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Socceroos great under pressure in Japan

Harry Kewell’s Yokohama F. Marinos side is struggling in Japan. Picture: Giuseppe Cacace / AFP
Harry Kewell’s Yokohama F. Marinos side is struggling in Japan. Picture: Giuseppe Cacace / AFP

Harry Kewell has avoided a fifth straight defeat as coach of Japanese club Yokohama F. Marinos but pressure is mounting on the Socceroos great.

Having finished runners-up in the J1 League last year under the guidance of another former Socceroo in Kevin Muscat, Marinos are in 13th place on ladder in what has been a tough first season in charge for Kewell.

Despite reaching the final of the AFC Champions League in May, Kewell’s team has struggled on the domestic front, with four successive JI losses leading to questions about the coaching future of the former Leeds and Liverpool star.

Things seemed to be getting worse for Kewell when Marinos fell 2-0 behind to relegation-threatened second division club Mito HollyHock on Tuesday night in an Emperor’s Cup third-round clash.

Harry Kewell’s Yokohama F. Marinos. narrowly avoided a shock Emperor’s Cup exit. Picture: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP
Harry Kewell’s Yokohama F. Marinos. narrowly avoided a shock Emperor’s Cup exit. Picture: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

However, Kewell’s men fought back, scoring two second-half goals to level the game at 2-2 before progressing to the round-of-16 via a penalty shootout.

“There were a lot of things that happened, but the beginning of the game was particularly bad,” Kewell admitted.

“We weren’t able to do what we were trying to do from the start. More than that, I think Mito showed their strengths.”

Marinos return to J1 League action on Sunday night when they host second-placed Kashima Antlers at Nissan Stadium.

Antlers are five points adrift of leaders Machida Zelvia, whose squad includes Socceroos striker Mitch Duke.

Meanwhile, Muscat’s coaching move to China continues to pay dividends, with his Shanghai Port side leading the Chinese Super League by two points from arch rivals Shanghai Shenhua.