Andres Iniesta, who currently plays for Japanese football side Vissel Kobe, stirred supporters’ emotions with his nimble feet during Saturday’s match against FC Tokyo.
Iniesta, 35, has played 24 matches in Vissel Kobe’s colours since arriving Japan this summer. His lone goal against FC Tokyo sealed victory for the club and sums his J League first-division goals to three.
The former Barcelona ace showcased skills and experience in front of 38,000 fans at Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo, where he grabbed a crucial goal for Vissel Kobe despite the poor weather condition.
Speaking of Iniesta’s outstanding performance against the first-division leader FC Tokyo, Thorsten Fink (Vissel Kobe’s new manager) said: ‘He is our key player and his superb display against such a good team proves it…He is exceptional, not just because of the goal, but for his leadership qualities on and off the pitch.’
‘We didn’t plan to give him full 90 minutes but we were awed…His performance and character made it hard to substitute him during the match.’
The German manager continued, ‘Without him [Iniesta] we would have found it difficult to control possession so it was wise to have faith in him and, by so doing, tap on his unique abilities.’
FC Toyko launched several counter attacks, seeking an equalizer against Vissel Kobe but their poor finishing was blamed on lack of mercurial playmakers like Takefusa, who recently sealed a move to Real Madrid.
‘FC Tokyo doesn’t have many weak points,’ Fink added, ‘we just needed to concentrate on our strengths and exploit opportunities. They have quality players with amazing speed and football skills…This makes our victory worth the celebration you see.’
Fink was hired—as a replacement for Takayuki Yoshida—during the international break. The German coach had stints with Hamburger SV and Basel. Although his work visa in the Asian country was approved last Friday, the fruitage from his little time with Vissel Kobe is an indication that Iniesta’s teammates and club staff are purposely working for a J1 League trophy this season.
Iniesta and David Villa, who both played for Spain and Barcelona, gained huge applause from supporters during the match. Their silky touches continuously led to “oohs” and “ahhs” until the former scored in the 53rd minute following Keijiro Ogawa’s first-half miss.
Villa also paired up quite well with Brazilian star Wellington, whose contributions in both sides of the pitch increased Vissel Kobe’s possession.
Reflecting on Villa and Wellington, the German coach said he wanted them to play together in the midfield.
‘Their combination was perfect. It worked very well and as expected…Iniesta added a crown to their efforts.’