Sky Blue played in front of a packed house in the first of two exhibition games in Japan against the two year undefeated INAC Kobe Leonessa and fell in the 85th minute with a great strike from INAC’s striker Megumi Takase. The game went back and forth for most of the night, but INAC was just too much for Sky Blue in the end.
The scoring started with a goal from Sky Blue FC. They finished the first half with a 1-0 lead as Casey Nogueira put the ball past the INAC goalie in the 45th minute. Thus ending a tightly played and even fist half to the exhibition. On the play Sky Blue captain McCall Zerboni stole the ball in the midfield and placed the ball up to fellow midfielder Nikki Washington who then placed a nice cross in the penalty area to Nogueira who stuck the ball in the net past INAC goalkeeper Ayumi Kahori.
But, in the second half INAC showed why they are one of the top teams in Japan. INAC came out with a distinct ambition to capture an equalizer. With the Japanese side knocking around the ball in dangerous territory, defender Yukari Kinga made the long journey from the back to receive distribution on the right flank. She quickly then settled and struck a well-placed ball into the top netting, evening the tally at a goal each.
The momentum continued to swing back and forth throughout the entirety of the second half. But in the end INAC was just too much for Sky Blue. INAC broke the 1-1 deadlock in the waning minutes of action. After a long floating ball was sent forward from the back in the 86th minute, striker Megumi Takase was able to capitalize on the feed. After a quick settle, the Japanese forward placed a hard strike on a ball that would prove to be the game-winner. Five more minutes would elapse after that go-ahead notch, but a final count of 2-1 in INAC’s favor would stand when the referee signaled the end of the match.
Although Sky Blue didn’t get the result they hoped for, there is no doubt they played a very tough and close game against the Japanese powerhouse. They will get another chance to even the score with INAC in the second leg of this two match exhibition tour of Japan.
Sky Blue FC will now head to Okinawa, and this two-game series will conclude when these clubs meet again on March 24th at Comprehensive Athletic Park.