It’s official! Kashiwanoha is even worse than Komaba
Another 0-0 draw for Omiya Ardija on their return to J1 action - but it was a valuable point in the battle against relegation for Robert Verbeek's men, especially in the context of a tough-looking away match against a Kashiwa Reysol team currently fourth in the division. Moreover, five games unbeaten since the unlucky 2-1 defeat at Sanfrecce Hiroshima constitutes a record for the Squirrels during their two-and-a-bit years as a top flight team, giving some hope that this is an Ardija team capable of fighting their way out of trouble.
Nevertheless, despite the positives to come out of the encounter, Verbeek's side have still scored just three goals in their unbeaten run. Rumours were circulating among the visiting supporters that General Manager Satoru Sakuma is once again on a business trip to Brazil and it is clearly to be hoped that he is in the market for a reliable striker to put away chances.
The most notable thing to be taken from the team sheet at Kashiwa for Omiya supporters, however, was undoubtedly the return to action of talismanic midfielder Daigo Kobayashi. Having upped his level of training this week, after a lengthy period on the sidelines due to a back injury, coach Verbeek acknowledged afterwards that it was never going to be possible for Daigo to play the whole ninety minutes against Reysol.
The Squirrel Nation in full voice
But Ardija's first-half performance very, very good - aggressive, incisive and indeed Omiya should really have gone in ahead at the interval, Daigo proving instrumental in most of the Squirrels' positive moves. Namesake Yoshiyuki Kobayashi, too, caught the eye, seemingly trying to impress his brother Ryo Kobayashi, a defender on Reysol's bench.
And Daigo could have scored twice - one a long-range blast tipped wide by home keeper Yuta Minami, while on another occasion Omiya's star man nearly turned in skipper Chikara Fujimoto's cross. But the ball went wide after Daigo collided with Minami, resulting in a sustained break in play during which the Squirrel Nation waited with hearts in mouths. Kota Yoshihara, too, had a great chance but skewed wide from inside the six-yard box.
Ardija retreated into their shells in the second half and had very few chances. The nearest the game came to a goal fell to Kashiwa, although Yasuhiro Hato made a heroic goal-line clearance to keep the scores level, injuring himself in the process. Otherwise, the former Kashiwa man had a poor game on his return to the team. Overall, then, a good point - and one that takes the Squirrels clear ahead of Yokohama FC after their defeat at Gamba Osaka - but it could have been much better if Omiya had a proper centre forward.
Kota Yoshihara goes for goal, with Leandro in attendance