After going down to a narrow defeat at Gamba Osaka one week ago, Ardija fans had some reason for cautious optimism ahead of the first home game of 2007 - but following a 2-0 loss at the hands of FC Tokyo it would be difficult indeed to argue that Robert Verbeek's team deserved anything out of this game. In the end, the scoreline was even on the flattering side for Omiya.
Takuro Nishimura. Bad fashion, bad performance
This is not to say that the Squirrels had no opportunities to break their scoring duck for the year. Chikara Fujimoto had a glancing header in the first half that was well saved by Yoichi Doi, Kota Yoshihara should have scored in injury time and the frustrating Enilton had a good chance in the first half that he headed straight at FC Tokyo's international keeper. The nearest Omiya came to scoring was shortly after the interval, when Hayato Hashimoto's free-kick for once beat Doi, only to hit the inside of the post and bounce away to safety.
The visitors had Ardija on the back foot for most of the game and carved out a number of clear-cut chances. As well as hitting the bar twice in the second half, they should really have scored two or three more but for poor finishing. Omiya were unable to cope at all with big striker Sota Hirayama and the presence of the former Heracles man caused all sorts of trouble for the home defence, for whom Yosuke Kataoka on this occasion got away with a carbon copy of his late blunder against Gamba.
In a generally very weak performance, neither will coach Verbeek be happy with the two goals conceded: a free Yasuyuki Konno header from a corner for the first that beat both Hashimoto and Hiroki Aratani on the line. The second came about as a result of a suicidal backpass from Fujimoto that was lashed in on the volley by Tokyo's new arrival from Jubilo Iwata, Takashi Fukunishi. At 2-0 it was game over and subsequently Hiromi Hara's side had a flurry of chances to add to their tally.
The second FC Tokyo goal goes in past Aratani
The man of the match in orange was Hashimoto, who delivered some quality crosses that no-one in a forward position was able to anticipate. Yoshiyuki Kobayashi in particular was terrible and his passes were hopelessly overhit, while Enilton - albeit at this early stage of the season - ominously resembles another Saul Martinez, although with added petulance.
Omiya Ardija may have in place a different manager for the new season, but it nevertheless appears increasingly as if Robert Verbeek is another Toshiya Miura - playing 4-4-1-1 counter-attacking football at home won't get supporters flocking to the games. Once again, this is an Ardija team that doesn't create enough chances and the few that are created do not get taken.
Manabu Wakabayashi gets his first run out of the season
As a result, it is hard to be confident about getting anything from next weekend's early kick-off at Oita Trinita, but Squirrels fans are already hoping nervously that Verbeek is able to change the line-up and formation to adopt a more positive approach. Including three pre-season fixtures, today's defeat means five competitive games without scoring a goal - Omiya Ardija need to change that statistic as soon as possible.