gave it a solid touch. However, goalkeeper Brittany Cameron extended to her left when the shot got off, knocking away the ball away.
Sky Blue captain McCall Zerboni did a nice job of creating offensive opportunities for her team, nearly finding her mark on a series of shots.
The visitors nearly scored in the 32nd minute with midfielder Beverly Goebel shaking a marker in the midfield before weaving her way through traffic. As she began moving down the center of the field, Goebel saw a streaking Nogueira on her left, dealing her a well-placed ball that the two-time NCAA Division I player of the tear carried into the box before being taken down by a defender for a penalty kick. Nogueira fired a ball to the left side of the frame, but goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori timed her dive to punch away the strike.
Nogueira rebounded to even the score before intermission. In the 45th minute, Zerboni stole the ball in the midfield and ran towards the middle of the field. She turned and dished it to the right flank for midfielder Nikki Washington, who delivered a cross to the wide side of the penalty area. Nogueira hammered a side volley beyond the outstretched arms of Kaihori for a 1-0 lead.
INAC came out for the swecond half with ambition to capture an equalizer. With the Japanese side knocking around the ball in dangerous territory, defender Yukari Kinga overlapped on the right side before she struck a well-placed ball into the top netting for a 1-1 deadlock.
Sky Blue continued to be tested throughout the second half, but saves by Cameron kept the hosts at bay. Her backline of Brittany Bock, Kendall Fletcher, Camille Levin and Rebecca Moros played aggressively and made sure no easy opportunities were allowed. The middle of the playing field was also in good hands, with Carolyn Blank, Amanda DaCosta, Zerboni and Goebel displaying a decent pace and doing a nice job of slowing the pass-driven attack of INAC. Former Michigan State standout Laura Heyboer also got in on the action in the 61st minute when she replaced Washington. The final substitution came in the 80th minute when forward Jazmyne Avant came in for Washington.
INAC broke the 1-1 dtie in the 85th minute. After a long floating ball was sent forward from the back, striker Megumi Takase capitalized for the game-winner.
Sky Blue plays INAC at Comprehensive Athletic Park on Wednesday.