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Olunga fires blanks as football resumes in Japan

Sunday July 05 2020
olunga_pix

Harambee Stars foward Michael Olunga gestures during a training session at the Marcousis Cedex pitch in Paris, France on July 8, 2019. PHOTO | COURTESY |

By GEOFFREY ANENE
By DAVID KWALIMWA

Kenya's Michael Olunga failed to get on the score sheet as newly-promoted Kashiwa Reysol slumped to a 1-0 loss against visiting FC Tokyo on Saturday. Top-flight action was resuming in Japan after being stopped in March due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Reysol entered this fixture buoyed by six straight wins stretching to last season.
But, Tokyo, who had bagged three victories from the last nine matches, looked the dangerous of the two after launching several attacks.

After star striker Olunga missed a glorious chance in the opening stages of the game, things turned for the worse for Reysol when Brazilian midfielder Richardson Fernandes was given his marching orders in the 60th minute. 

There was some reprieve for Reysol when Diego Oliveira, who posed all manner of problems, was forced out of the match after getting injured.

However, Reysol still came to pay dearly for squandering several chances when Tsuyoshi Watanabe punished poor defending as he scored in the all-important goal from a corner-kick.

"It is a great feeling to resume work. The whole team is excited," Olunga explained.

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"The result wasn't great. My fitness is okay and it is just about finding my rhythm. The goals
 will come."

In other matches held on Saturday in the 18-team league, Gamba Osaka fell 1-2 against Cerezo Osaka, Shimizu surrendered by a similar margin against Nagoya Grampus, and Yokohama lost by the same score line in the hands of Sapporo.

Kawasaki Frontale hit Kashima Antlers 2-1, Shonan got a 1-0 beating from Vegalta Sendai, while Urawa Red Diamonds and defending champions Yokohama Marinos played to a goalless draw.

Andreas Iniesta's Vissel Kobe bit the dust in their 3-0 loss at home against league leaders Hiroshima, although the Spaniard was an unused substitute.

After the opening two rounds of matches, Hiroshima is on top of the table with six points, separated from FC Tokyo and C-Osaka by goal difference.

Reysol occupied third spot from their 4-2 victory against Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo in February before Saturday's action, but has dropped to eighth after firing blanks against FC Tokyo. 

Olunga scored twice for Reysol when his side floored FC Tokyo 2-1 on March 6, 2019 in the first leg of the first round of Levian Cup.

FC Tokyo retaliated 2-0 in the return match in April 2019 to toss out Reysol from the cup competition.

Olunga, 26, was in fine form in the second-tier league last season when he planted 27 goals into the net and made nine assists as Reysol returned to the big-league after one season. 

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