This was a match that Robert Verbeek's new team simply did not deserve to lose. In what was a close game at Banpaku against one of the expected J1 title contenders, Omiya Ardija scarcely had any real problems until a couple of minutes from time, when former Squirrels striker Bare (who else?) capitalised on a mistake from a distraught Yosuke Kataoka to hit his shot into the ground and over stranded keeper Hiroki Aratani.
Interviewed after the match, Verbeek said, "We controlled the game for the first twenty minutes and gave away possession with only two minutes to go. We tell the defenders to kick the ball away, but that's football". Although the Dutchman emerges from his opening J1 match with no points on the board, plus points were the performances of Leandro and new captain Chikara Fujimoto. Fujimoto led by example and almost scored as early as the 5th minute, when he side-stepped several defenders before placing his effort narrowly wide.
A rare moment in which Enilton makes a nuisance of himself
The big Brazilian Leandro proved to be a very physical and imposing defender and as such opposition players certainly know when they've been in a challenge with him. He was caught out a couple of times, however, in his forays upfield - and looked a lot like a frustrated midfielder playing in defence. Central midfielder Naoya Saeki, having played his way into the team following a good pre-season, also looked tidy by virtue of keeping it simple and not trying anything outlandish.
In terms of the negatives, though - and continuing the theme from the 2006 league campaign - Ardija were unthreatening up front, with neither Enilton nor Daigo Kobayashi getting in a shot on goal throughout the entire match. Whether this will become a trend for this year as well, or whether a defensive formation was adopted as a one-off against a strong attacking team such as Gamba is of course thus far unclear. Ultimately, while it was very disappointing to lose at the end, fans will be hoping to see a more adventurous Omiya side against FC Tokyo at Saitama Stadium next week.