After overseeing his team's third goalless draw in only four matches, Omiya Ardija coach Robert Verbeek pronounced himself satisfied with the result, given that keeper Hiroki Aratani was forced off through injury early in the second half, and both Leandro and Daigo Kobayashi had come into the game less than 100% fit. It is hard to deny Verbeek's claim that the Squirrels have been unfortunate with injuries this season - but in seeking to cope with the challenges presented by an under-strength squad whilst at the same time needing to pick up points, the Dutchman's safety-first tactics are winning Ardija few friends among neutral spectators.
The phrase "tsumaranai deshita!" ("that was boring!") was overheard in the stands on more than one occasion during another wet afternoon at Komaba. Half the strategy is certainly functioning well, in that Omiya's cagey 4-5-1 formation is proving very difficult to break down for many teams - next Saturday's game with league leaders Gamba Osaka notwithstanding - but at the same time the team create very few chances and have no apparent goalscorers. It would be churlish to complain too much on the back of an eight-game unbeaten run that has seen the Squirrels climb towards safety, but the brand of football introduced by Verbeek is not what the fans want to see.
The best and only real opportunity to fall Omiya's way came after ten minutes, when Enilton yet again should have scored but hit his shot straight at Sailors keeper Tetsuya Enomoto, who also turned around Daigo Kobayashi's subsequent shot in the same move. And that, to the frustration of another respectable crowd in excess of 10,000, was more or less it for a first half in which Ardija arguably had the upper hand in terms of possession, but failed to make it count.
Marinos coach Hiroshi Hayano made two changes during the break, partly in order to reduce the amount of space available to the home side's already feeble attack. But at the beginning of the second period, a quick Yokohama move was brought to an end only by Squirrels net-minder Aratani injuring his wrist. This brought about a break in play and a first J-League appearance of the year for substitute keeper Koji Ezumi. In the remaining forty-two minutes or so, the visitors didn't make him work too hard, but former Oita Trinita man Ezumi still made a couple of smart saves.
It’s N-A-O-Y-A S-A-E-K-I, mate
At the other end, Enilton fluffed another presentable chance and shortly afterwards was replaced by Manabu Wakabayashi, who despite his recent burgeoning reputation as a super-sub - having notched up late goals against both Kawasaki Frontale and Albirex Niigata - didn't win one header against the Marinos central defensive duo of Yuji Nakazawa and Naoki Matsuda. Yoshiyuki Kobayashi had a shot over the bar near the end and everybody was happy to see the referee seemingly blow earlier than the three scheduled minutes of injury time. Tsumaranai deshita indeed.