It goes without saying that ETU's game against Osaka Gunners was never going to be easy, but the last episode left us with the home side suffering a hammer blow before we even reach the half-way point in the first half as Hauer soared above Kuro to head his side into the lead. Of course, wild celebrations follow, although they're a little too wild for Hauer, who is more concerned by the prospect of having his hair messed up.
Despite conceding this relatively early goal, thankfully the heads of the ETU player's don't drop, and after a few brief apologies, recriminations and half-hearted words of encouragement, the team kick off again with the same determination that they brought into the game. However, determination alone simply won't cut it, and with Gino still unable to find his form East Tokyo United look as unlikely as ever at carving out a scoring opportunity of their own, while the attacking threat from their opponents is always present.
As the game progresses it soon becomes clear to those watching just why Osaka Gunners are such an attacking threat, and that threat hinges to a large degree around young Kubota, who always seems to be on hand to clean up loose balls and use them intelligently to launch attack after attack, keeping the opposition under pressure until they can't soak it up any longer and crack sooner or later. At this point we learn that Kubota actually started out as a defensive midfielder; an odd choice of position given his abilities and build, but it has clearly allowed him to get a superb insight into how to read the game as it unfolds around him - now he occupies a more attacking role, this learned ability meshes perfectly with his instinctive skill and passing to make him a dangerous playmaker indeed. It isn't just creating goals that he's good at either... when the opportunity presents itself he can also score them too, as he demonstrates ably by scoring Osaka's second goal to leave East Tokyo United in big trouble with less than ten minutes left to go in the first half.
As per the last episode, this instalment is played out almost in real-time, taking us up to the half-way point in the game. This luxurious sense of timekeeping does threaten to become a little too pedestrian at times, but as always it manages to be strangely fascinating once it gets a player in its spotlight (even though I still can't get my head around anybody ever playing Kubota as a defensive midfielder), while at the same time refusing to lose sight of the bigger picture as it also finds time to look at the game and team performances as a whole.
As drama goes, putting our favourite team 2-0 down is going to require some serious faith and ability to turn things around, but the beauty of football is that even with ETU seemingly on a hiding to nothing there's nothing implausible about still holding out hope that they can come back to draw or even win the game. Just ask Fulham today - 2-1 down and having conceded a penalty, they ended up with a 2-2 draw against Manchester United. Just one example of the surprises that the beautiful game can throw up.