This was a game that Omiya Ardija couldn't afford to lose. They did.
The only change to the team line-up from Saturday was the return of defender Leandro in place of the suspended Yoshiyuki Kobayashi, although to the relief of many Squirrels fans Yosuke Kataoka was shuffled out of the back four to partner Masato Saito in midfield. Satoru Sakuma's team started off in a similar vein as they had done against Shimizu S-Pulse - going forward and generally looking quite menacing, although Vissel Kobe did have their fair share of chances.
Captain Chikara Fujimoto set up Kota Yoshihara early on, only for the diminutive number nine to strike the corner flag from about ten yards out. The same player made no mistake on twenty minutes, however, after a brilliant through ball from Denis Marques resulted in Kota chipping over Tatsuya Enomoto - the second time in a matter of days that this new combination of Ardija players has found the net.
The two Leandros. Guess which was better?
But ex-Squirrel Leandro equalised on the half hour mark with a free header from a corner, the little Brazilian simply hitting the ball into the ground and over Omiya's second choice keeper Koji Ezumi - who should have done a lot better. Just before half time, Leandro struck the woodwork and although the teams went in at the interval on level terms, the visitors were by that time having the better of things.
Even so, Ardija started the second half well and only Leandro will know how he missed an open goal from three yards out when set up by Daigo Kobayashi. Leandro again and fellow central defender Daisuke Tomita both had excellent headed chances that were saved by Enomoto. But disaster struck in the 73rd minute, when left back Yasuhiro Hato was stupidly caught in possession on the half way line by Leandro who headed straight for goal and scored off both posts via the static Ezumi. And Omiya appeared to lose all fight after that, as Yoshito Okubo wrapped things up with a dubious penalty two minutes from time.
The ref signals for an Ardija corner. They didn’t score, though
So the man Sakuma released at the end of 2005 all too predictably came back and got his revenge on Omiya: Kobe's Leandro gave one of the best displays seen from a visiting forward this season and after an excellent 2006 at Montedio Yamagata would appear to destined for greater things. For Sakuma's weary troops, though, the future is less certain.
Daigo Kobayashi fires in a free kick. No goal there, either
Ardija are still a team that struggles to score and are now starting to make defensive errors. Injured keeper Hiroki Aratani needs to come back to full fitness as quickly as possible - Ezumi has conceded eight goals in three games and following the arrival at the club of Takashi Hirano, curiously not even a substitute this evening, there must surely be question marks over Hato's place in the team on Sunday for the difficult-looking match against in-form Kashima Antlers. It's looking like a real struggle to stay up.