Omiya Ardija rebounded from the horror show in Aichi and gave a much more determined performance against their neighbours Kashiwa Reysol tonight - which perhaps gives Squirrels supporters a glimmer of hope in the bid to stay up in J1. Fans arriving at Komaba at the beginning of the evening were greeted with the shock news that key midfielder Daigo Kobayashi, subject to some stinging criticism from supporters in recent days, had been dropped by controversial coach Satoru Sakuma in favour of big forward Hiroshi Morita.
Sakuma's other changes to the eleven mauled by Nagoya saw Hayato Hashimoto replace the suspended Chikara Fujimoto and Takuro Nishimura came in at right back for the disappointing Terukazu Tanaka.Koji Ezumi nevertheless kept his place between the posts, despite the arrival at the club on Tuesday of loan signing Kota Ogi.
So, I’m supposed to STOP this big round thing?
This was a match that Omiya really should have won and if it hadn't been for the pedantic referee sending off unusually impressive midfielder Yosuke Kataoka, the Squirrels may well have gone on to take three much-needed points. After the crushing defeat at the weekend, not surprisingly Ardija started off rather nervously and were punished in the tenth minute, when Sun Kings forward Tadanari Lee volleyed the opener after the hapless Ezumi could only palm a shot into his path.
But following that initial blow, the home side responded aggressively and nearly equalised through Hashimoto's thirty-yard piledriver which beat Yuta Minami - but not the upright. The highlight of the evening and undoubtedly Omiya's goal of the season so far came when the team's new Brazilian star Denis Marques equalised on the half-hour mark with a 25-yard rocket. Subsequently, Kota Yoshihara made Minami turn a shot around the post and the Squirrels went in at half time in the ascendancy.
The ballet that is top quality professional football
The second half was from an Ardija perspective ruined by the referee, although Leandro should have scored a second when he managed only to hit the side-netting after being put through by the magnificent Denis Marques. But Ardija gain a point on Kofu and Oita in the relegation battle, although the suspensions are now mounting up with Fujimoto, Kataoka and Yoshihara suspended for the Saitama derby on Saturday against the current league leaders. Nevertheless, a much-improved performance after the Nagoya debacle and in Denis Marques the long-suffering Squirrel Nation would seem to have a new hero.