Friday, 19 March 2010

Kashima Preview

Saturday sees one of the big games of the season at Omiya Park, with the visit of Agent Orange's favourite Brazilian Osvaldo Oliveira and his Kashima Antlers. Which makes them sound like a very curious kind of boyband from the 1960s; AO, a Youtube clip if you please. Anyway, Oliveira's team began 2010 with a 2-0 win over Urawa Reds, but last weekend missed several gilt-edged chances to go two ahead at Kyoto Sanga and then conceded an excellent Diego goal in the last few moments of the game to drop a couple of needless points. It seems strange as a consequence to have a J1 table with Kashima not in the top three.

The Squirrels can of course draw confidence from their stunning 3-1 win in the equivalent fixture in 2009, although one of the stars of the show that night - Rafael - will of course be missing from Saturday's game, as he was from the loss at Sendai. And so we have cause to ponder again how Jang Wae Ryong proposes to win matches without the single member of his squad who has the ability, imagination and stamina to connect together the Omiya midfield and attack; we saw how crucial Rafael is to Ardija in the Cerezo Osaka game and the point was repeated in his absence against Vegalta.

By all accounts, Jang's players came back to Saitama last weekend full of confidence, surprised that they had ended up being beaten by the 2009 J2 champions and certainly, there were some positives to come out of the match. After a slightly shaky start, Ardija had the better of the first half and looked by far the likelier winners until the referee intervened with an early-season candidate for the Bad Decision of 2010 award. Even then, Takashi Kitano was very unlucky not to keep out Ryang Yon Gi's penalty kick and Mato Neretljak crashed in a superb equaliser almost immediately afterwards.

AO and I may disagree on this one, but I felt that there were a few occasions in that first half when Hayato Hashimoto got forward to support the front two of Yoshihito Fujita and international hopeful Naoki Ishihara and, assuming that Jang goes with the same line-up against Kashima, this is certainly something that needs to happen on Saturday. Clearly if any team in Japan has the class and strength to keep out a less-than-dangerous attack, it's the Antlers. However energetic Fujita and Ishihara may be, if they end up isolated then there will end up being only one possible result.



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