For the first time in 8 years we managed 5 back-to-back victories in J1 as we took down relegation-threatened Omiya Ardija 2-0 in front of a rain-drenched crowd of 10,541 although the game did avoid the typhoon that threatened the footballing weekend.
Manager Kenta Hasegawa made just one change to the match day squad that beat Yokohama F.Marinos 2-0 the weekend before with Kenya Okazaki joining the bench in place of the out of favour Lins.
The hosts started the better in the opening 10 minutes with new signing Mrdja forcing Higashiguchi into two saves, the second a great one down to his right. We responded with a good effort from Abe which was pushed over the bar and then Patric was well denied from a corner as Ezumi clawed his goal-bound header wide. Mrdja had another effort on goal, this time a header, but Higashiguchi was again very much on top in that battle.
After a somewhat poor opening we got into the game well and took the lead in the 27th minute through Omiya Killer Konno. Usami was needlessly fouled out on the right and Endo’s whipped cross was met by Iwashita. It was fumbled by Ezumi, Nishino kept it alive and Abe’s effort was blocked on the line but Konno poked home at the back post to net his 2nd goal of the season, both coming against Omiya.
We controlled the rest of the half effortlessly and could have been further ahead through Abe but his half-volley was just tipped over the bar. Usami then dribbled his way into the area but his effort was blocked following a sliding block by an Omiya defender. Higashiguchi still had time to make another excellent save as Wada turned on the volley just outside the area and put his effort towards the far corner.
We were thoroughly thankful for Higashiguchi’s saves and even more grateful that Usami put us 2-0 up in the 51st minute. Patric did all the hard work running the right channel, easing Imai out of his way before picking out Usami who took a touch before blasting his 5th goal of the season into the roof of the net.
With another goal we controlled and slowed the game down but Mrdja did get another chance, this time heading wide at the near post whilst Abe pulled off a sexy pass to Yonekura – the midfielder was on fire. Abe was played in by Usami but his effort from the edge of the area was pushed to Kurata whose effort was tame. Sub Carlinhos tested the bored Higashiguchi with a 40 yard belter from a free kick.
The subs were wrung as Sato, Fujiharu and Myojin came on for Patric, Abe and Usami – my only complaint from the game being the subs coming too late and Okazaki not getting a chance to get some J1 game time. Nevertheless, we eased to another clean sheet as we continued on our way up the table.
Man of the Match
I have two candidates this week. The obvious is Higashiguchi who made some wonderful saves to prevent the hosts from getting a foothold in the match – he seriously has to be knocking on the door of the national team. He is a calming presence in the defence and has been an epic signing. The other player was Hiroyuki Abe who pulled off some top notch shots as well as some wonderful passes during the game. Of course, he did not forget his duties going forwards and backwards, putting in the work to protect his defence as he always does. He is becoming a top player.
Higashiguchi – 9
Yonekura – 7.5
Nishino – 7.5
Iwashita – 8
Oh Jae-Suk – 8
Abe – 9
Endo – 8
Konno – 7.5
Kurata – 7.5
Patric – 7.5
Usami – 8
Sato – 6 (Sub)
Fujiharu – 6 (Sub)
Myojin – 6 (Sub)
We rose up to 5th place as FC Tokyo could only draw with our dreadful neighbours with us now just 7 points off top place with both Tosu and Urawa losing. We are level on points with Sanfrecce Hiroshima but have a superior goal difference with Kashima Antlers just 3 points ahead of us as we start to chase them down.
Photo taken from calciomatome. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.