Returning from J1's two-week break, Omiya Ardija put in a solid performance at bottom club Cerezo Osaka to dominate the match and eventually come away with a 1-0 victory. With Jubilo Iwata only drawing at home to Kashima Antlers, the Squirrels therefore move up to eighth place in the division and, having four wins in the last five games, face high-fliers and reigning champions Gamba Osaka next week with some confidence. The Ardija line-up saw Takuro Nishimura come in on the right-hand side of defence for Yasuhiro Hato, and Yoshiyuki Kobayashi in central midfield alongside Yosuke Kataoka, but elsewhere the team was as expected - Hiroshi Morita and Naoto Sakurai up front, Kota Yoshihara still on the bench.
And for once it was Toshiya Miura's team who started the stronger, Toninho and Yukio Tsuchiya looking assured in the middle of the defence, Daigo Kobayashi's distribution and vision as effective as ever and Tatsunori Hisanaga on the look-out for opportunities to feed the front pair. It was Sakurai who had the first sniff of a chance on three minutes, but the first real opportunity for either side came ten minutes later when the same player combined with Daigo. Cerezo keeper Motohiro Yoshida saved smartly the shot from Omiya's new international star and Tsuchiya was just unable to convert the parry.
Yosuke Kataoka in celebration mode
The Squirrels continued to have the upper hand, as Daigo, Morita and Sakurai all went close, although at the other end a 38th-minute slip-up by the normally reliable Tsuchiya deflected the ball onto the post with Yoshito Okubo lurking. The mistake went unpunished, however, and even then there was still time at the end of the first half for Daigo to cause panic in the home defence and almost to give Omiya what would undoubtedly have been a deserved lead. Nevertheless, it was still goalless at the interval - but the visitors maintained their domination into the second half and it was Toninho who almost repeated his trick from the previous game against Kyoto by scoring early on, this time with a header after good work from Daigo.
Ten minutes after the re-start, it looked as if Ardija had finally made the breakthrough when Sakurai pushed the ball over the line after another Daigo corner / Toninho header combination, but the striker was ruled offside and the goal chalked off. As the game progressed, still the Squirrels were being held at arm's length by a resolute Cerezo defence, something Toshiya Miura sought to rectify as he withdrew Hisanaga - replaced by Hayato Hashimoto in a rare first team outing - and soon afterwards put on Masato Saito for Yoshiyuki Kobayashi.
Hashimoto soon had an impact, feeding Morita for yet another chance - but just when it seemed as if it was never going to happen, at last the goal came. Sakurai held on to possession inside the penalty area and slipped it to Takuro Nishimura, whose pass freed Yosuke Kataoka for a right-foot shot that finally beat Yoshida.
"We’re gonna win the league" Uh, no
Miura immediately replaced a tired Sakurai with the pacy Yoshihara in order to increase the pressure on Cerezo as they fought for an equaliser, and characteristically the former Gamba man provided danger on the counter attack even in the short period in which he was on the field. But the score remained at 1-0, the least that Omiya deserved for a positive enough display against an admittedly poor Cerezo side. Ardija now lie in eighth place at the halfway stage of this year's J1 campaign and now have two points more than they did at the same time in 2005.