This afternoon’s game was at wet and rainy Parker Avenue in Portrush between Ichifuna from Japan, in the white, and MS Select (MSS) from New Zealand, in the blue.
The game started very bright despite the rainy conditions and from the kick off Ichifuna went direct with a long pass for Jiro Hatano which MSS goalkeeper Jack McQuoid dropped, however his defenders helped him out by clearing the danger.
Ichifuna had settled the best of the 2 teams in the opening moments, as the rain got heavier, it also started to pour with goals as Ichifuna upped the gears with 3 goals in the space of 7 minutes. The first came via a long ball from the backline which Jiro Hatano got on the end of and slotted the ball past the keeper to make it 1-0 with 10 minutes gone. Only 2 minutes later, good play from Hatano set up Kai Ishizuka to make it 2-0 as he slotted in off the post. There was only 5 minutes to wait for the next as Ichifuna got a free kick 25 yards out, Hayato Shirota struck it towards goal, the ball deflected and dropped at the feet of Tomoya Furuhashi who made it 3-0 putting Ichifuna in complete control.
MS Select had very few chances in the first half, a couple of long range shots all they could muster which failed to trouble the Ichifuna goalkeeper. As the rest of the half went on, Ichifuna got the ball down and kept it well, MSS struggling to get a touch. Late in the half, frustration saw Jack Rathbone was booked for a foul in the only caution of the game, 3-0 at half time.
With a change made at the break, MSS started the second half a different team and got straight at Ichifuna. The New Zealand outfit started playing good football and were rewarded for good play as they got their first goal of the game. A good move down their right side culminated with a pass from Aiden Brown into Matthew Conroy, who then played it across the penalty area, where Joseph Long-Smith drilled it into roof of the net, game on.
However, the joy was short lived as a few moments later Ichifuna got a corner, resulting in Taketo Hirakawa reacting the quickest and he put the ball into the bottom corner to make it 4-1 to Ichifuna, and this was now the match finished.
MS Select made the second half a more competitive affair, battling better in midfield and started playing a simpler, but more effective, game. They had a few long range shots but rarely troubled the Ichifuna keeper. Ichifuna looked very dangerous and could have score more, as MSS keeper Jack McQuoid made a number of good saves. The Japanese side were deserved winners in a very good game in Portrush.