Fiiiiiiiiinally. Finally, at last, after all that, in the end. Miracle of miracles, Toshiya Miura delivered an Omiya Ardija home win, as the men in orange overcame Cerezo Osaka with a superb brace from Hayato Hashimoto, the young midfielder who has worked his way onto the edges of the starting eleven to provide some of the team's brighter moments in recent weeks.
Facing a Cerezo side who went on to display a lack of motivation remarkable in a group of players still able to avoid automatic relegation, Miura's selection introduced Hashimoto for Chikara Fujimoto on the left of midfield and, to the delight of supporters everywhere, Hiroshi Morita up front for the inconsistent Alison. And it was Hashimoto who made his mark early on in the game, floating in a free-kick that provided a chance for Toninho as early as the fifth minute and then having a decent shot of his own after a good moving involving Yasuhiro Hato,Daigo Kobayashi and Yoshiyuki Kobayashi.
Defending a Cerezo set play
Despite an at times electric display from Hashimoto and the visitors' lack of ambition, the first half finished at 0-0 as Ardija seemed to lose focus in the latter stages. But after the re-start, Omiya took the game by the scruff of the neck. In 48th minute, Daigo fed Tatsunori Hisanaga down the right and his cross was met by a smart Hashimoto header for the opening goal.
Subsequently, Cerezo stepped up a gear and put together some more positive moves, only to find Yukio Tsuchiya, Toninho and Yosuke Kataoka in solid form at the back. Then on 65 minutes, the referee awarded the Squirrels a free-kick just outside the penalty area. Man of the moment Hashimoto took responsibility, despite the presence on the pitch of his close friend Daigo Kobayashi, and doubled the lead with a superb set piece.
The man of the moment makes it 2-0
Coach Miura was clearly more than happy to protect a 2-0 scoreline, withdrawing Morita in favour of the additional security of Masato Saito in midfield. Even so, the best chance in the remainder of the game fell to Omiya in the shape of a typically dangerous shot from Kataoka six minutes from time. But two further positives were to emerge from the match as Chikara Fujimoto came on as late substitute following his injury at Oita - and the defence kept a clean sheet for the first time since mid-August, ironically in the 1-0 defeat of Cerezo.
Yosuke Kataoka in action
Time will tell if this comfortable victory was Toshiya Miura signing off with a win in his last home league match as Omiya coach. Whoever is in charge in 2007, however, will in all probability have a J1 squad that includes Hayato Hashimoto as an emerging new star.