Sunday, 3 October 2010

Squirrel's Eye View: Ardija Fail To Deal With Pace

Anyone taking a glance at the bare facts of the Squirrels' 2-1 defeat to Urawa Reds on Saturday would probably get the impression that the match was as good as over when Yosuke Kashiwagi put Urawa 2-0 up after only sixteen minutes. And in this instance, they'd be exactly right. A good number of recent Saitama derbies have run to an oddly similar pattern, in which Reds have appeared sluggish even when dominating possession, while Omiya exploited defensive slip-ups to pick up useful points. But on this occasion, Volker Finke's team began the match in such a way as to banish any thoughts of a repeat.

It was the speed of Urawa passing and movement that caused so many problems for Ardija in the opening stages of the game, Kazuhiro Murakami and the left-hand side of the Squirrels defence looking especially vulnerable. Both Reds goals developed in that area of the pitch and both involved Kashiwagi, who certainly made the most of his opportunity to impress new Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni. Just four minutes in, the former Sanfrecce Hiroshima youngster controlled the ball and found space in the tightest of spots to curl a pass to the far post, where Hiroyuki Takasaki was able to head in.

From a Squirrels perspective both Takuya Aoki and Takashi Kitano could arguably have done more to prevent what was Takasaki's first J1 goal on his first J1 start. But Kitano was left helpless when twelve minutes later his defensive colleagues began by carelessly conceding possession to Edmilson and followed that up by failing to close the Brazilian down, as he strolled across the front of the Ardija penalty area and clipped the ball back to Kashiwagi, who needed no further invitation to sweep it home at that same far post. It was incisive stuff from Urawa, ruthlessly taking advantage of slack Omiya play.

That said, much of the rest of the game was in fact pretty even and the Squirrels can draw confidence from the fact that, once they'd woken up from their disastrous start, they were able to compete with an improving Reds side on more or less level terms. Certainly Urawa never came close to getting a third and at the other end Rafael managed a now-customary Saitama derby goal just before half time, when a brilliant shift of body weight wrong-footed both Keisuke Tsuboi and Wilfried Sanou, giving him the chance to clip the ball neatly over Norihiro Yamagishi.

After the re-start, clear-cut scoring opportunities for either team were few and far between and with hindsight the Squirrels' chances of getting anything out of the game realistically disappeared when the sparky Lee Chun Soo picked up a knock and was replaced by Masahiko Ichikawa. Indeed it was striking how little impact Ichikawa and Jun Suzuki's other substitutions, Naoki Ishihara and Hayato Hashimoto, had on the side's play - a point that arguably underlines the gap in quality that continues to exist between the first team and the rest of the Omiya squad.



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