Sunday, 12 April 2009

Bending Without Breaking

After five league games and seven matches overall, we find ourselves a gaudy fifth place in the J1 standings - battered, bruised and thoroughly undefeated. The best part of this stretch is that we haven't even come close to playing our best football.

Today was a fortunate game for us, to say the least. The tandem of Masahiko Ichikawa and Naoki Ishihara did all of the gruntwork on the three goals and really are one of the reasons Omiya finds itself without a loss. Both have the ability to draw fouls and constantly put pressure on the ball. Ichikawa did a nice job of getting in the box early and drawing the PK. Now, I'm sure there will be some complaints about the PK call because to be honest, it was a bit soft. However, the Gamba defender was pretty stupid about grabbing him by the shoulder and turning him.

The first half was really going all Omiya and Gamba had no answers. 44 minutes in, Ichikawa goes down with an injury, Denis Marques comes in and all urgency goes out the window. For 46 minutes, Denis walked around a lot, dribbled a little, fell down some, lost the ball a couple of times, made a couple of clearances out of the box and cut in front of Chikara Fujimoto for a goal, in a performance that was eerily reminiscent of another Brazilian who used to darken the fields of Omiya back in the early days of our J1 experience (yes, I'm talking about Tuto).

Naoki Ishihara, on the other hand, was ninety minutes of pure workrate. The thing I appreciate about Ishihara is that he has the ability to play the lanes to perfection. On the second goal, he shot through the lane and scored off of a Yoshiyuki Kobayashi cross. The third goal was him stealing the ball after shooting the gap and running with it until the very last second, drawing out the keeper and making a perfect pass to Denis.

Other Thoughts

Central defensive pairing Mato Neretljak and Daisuke Tomita were arguing again after a couple of breakdowns; Yasuhiro Hato and Chikara got into it with Mato as well. This might be something to keep an eye on. Looking at it from the outside, Mato is clearly much better than those two and covers far more ground than either. There is a sense of urgency with Mato that Tomita and Hato (and a lot of times Chikara) lack. Mato was all over the place, clearing balls and stepping up for the PK.

For the second game in a row, Omiya let in a loss time goal after nobody closed on Leandro. A fortuitous bounce off the post from a Cho Jae Jin shot right at the end might have cost the team two more points.

Three Stars

1. Koji Ezumi - Great saves when Gamba turned on the heat near the end of the game. Distribution was a tad off, but he did the job.

2. Ishihara - Great addition to the team and very under the radar as well. Can't say enough about his hard work.

3. Mato - Again... can't say enough about him. Great player.

Something To Feel Good About 1

In February, I told you about Dr Thomas Shepler, a man who loved squirrels so much that he took a shotgun and blasted a hawk away. This month's hero is Fargo relief worker Roger Olson, who took a shovel and fished Grover the squirrel out of the flooding Red River and brought him to safety:

"FARGO, North Dakota (KABC) -- Volunteers patrolling the dikes along the swollen Red River in Fargo, North Dakota, took a break from their duties to rescue a drowning squirrel Monday. The men were checking for breeches in the dikes when they spotted the squirrel.

"'We just happened to see him floating down the river," said volunteer Roger Olson. "He was struggling to get over the dike wall, and we could tell he wasn't going to make it. So we stuck a shovel over the edge of the wall and he floated right onto it. I think he was pretty eager to jump on and get out.'

"The men wrapped him in a towel to get him warm, named him Grover, and took him to dry land away from the river to set him loose."

Bravo sir. You are a friend to the squirrels! There's a video clip about the story, here.

Something To Feel Good About 2

Our friend and fellow Omiya Ardija blogger and uber-fan Jan Ardy welcomed a new member of the Squirrel Nation into the world with the birth of his son! The boy is yet to be named. I suggested Takuro, Enilton and Salles but he rejected all three. The good news is that Omiya won today so he won't be giving up the baby, who I am going to call Speedy. Anyhow, congratulations to Jan and Mrs Jan - here's hoping for a couple more. We can use the fans!

Orange! RELIEVED!!!!!!! Football!!!!!



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