A little over 3500 hardy souls attended the Emperor's Cup Fourth Round game with J2 dwellers Cerezo Osaka in splendid Sunday afternoon weather - although the football on display was hardly as pleasing. Coach Yasuhiro Higuchi put out a strong line-up, with only Daigo Kobayashi missing from the available first-teamers and, given that Daigo is not able to play against Kawasaki Frontale next weekend, it seemed as if Higuchi wanted to try out a few ideas in preparation for yet another game that is critical to the future of the club.
The Squirrels' boss must surely have come away disappointed despite the win, as the old failings of poor passing and an inability to create decent scoring opportunities came to the fore once again. The aggressive and dynamic football displayed in the first half against JEF United was forgotten, as Omiya looked directionless and lacking in cohesion. In the first half, Ardija were restricted to long-range Taishi Tsukamoto free kicks that were easily saved by Cerezo goalkeeper Hiromasa Yamamoto. There was one scare at the other end but the Squirrels' blushes were spared by some quick thinking from Naoya Saeki, who cleared upfield from inside the goal area.
Omiya were much better in the second half and probably edged the victory through their more aggressive play. The goal came just after the hour, when Tomoya Uchida crossed from the left on to the head of Klemen Lavric, who headed past Yamamoto from about eight yards out. The Slovenian, scoring for the first time since the mid-September loss to FC Tokyo, didn't even bother to celebrate properly summing up the general ambivalence of players and fans alike to the afternoon. There were a few other chances for the likes of Saeki and Yosuke Kataoka through the usual long strikes ploy and Ardija held on to claim a place against Nagoya Grampus in the next round.
Cerezo had a number of players who appeared capable enough of doing a good job for a J1 team and there would be room enough at Omiya Park for Rui Komatsu, Kaio and Gilton. But the Squirrels club captain Yoshiyuki Kobayashi looks done for the season, as he got carried off near the end of the game after coming on as a half-time substitute himself.