At Yokohama F. Marinos, Kevin Muscat has continued Ange Postecoglou’s tradition of success by leading the team to the J.League championship on a dramatic final day of his first full season in the position.
Muscat succeeded Postecoglou in a senior role twice, first at Melbourne Victory in 2013 after working as his assistant, and most recently when Postecoglou left for Celtic in the middle of last year.
The 49-year-old Muscat has expanded on the solid foundation his former boss left behind, continuing the blueprint for ultra-attacking possession football while making his own adjustments.
He now has a trophy and a significant accomplishment that might help advance his coaching career.
It wasn’t simple, though. A tense few weeks for Yokohama, who were miles ahead of the rest of the J.League this season but faltered in the closing stages of the championship race, came to an end on Saturday with a 3-1 victory over Andres Iniesta’s Vissel Kobe.
“It’s a little bit surreal. I’m just really proud. I think if there’s an overriding emotion, it’s pride; not only [in] the result but the way we played. The way we won was tremendous,” Muscat said.
“For us personally, we’ve been focusing on creating moments – through challenges, creating moments – and today, the moment that we created also created history. These guys will go down in history as one group that won the trophy for Marinos.”
A month ago, Marinos appeared to have an unstoppable eight-point lead over second-placed Kawasaki Frontale, but consecutive losses to teams fighting for safety, Gamba Osaka and Jubilo Iwata, cost them two chances to win the championship and sparked worries about a major stumble.
A draw or better against Vissel Kobe at Noevir Stadium in their final match of the season would secure the trophy, but last weekend’s 4-1 home thrashing of Urawa Red Diamonds got them back on track and set up a straightforward equation.
Muscat’s men rose to the occasion, with goals from Jose Elber, Takuma Nishimura and Teruhito Nakagawa securing the club’s seventh title – and first since Postecoglou’s triumph in 2019, which put him on the radar of European clubs and led to his opportunity in Scotland.