Tame Squirrels Throw Away Points As Defence Reigns
Further disappointment for fans of Omiya Ardija from the club's J1 match against Oita Trinita at the weekend, when - in a match there for the taking - the team disappeared into its shell after half time, conceded all the ground to the visitors and ended up giving away an own goal in injury time to throw away two points. As goalscorer Hiroshi Morita commented afterwards, "It wasn't a great performance and to draw a match like that feels like a defeat."
Hiroshi Morita takes on the Oita defence
For the Squirrels had commenced in a reasonably positive frame of mind, with Jun Marques Davidson and Yosuke Kataoka looking strong in the middle of midfield and Chikara Fujimoto and Daigo Kobayashi on the flanks eager to get involved and create chances for Morita and his strike partner Kota Yoshihara. Two minutes in, Shusaku Nishikawa in the Trinita goal was forced to make a save when Daigo's left-wing cross was headed goalwards by Morita - but Oita responded quickly with a shot from Shota Matsuhashi that was saved by Hiroki Aratani.
On fourteen minutes, though, it was Omiya who edged in front, when Daigo broke through on the left and sent a fine shot past Nishikawa for his fifth of the season. From thereon, the Squirrels tried to press home their advantage but were pushed back by a lively Oita side. Even so, it was somewhat against the run of play when an equaliser came on 31 minutes through Tulio from just outside the penalty area. This setback failed to knock Ardija off their stride and they continued to probe for a second goal, Kataoka and Daigo combining to send in a cross that Morita headed out of the reach of Nishikawa and into the net for a 36th-minute lead.
Morita puts the Squirrels back in front
And so the first half finished in satisfactory style for the home side - and the lack of half-time substitutions from coach Toshiya Miura appeared to indicate that he was keen for the team to continue in the same vein after the break. Indeed, he later confirmed that he'd instructed the players "to go out and be aggressive, not passive," a fact which makes the second-half performance all the more frustrating, as the flow of play moved ore and more in favour of Oita, with striker Daiki Takamatsu, Teppei Nishiyama and substitute Masato Yamazaki having more of an influence on the match as Ardija, in contrast, seemed happy to allow Oita the lion's share of possession.
Defending a Trinita free-kick
Eighteen minutes into the second period, Yasuhiro Hato sustained an injury and was replaced by Daisuke Tomita, but although Trinita continued to put Omiya under pressure, the score remained at 2-1. With nineteen minutes remaining, Naoto Sakurai was sent on for Yoshihara in an attempt to provide more attacking zest so as to offer the defence some respite with a change of rhythm.
But the Squirrels were forced to play a counter-attacking style as their only offensive outlet and consequently offered almost nothing up front as Oita continued the search for an equaliser. With only seconds remaining, it seemed as if Omiya would get away with three points and a second-half display totally lacking in ambition - but as the clock ticked down, Yuichi Nemoto swung a free-kick into the box and in the melee, it glanced off the head of Ardija skipper Seiichiro Okuno and into the net for a shattering leveller.
Okuno notches up own goal number 311 of his career, maybe
"Because it was a home game, we wanted to start aggressively and positively, to try and get the upper hand - we scored the opening goal but then had to step off the gas because of Oita's pace," commented Toshiya Miura. "The equaliser came when we were slow to pick up a second ball, but we took control again, scored and I think were pretty good in the first half. Conceding from a set piece right at the end, I've got to say that if we don't improve that aspect of our play, we're going to throw away a lot of points needlessly during the course of the season."