To the surprise of absolutely no-one, Omiya Ardija's disastrous September showed no signs of letting up at Jubilo Iwata on Saturday; for mid-October or no mid-October, a 2-1 scoreline in Jubilo's favour means that it is now eight games without a victory for under fire coach Toshiya Miura and his team. And while Iwata were picking up their third consecutive win to consolidate in sixth place, Omiya find themselves just a point ahead of fifteenth-placed Sanfrecce Hiroshima, thanking their lucky stars that Avispa Fukuoka, Kyoto Purple Sanga and Cerezo Osaka are so far adrift at the bottom.
As predicted, Ardija fielded Jun Marques Davidson for the suspended Yosuke Kataoka and continued with the Daigo Kobayashi / Kota Yoshihara partnership up front in the absence through injury of Naoto Sakurai. And the Squirrels started brightly enough when one considers at what a low ebb their confidence must be in the current climate, moving the ball neatly and looking to get forward, Jubilo responding by attacking down the flanks and aiming to get in crosses. After an early scare at the other end, Daigo Kobayashi went close for Ardija in the ninth minute after being set up by Yoshihara, but his shot was off-target.
Seconds later, however, disaster struck and Omiya were behind, as sloppy defending at a corner allowed Yoshiaki Ota in and one of the most promising young midfielders in the J-League wasted no time in beating Hiroki Aratani for the opening goal. All of which would in recent weeks have suggested that the men in orange were likely to capitulate with all haste - but remarkably, in the sixteenth minute a Marques through ball found Tatsunori Hisanaga who was felled in the area for a spot kick. Chikara Fujimoto stepped up and sent Yoshi Kawaguchi the wrong way to bring the game back to all square.
Fujimoto and Hisanaga then came more into the play as Omiya sought to attack with width, although the most clear-cut opportunity for a second Squirrels goal came via a Yukio Tsuchiya header from a corner kick. Just before the break, though, Jubilo's top scorer Ryoichi Maeda set the alarm bells ringing as he caused panic in the Ardija back four as he got on the end of a Toshihiro Hattori cross. Nevertheless, the half ended one apiece and there was no denying that things were not quite as bleak as Omiya's hard-done-by supporters have come to expect.
Four minutes after the re-start, however, and things were back to normal. Fabricio fired in a free-kick from just outside the area which hit the post - and, sure enough, it was Maeda who was first to react as he pushed the ball past Aratani to give his side the lead. The hearts of Squirrels fans sunk yet further on 63 minutes when Kota Yoshihara was withdrawn in favour of Hiroshi Morita and a more aerial attacking approach; unsurprisingly, though, it was the introduction with eighteen minutes remaining of Hayato Hashimoto that had the most effect as far as creating scoring opportunities was concerned, but the advantage remained with the home side and in truth Ardija never really came close to drawing level.
"We played a reasonable, aggressive counter-attacking game in the first half," commented the increasingly helpless Miura after seeing his side record yet another defeat. "The speed of Ota was a decisive factor, but that's not an excuse and we have to take responsibility for our mistakes. There were problems with stamina in the second half and that was played more at Jubilo's pace than our own," surely an acknowledgement that there are yet more difficulties aside from tactical issues and player selection facing this Omiya side as they fight to stay in J1. Saturday's fixture at an erratic JEF United will provide a further stern challenge of just how resolute the coach and his players are.