There's MUDFLAPS. Compare for yourself the first image of a popular mudguard symbol for big rigs in the US with the symbol of the uniform supplier of Consadole Sapporo.....perfectly fitting for a rain-soaked Nishigaoka Stadium.
Saturday's matchup was a big test for both squads with similar places in the standings (4th place Verdy and 5th place Sapporo) , similar results against 2005 relegation victims (3-1 loss to Kobe for Verdy and 2-1 loss for Sapporo t Kashiwa) , and similar problems up front (Hiramoto and Hulk were both out after red card violations). Promising to be an entertaining match, both teams were focused, fuming, and desperate for a result. Anyhow, on to the lineups!
GK 1 Takuto HAYASHI
DF 15 Kenichi KAGA , 5 Tomohiko IKEUCHI, 23 Takahito CHIBA ,16 Shinji OTSUKA
MF 14 Tomoki SUZUKI,18 Hironobu HAGA,8 Makoto SUNAKAWA, 19 Takamichi SEKI
FW 17 Tomoaki SEINO,11 Shinya AIKAWA
GK 28 Toshiyasu TAKAHARA,DF 4 Yushi SODA, MF 29 Masaya NISHITANI (61),
MF 25 Seiya FUJITA (68), FW 13 Genki NAKAYAMA (77)
TOKYO VERDY 1969
GK 21 TAKAGI
DF 27 AOBA, 2 HAGIMURA, 4 TOGAWA, 20 HIROYAMA
MF 10 ANAILSON, 11 ONO, 15 KANAZAWA, 23 NEJIME
FW 9 BASILIO, 16 IIO
Subs: GK 1 MIZUHARA, 5 DEDIMAR, 8 NAGAI (66), 32 KUBA (79), 39 SAITO (35)
I came in to Nishigaoka Stadium fully expecting a facility that looked like a crack den or the junkyard from Fat Albert......instead, I thought the facility was rather nice. The pitch was a little choppy along the sidelines but it looked to be in good condition and the seats were very close to the action. I'll admit, it's not Saitama 2002 but it's much better than that dump of a stadium that Urawa calls the holy land (Komaba is a hole). It was in much better shape than National, which puts the 1969 seat holders in the upper deck so the can have empty space, torn up concrete, and old tires close to the field. Only 4200+ were in attendance but the close confines, the equal division of supporters and the atmosphere made it feel like a bigger crowd and it started out a little chippy.
Fresh off the burns in the opening minutes of last weeks game against Vissel, Verdy came in with a more focused effort and took it to Consadole. Reminiscent of the Thespa game, Harutaka Ono was the catalyst for the first few attacks for the Vultures. After a scramble in front of the Sapporo goal, Ono took a sharp shot which bounced off both posts and the crossbar and bounced out. Fortunately for Verdy, Yukihiro Aoba cleaned up the mess and notched his first score of the 2006 campaign.
In the past, this would give Verdy the impetus to relax and blow the lead. Not today. Verdy kept the pressure on and controlled the flow of the game.........this seemed to agitate the Consadole side, who stepped up the rough play. Inexplicably, the lead official didn't really take charge or give much warranted cards to the liberty taking team in red and white. The physical play would cause a few anxious moments in front of the Verdy goal but nothing too threatening.
At minute 29, tragedy struck as a Consadole defender went up on the back of Basilio for a header. Basilio clutched his ribs and crumpled to the ground. After a few tense moments, Basilio got up and tried to carry on. In minute 35, he was down again........this time for good. My man Masa Saito entered the competition and proceeded to do his impression of a human bowling ball, running head first into Sapporo defenders. It was possibly the most spastic performance ever by a striker. Kind of funny, kind of scary. The Basilio departure and the downpour that coincided with it sent the team into a small funk for the final ten minutes of the half.Fortuitously, Sapporo was not able to capitalize on it.
The second half started and a slightly more controlled Saito went on the attack with a couple good runs into the Sapporo end. A booming shot went wide right, but sent a message that Saito came to play. In minute 66, Ono (Anailson?) sent a pass forward to Saito who manage to split two defenders, put on a burst of speed, and send a shot past an isolated Hayashi for his first J League goal. He would almost duplicate the feat 10 minutes later, but a thuggish Consadole defender would conspire with an inept official to trip up Saito. Another score would be taken off the board when Hiroyama would be called offsides after putting in a deflected shot.
1. Shin Kanazawa- Impressive bounce back game.......Ono, Nejime, and Anailson were also good but Kanazawa really locked down the midfield. Good hustle and rarely out of position today. Soilent Green has been hard on the kid, but there were no complaints on Saturday. Great game.
2. Nozomi Hiroyama- Inserted into the back 4, Hiroyama helped settle a beleaguered back 4. All 4 were really impressive.........even Takagi wasn't bad today. By far, the strongest performance from the D line. Give them some time together and we could see some consistent defense.
3. Masaki Saito-Ugly start in an unfortunate situation, but his speed and physicality were refreshing. Might have earned a starting nod against a tough Yokohama defense next week.
Of the 5 games I've been to, this was the most enjoyable. The facility was great for a small crowd and Verdy put on their best performance of the season. The only downside to the whole match were the starting strikers. Basilio was disappointing because he went down with the injury (nothing he did, before that he had good pace and presence). It looked pretty bad and I'm concerned about a break in his ribs or a muscle tear. I'll try and update everyone on his condition. Kasunori Iio was disappointing beause he was tentative and inept. There was no agression or passion........nothing was on his shots. When he had breakaway opportunities, he would hesitate and allow the defenders to converge on him or misplay the ball. Pensiveness is not a good attribute in a striker. Watching his performance against the aggresiveness and decisiveness of Saito really highlighted his problems. It looks like no confidence to me. Saito on the other hand was a little too confident at times, going helter-skelter into opposing players. He got a yellow and could possibly notch up a red in the future, but his performance gave the squad a bit of life after Basilio's injury.
Takagi and the back 4 were efficient, but there were some communication breakdowns that need to be ironed out. It looks like he has more room for error than Mizuhara after 3 less than impressive performances. I also was a bit concerned with the ball punches, but the rain probably caused that more than a change in form. Not a bad performance.
Nick...............I saw a white guy at the game in the 1969 seats......was that you? I was the big guy in the Verdy green tarp and matching verdy hat, not sure if we saw each other or not.
Next match is Ulsan Horang on the 3rd in Korea......I won't be in attendance.
Send in your reports!