Omiya Ardija and FC Tokyo might both have emerged pointless from their opening matches of the 2007 season, but the manner of their defeats - against Gamba Osaka and Sanfrecce Hiroshima respectively - could scarcely have been more different. The Squirrels put in a gutsy, disciplined performance at potential title challengers Gamba and, while they offered little in the way of attacking threat, were only let down by a single individual error from Yosuke Kataoka two minutes from time.
Tomorrow's opponents Tokyo, on the other hand, suffered something of a defensive disaster at the hands of Hiroshima's dangerous front pairing of the aggressive Ueslei and goal-poaching Japanese international Hisato Sato. 3-0 down at half-time, they nevertheless ended up with a brace of goals from their own star striker Lucas to show for their comeback in the second 45 minutes in a 4-2 defeat.
FC Tokyo dangerman Lucas
Lucas was able to take advantage of sloppy Sanfrecce defending to get his name on the scoresheet, indicating that Leandro and Kataoka will have to have their wits about them if they want to help keeper Hiroki Aratani to keep a clean sheet - assuming, of course, that coach Robert Verbeek allows Kataoka to keep his place in the starting line-up. But overall it was a confident enough display from the Ardija back line, Leandro in particular on his debut looking assured and solid; instead, as with Toshiya Miura's team last season, the concerns of Omiya supporters lie at the other end of the pitch.
For aside from Chikara Fujimoto's early run and shot that squeezed just past the far post, the Squirrels offered almost nothing in the way of attacking threat. Enilton and Daigo Kobayashi were largely anonymous, apparently isolated up front and finding it difficult to get into the game, while Hayato Hashimoto must also surely take more responsibility for link-up play and the creation of chances than he displayed last Saturday.
A bit more of this sort of thing, please, Hashimoto
This is especially true in tomorrow's game, against a Tokyo defence that will be reeling from having conceded four to the dynamic Sato and Ueslei, but equally will be seeking to get things back on to an even keel for the early stages of the season. Hashimoto undoubtedly did much at the end of last year to convince that he is worthy of a first-team place. He now needs to show that he can step up to the plate and be a key man for Ardija in 2007 as well.