Ryotaro Ito has been nothing short of sensational in 2023 and he took his excellence to a whole new level on Saturday. The attacking midfielder scored two goals in stoppage time to complete his hat trick and single-handedly bring Albirex Niigata from 2-0 down to beat title challenger Avispa Fukuoka.
Avi took a 2-0 lead just after the half-hour mark, taking them provisionally top of the table and putting Niigata in a big hole, but Ito was undeterred.
Ryotaro Ito came out in the second half like a man possessed and within two minutes had brought Albi within one with an outstanding free kick from a sharp angle that kissed the near post on its way to the back of the net.
Despite Ito’s fabulous goal, Niigata entered stoppage time still a goal down, so he went to work again.
Three minutes into added time, Ito played a gorgeous one-two then fired a seeing eye shot that found the bottom corner and brought the match level.
Then in the fifth of five added minutes, Ito won it when a teammate’s shot was blocked right to him and he blasted a shot from 15 yards out. His shot rippled the back of the net and when he slid by the corner flag in celebration, he was mobbed by his teammates while the orange-clad faithful in Niigata went wild.
Ryotaro Ito, A True Savior!— J.LEAGUE Official (English) (@J_League_En) April 15, 2023
Ryotaro Ito scored two dramatic goals in stoppage time at 90+3 and 90+5 minutes, sparking an epic comeback and securing a thrilling victory for Albirex Niigata against Avispa Fukuoka! pic.twitter.com/h1GRuGBlam
Ito is now up to five goals on the season to go along with two assists through just eight matches. Albi are off to a strong start in their return to the top flight, sitting in the top half of the table, and it is due in large part to Ito’s tremendous play with no better example than his one-man show on Saturday.