Saturday, 14 July 2012

Kobe Preview

The preview of last week's match at Kashima Antlers made something of a big deal of the game as a measure of the progress that Omiya have made under new coach Zdenko Verdenik. With Rafael and Kim Young Gwon now formally departed, Verdenik's team lost 1-0 but even so there were reasons to be satisfied with the overall performance. Whisper it quietly but there might even be some cautious optimism developing around NACK5 Stadium.

Going back to the Kashima match, the decisive moment came sixteen minutes from the end when Daigo Nishi found space on the Squirrels' left and fired in an angled cross/shot that eluded everyone and crept in at far post. On balance I think it was an attempt on goal by Nishi - but it was unquestionably very hard to defend against, given that any defender attempting to intervene would have found it almost impossible to avoid conceding an own goal. Credit to the Kashima player, then, for making the most of a brief lapse in concentration by the Ardija back line. And it's only fair to say that Omiya rode their luck at times, Yuya Osako being guilty of missing a couple of chances before Nishi broke the deadlock.

But Koji Ezumi put in another strong display in the Squirrels goal - there have to be question marks over whether Takashi Kitano will get back into the team when he's fit - and at the other end Verdenik could have seen his men go at least two goals ahead in the first twenty minutes. Keigo Higashi, for instance, continued his extraordinarily ineffective 2012 by fluffing a clear one-on-one and soon afterwards Takuya Aoki somehow managed to avoid converting from close range.

They were disappointing moments, of course, although at least this was a game in which Omiya created clear chances. In the second half, too, teenage substitute Shintaro Shimizu came within an ace of getting his first-ever J-League goal when he crashed in a header that Hitoshi Sogahata was happy to be able to grab out of the air. Ardija ended up getting punished for the opportunities they didn't take, but on another day they could have come back from Ibaraki with at least a point. It was hardly a crushing defeat.

So there are indeed some positives to bring into Saturday's game against Vissel Kobe. The Maroon Bulls have found some form under incoming coach Akira Nishino but lost 1-0 to league leaders Vegalta Sendai last weekend. This is a fixture that Omiya need to get something from, but take their chances and there's reason to believe that the Squirrels can do it.



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