The Squirrels did their best on Wednesday evening - but it wasn't enough to gain anything from an encounter against an excellent Nagoya Grampus side, who on the evidence of this display will be fighting for the J1 championship at the end of the season. Midfield general Magnum gave the best individual performance that some observers could remember seeing from an opposing player at an Omiya match - the Brazilian maestro was truly magnificent and at the centre of everything Grampus produced.
For Dragan Stojkovic's team passed Ardija to death all game and if it hadn't been for some heroic goalkeeping from in-form Koji Ezumi, Omiya could have been buried by half time. It was against the run of play that the Squirrels took the lead midway through the first period. The disappointing Tomoya Uchida was put clean through by Pedro Junior but dithered and instead of scoring himself ended up winning a corner. The subsequent kick beat everyone in the area except central defender Daisuke Tomita, who volleyed home with his left foot from twelve yards out.
But immediately afterwards, Nagoya were at Ardija's throats and the home side had Ezumi to thank as he produced some inspirational goalkeeping. A brilliant double save was the pick of the bunch, although the former Oita Trinita net minder also made a superb one-handed stop at the end of the half which was followed by Nagoya's Norwegian forward Frode Johnsen skewing the rebound wide of the post. The Squirrels too had some excellent chances - most notably when Daigo Kobayashi had a shot just palmed over - and there were two occasions in which Ardija had shots cleared off the line, but the dangerous Grampus also grazed the bar at the end of an exciting opening 45 minutes.
Magnum. No moustache, you'll notice
The second period was more one-sided than the first, with two goals within a minute effectively killing the Squirrels off just before the hour mark. Giant Whales defender Takahiro Masukawa bundled home in the 56th minute after a header on from Johnsen and straight away the majestic Magnum put the visitors ahead, with a very powerful shot that Ezumi could only palm into the top corner.
As Omiya fought to get back in the game, Denis Marques had two excellent shots when he came on as a sub - controversially replacing Daigo after the Squirrels' star man had been booked - although Yasuhiro Higuchi's side couldn't find the equaliser. There was still time for Ezumi to make one more stunning one-handed save from that man Magnum's header. There can be little doubt that Ardija were deservedly beaten today, although the match did provide further evidence to the watching Japan boss Takeshi Okada that Omiya's keeper must surely be playing his way into contention for international recognition.