2022 has been a disappointing year so far for Vissel Kobe to say the least. Some might even say 'disastrous'.
On Tuesday evening, as they opened their AFC Champions League 2022 campaign with a 2-1 win over Kitchee in the Thai town of Buriram, there was at least some welcome respite from their recent woes.
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With one of the most star-studded teams not just in Japan but all of Asia, boasting the likes of Andres Iniesta, Bojan Krkic, Yuya Osako, Sergi Samper and Yoshinori Muto to name but a few, Vissel have somehow contrived to go winless in their first ten games of the 2022 J1 League season.
Having claimed just four points so far, they find themselves bottom of the table and a domestic campaign that promised a possible title challenge already looks over before it even really began.
It is for this very reason that Vissel should perhaps put all their eggs in the continental basket, with ACL 2022 providing a clean slate for them to amount to something this year.
Even then, they just cannot seem to get a break as it was confirmed on the eve of Tuesday's match that they would be without Iniesta for the entire group stage campaign with the Spaniard having stayed behind in Japan to recover from injury.
Even without Iniesta and long-term absentee Samper, the starting XI that was sent out to face Kitchee still boasted five players with top-level European experience in Bojan, Osako, Gotoku Sakai, Hotaru Yamaguchi and Tomoaki Makino.
Against Kitchee, a team that only had one ACL win to their names prior to last season, Vissel still made hard work of the win.
Having taken a 15th-minute lead through Yuta Goke's close-range finish, the J1 League outfit had to survive a few scares and Shion Inoue's 85th-minute effort would ultimately prove vital, as Kitchee went on to pull one back through Alex Akande in injury-time.
Nonetheless, the result will provide a platform to build on for Miguel Angel Lotina, who only took over the reins at the start of the month following the dismissal of Atsuhiro Miura but is already discovering that all is not well at the club despite them boasting a stellar cast.
With only three teams in Group J of ACL 2022 following the withdrawal of Shanghai Port, the path to the Round of 16 has been made somewhat easier -- and Vissel can take another step towards returning to some form of normalcy in their next match against Chiangrai United on Friday.
For now, the respite has arrived. But Vissel still have plenty more to do if they are to salvage a thus far disappointing -- and possibly disastrous -- 2022.