Omiya Ardija's first team squad completed their training on Friday for the second match of the new J1 season at Avispa Fukuoka. And having picked up a 4-2 win over JEF United in the opening game, confidence hasn't been in short supply for the Squirrels, despite an unimpressive first half performance that saw an attacking style of higher long balls to the diminutive Saul Martinez unsurprisingly meet with failure when faced with the tough physicality of the JEF back line, the 2006 Omiya team now has a Plan B. In contrast with the one-dimensional offensive tactical approach of last season, Toshiya Miura was able to make a substitution or two and ask his players to operate in a different manner, passing the ball through the midfield to gain tight control of possession in the match.
"Oh, and that's a wild slice over the bar from Sakurai... dreadfully disappointing..."
Three goals in the third quarter claimed the points, which had earlier seemed an unlikely outcome, given the visitors' dominance in the opening stages of the game. "Winning the first match has boosted the self-confidence of the players," commented Miura, "and we've had a good week's training this week as a result - they've really knuckled down and concentrated on the tasks in hand. Fukuoka look as though they'll be quite a similar side to last year, they haven't made all that many changes. They're a hard-working team, up to the challenge of playing in the higher league, which they've demonstrated in their pre-season performances as well as against Jubilo last weekend. In the end they only got a draw but were a bit unlucky - it'll definitely be a tough match tomorrow."
A key man in the JEF match was substitute Masato Saito, who came on at the half-time break and was instrumental in helping Omiya to get a grip on the middle of the pitch. "It was a good result against JEF, but there are areas we can improve in. We're not very mature as a unit yet, but that's a question of playing more together rather than anything else. The first half last weekend was poor, we started badly and tomorrow would like to show that we've learned from that. Fukuoka's level of motivation will be high and we haven't forgotten how we felt twelve months ago - they'll want to win the game."
Don't smirk, Saito. And stand up straight
It was Yukio Tsuchiya who, on his first team debut following a move from Kashiwa Reysol, made way for Saito against JEF after a patchy 45 minutes in which he often seemed unsure of where he should be, frequently being pulled out of position by JEF's strike force of Seiichiro Maki and Mario Haas. "Even though we did eventually win the first game, there hasn't been a feeling this week that we could rest. The Fukuoka match has become very important and we've tried in training to reflect on what went well and what went badly against JEF. Fukuoka have quite a bit of experience to them and are a tough side - we'll have to be at our best to beat them."