Ardija put in another dominant performance on Sunday and should have beaten the reaigning J-League champions, but for wanton finishing. Following the arrival at the club of coach Yasuhiro Higuchi, Omiya are a much more attacking proposition in 2008 and correspondingly more exciting to watch than previous Squirrels sides.
Higuchi kept the same line-up as had started last weekend in the draw with Urawa Reds, Shin Kanazawa keeping his place on the left of midfield and fit-again ex-captain Chikara Fujimoto having to be content with a place on the bench. From the start Omiya put the Antlers under pressure, without getting rewarded.
Denis Marques had two great opportunities in the first half as the men in orange peppered Hitoshi Sogahata's goal with a variety of shots that were either saved or missed. Things went badly wrong, though, after about half an hour when central defender Daisuke Tomita, under pressure from the impressive youngster Shinzo Koroki, mis-timed a looping back pass that Koji Ezumi had to fling himself to deflect away from the goal. Unfortunately the loose ball fell to Koroki, who slid in an undeserved opener to end Kashima's five-hour goal drought.
Although the visitors hit the bar with a Yuzo Tashiro header just after the interval, it was almost all Omiya in the second period. Denis Marques could have scored two and substitute Pedro Junior hit the crossbar with a wicked 25-yard curler after beating several defenders - but at last, Yoshiyuki Kobayashi grabbed the equaliser. Daigo Kobayashi's corner was headed by Leandro back into the six-yard area for skipper Yoshiyuki to head past the stranded Sogahata.
After the goal, the Squirrels went for the jugular in an all-out attempt to gain maximum points against a tiring opponent - but Ardija's familiar problem resurfaced, in that they wasted so many clear-cut opportunities. The best of them fell to Daigo in injury time after a brilliant pass by Denis Marques. An easy tap-in looked to be on the cards, but somehow Omiya's star man placed it wide, much to the disappointment of the crowd and especially of coach Higuchi, who threw himself to the floor.