Yet another crucial game took place this weekend in the fight to avoid relegation for Omiya Ardija - and the Squirrels certainly rose to the challenge, with a gritty display in a very entertaining match against title contenders Kawasaki Frontale. Despite the suspension of midfield star Daigo Kobayashi and the continued absence through injury of key forward Denis Marques, coach Yasuhiro Higuchi's pre-match orders were clearly the same as those he gave prior to the win over JEF United two weeks ago: "Attack!".
And attack Ardija did. Chikara Fujimoto in particular had a breathtaking game to commemorate his 300th league appearance and nearly grabbed the lead after a mazy run past three defenders, although his rather tame left-foot effort was easy enough for Frontale's heckled ex-Squirrels keeper Eiji Kawashima. Alongside Fujimoto up front, Klemen Lavric put himself about all match and was a constant threat to the Kawasaki defence. He nearly scored in the first half, but failed to control the ball when less than six yards out and it rebounded safely to Kawashima.
Omiya took the lead in the 26th minute through a nice bit of skill from Tomoya Uchida. He backheeled a pass for Lavric to strike the foot of the post from eighteen yards out - but the rebound fell straight into the path of Fujimoto, who tapped in from close range and celebrated his goal in characteristic style. The home side pressed for a second, but nine minutes later were stopped in their tracks by a quite brilliant goal from Yusuke Mori. Lavric headed a clearance seemingly to safety about 35 yards out but straight on to the right boot of the Frontale midfielder, who absolutely nailed a perfect volley that went like an exocet into Koji Ezumi's top left-hand corner.
The second half started off in the same vein as the first, although with more possession for the visitors. The ever-dangerous Juninho had a powerful shot turned around the post by Ezumi and they continued to put the Squirrels' goal under pressure. Nevertheless, at the other end Kawashima had to make a brilliant fingertip save from Fujimoto's overhead kick and then produced a spectacular leap to deny Yosuke Kataoka, whose right foot piledriver seemed destined for the top corner.
But the winner came from Lavric and what a goal it was. Taishi Tsukamoto crossed from the right and the ball fell to the Slovenian forward in space just inside the Frontale box. In one motion he flicked the ball up with his right foot and then crashed a volley round the defender, over the helpless Kawashima into the top left-hand corner of the net. Cue delirium on the terraces and the realisation that if Omiya keep on playing like this they will still be in J1 next season. Great game.