After a short break following on from the dazzling 1-0 win over Urawa Reds, Saturday's match at home to mid-ranking Jubilo Iwata was little more than another three points down the drain for Omiya Ardija. And all the evidence from a woeful second half was that the heroics against Urawa will prove to be in vain come the end of the season.
Bringing Yosuke Kataoka and skipper Chikara Fujimoto back into the midfield following their periods of suspension, coach Satoru Sakuma reverted to what he clearly believes to be his strongest team - a 4-4-2 formation with Denis Marques and Hiroshi Morita up front, supported by Fujimoto and Daigo Kobayashi on the flanks. Indeed, the Squirrels started reasonably enough against a Jubilo side being led for the first time by incoming coach Atsushi Uchiyama; Omiya's movement was good, the energy levels were high and it looked like Sakuma's team were carrying on from the previous two impressive performances.
Yoshiyuki does the splits to no avail
Ardija had some excellent chances to go in front, but as is often the case didn't take them. Morita should have scored, but instead put a free volley wide from six yards after a great cross from Fujimoto and Morita also set up Denis Marques with a neat flick, although the Brazilian's lobbed effort cleared both Yoshi Kawaguchi and the crossbar. Just prior to the interval, disaster struck as Daigo Kobayashi hobbled off in clear distress and for the remainder of the match, Omiya were lethargic and devoid of ideas.
Denis Marques had the Squirrels' only real chance when set up by Takuro Nishumura, but his right foot shot went past Kawaguchi's right-hand post. At the other end, the J-League's favourite half-Japanese half-Northern Irishman Robert Cullen was Ardija's nemesis, setting up both Jubilo goals. The first for young midfielder Kota Ueda was creativity itself and Cullen then also provided an assist on the second for Yoshiaki Ota, although that had a hint of offside.
A job well done
For the Squirrels, the momentum of a draw against Kashiwa and the famous defeat of Urawa seems to have dissipated almost instantly and, worse still, Kobayashi seems likely to be absent for some period. His replacement, Hayato Hashimoto, suffered the ignominy of himself being substituted as he played an ineffectual game for an ineffectual team. Back to the drawing board for Sakuma, as J2 looms large.