Friday, 31 July 2009

Niigata Preview

So this week we have the opportunity to learn something new about Omiya Ardija 2009. Giant defender Mato Neretljak may have had one or two ups and downs during the course of his first season in Japan, but nevertheless he has emerged as a real star of the J-League, a charismatic figure at the heart of the Squirrels' back four and a real threat at set pieces whether it be with head or foot. What we will be able to discover on Saturday, however, is how well the squad can cope without him, as against Albirex Niigata the Croatian will be absent from Jang Wae Ryong's team for the first time.

A yellow card in the 2-1 defeat of Vissel Kobe was his fourth of the season, meaning that Neretljak is suspended for the visit to high-flying Niigata. He has dominated the Omiya defence this year, whoever Jang has elected to play alongside him. But the likely line-up to face the Swans is difficult to predict, on account of a question mark over the fitness of Neretljak's regular partner Daisuke Tomita. It was Yosuke Kataoka who started at Kobe and although one would have to assume that Agent Orange's favourite will retain his place, whether Tomita or even - shudder - Yusuke Murayama will also feature is unknown.

Given that Albirex are one of the top-scoring teams in J1, with such players as on-loan Squirrel Pedro Junior and midfield maestro Marcio Richardes, how Ardija face their attacking threat is looks set to decide the game. Both teams bring to the encounter their own motivation, as the ever-inconsistent Omiya struggle to remain outside the relegation zone and Albirex seek to keep going their unexpected challenge to J1 leaders Kashima Antlers. Niigata are unbeaten in six but have drawn each of their last three games, conceding a late equaliser on Sunday at home to northern neighbours Montedio Yamagata.

For Ardija, two tremendous pieces of skill lit up an otherwise scrappy match against Vissel, Hayato Hashimoto's looping shot to open the scoring then being followed by Naoki Ishihara's sensational run from twenty yards inside his own half to clinch the three points. What Omiya have never successfully been able to do throughout their time in J1 is to build upon good results and put together a solid run of wins. Mato Neretljak being away from his team-mates, coupled with the threat of Albirex's two Brazilian stars, would suggest that they're unlikely to be able to be able to do so in Niigata.

But there are causes for optimism for the Squirrels, too. The tenacity displayed by Yamagata to continue fighting and thereby claim a valuable and unexpected draw underlines a key point of life in the J-League - that it really is possible for any team on the day to beat any other team. Ishihara's goal at Kobe, too, will have been a vital confidence boost for a player who had previously been without a goal in eight games. It's a long shot, but Jang needs to coax another performance from his players.

*

4 comments:

Furtho 1 August 2009 at 00:54  

Predicted Yahoo XI:

GK Ezumi
DF Tsukamoto
DF Tomita
DF Kataoka
DF Hato
MF Fujimoto
MF Kanazawa
MF Hashimoto
MF Park
FW Ishihara
FW Fujita

No Pedro for Niigata?

AgentOrange,  1 August 2009 at 04:53  

He's in Brazil

The loan agreement stipulate he doesn't play Omiya

AO

Daniel 1 August 2009 at 05:33  

Looking for a win! AO check your email....Off to Boston ..

Furtho 1 August 2009 at 06:12  

Here are the previous league results between the two teams. Note the bizarre runs of seven consecutive wins for Omiya in 1999 and 2000 - and seven consecutive losses between 2003 and 2006.

1999

A 1-3 Boere
H 1-0 Hiramoto
H 3-1 Isoyama, Kosaka, Burke
A 1-0 Miyashita

2000

H 2-1 Jorginho, Kamimura
A 2-0 Jorginho, Saito
A 2-1 Jorginho 2
H 2-1 Jorginho, Harasaki

2001

A 2-2 Valdes 2
H 2-1 Valdes 2
A 0-1
H 0-3

2002

H 4-1 Toninho, Kurosaki, Morita, Ito
A 2-2 Valdes, Morita
H 0-1
A 2-2 Harasaki, Saito

2003

H 1-4 Isoyama
A 0-4
H 0-2
A 0-1

2004

-

2005

A 2-3 Christian, Toninho
H 1-4 Fujimoto

2006

H 1-2 Sakurai
A 2-1 Fujimoto, Kobayashi D

2007

H 2-1 Yoshihara, Wakabayashi
A 0-1

2008

H 2-0 Pedro Junior, Kobayashi D
A 2-2 Kobayashi Y, Leandro

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