Omiya Ardija's fourth match of the Nabisco Cup campaign was ruined by incessant rain and the game against Yokohama F Marinos was played in very difficult conditions at Komaba on Wednesday night. As in the away fixture at Kashiwa Reysol, coach Robert Verbeek elected to field several reserves such as keeper Koji Ezumi and right back Terukazu Tanaka, while in the absence of Kota Yoshihara it was Hiroshi Morita who partnered Enilton up front, with Salles taking a place on the bench.
The Squirrels made a bright start and midfielder Yoshiyuki Kobayashi scored his first goal of the season after only seven minutes, with a fine left foot shot from the edge of the area that whizzed past Tetsuya Enomoto in the Marinos goal. But after that, Omiya were fortunate to hold on to the lead until half-time - the on-song away side had several big chances to get back on level terms, managing both to hit the crossbar and to have a shot cleared off the line.
"Hello" "Hello... can we go back inside now?" "Yeah, OK"
With no changes to personnel made on either side during the interval, the main talking point among Ardija supporters was Morita's anger at being substituted for Salles a few minutes after the re-start. The big striker didn't react well at all and kicked the door on the way to the dressing room, throwing down his shirt that was left for trainer Elcio to pick up. Overall, however, Morita can have no complaints about being withdrawn, as he had a poor game.
Fellow forward Enilton tried very hard, but kept getting caught offside and had no luck with the officials all night. The best two Squirrels players were central defender Leandro and wide man Hayato Hashimoto. Leandro had a tremendous first full game back after injury and was involved all over the pitch - intercepting passes, saving keeper Ezumi's bacon and even setting up a scoring chance for Enilton, who ultimately shot straight at the keeper after being put clean through. But the GGOA Man of the Match award goes to the fantastic Hashimoto who made a series of telling passes, but also tackled back and drove the team on to the attack.
Temper temper Morita
The Squirrels held out until just seven minutes from time, conceding a Yosuke Saito equaliser seconds after the baffling replacement of Hashimoto for Manabu Wakabayashi, who was bizarrely then played out on the left wing. All in all, though, while Omiya still find themselves three points clear at the top of the group, Ardija didn't deserve to win the game on the balance of play and should indeed be grateful with the point.