G. Osaka 5-2 S-Pulse
Usami 9, 72 ------------------- Kagami 20
Patrick 14, 37 ---------------- Takagi Y 24
Wednesday November 26th, 7pm
Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo
DF Miura G
DF Lee KiJe
MF Takagi Y
Omae on for Kaneko (72)
Nagasawa on for Kagami (76)
Hiroi on for Miura (86)
Having seen that line up, no S-Pulse fan in their right mind had any illusions about the way this tie was going to go. It was was a B Team. A reserve side. To spell it out:
Of our starting XI, two had started against Nagoya.
Perhaps only Kushibiki will be starting Saturday against Kashiwa.
Of G. Osaka's starting XI, eight started away at Urawa.
Yes, of course J1 survival is the priority. But Osaka are trying to win the league, and only felt the need to rest three players, all of which were on the bench.
We were sent out into this cup semi final with practically no chance of winning. Survival may well be the priority, but for all its faults, the Emperor's cup is THE cup tournament in Japan, and comes with an ACL spot and a shit-ton of cash for the winner.
Osaka absolutely have to win this weekend if they hope to overturn Urawa's lead at the top of J1. Yet they managed to balance their league ambitions with the rigours of a cup semi final. Us on the other hand felt the need to rest all but the keeper (Jakovic is suspended for Kashiwa). Even our bench was sparse. Are we so unfit that only the keeper could manage this game ahead of Saturday? No, so in how much of a panic do you have to be to as good as (needlessly) forfeit a game?
Given this back story, it was one of most farcical 90 minutes I've watched. As a fan it was like having the piss taken. I felt for the youngsters (average age: 22) sent out to do a job. Kagami and Kaneko did great, as did Takagi Y for his goal. But giving them and others the responsibility to drag the team through to the final is horrendous. What was the team speech before the game? "Right, you lot are only playing because we don't want to get relegated. Good luck against a near full strength XI of the country's hottest team. If you get us through to the final, don't expect to play."
No, they all knew the situation, and so did we. But what can you do but support? Yes, but within reason. This was a waste of an otherwise decent cup run, and a blow to what momentum we may have recently built up. An utterly depressing night to be an S-Pulse fan.
So yeah, away at Kashiwa then. If things are still in our hands this time next week I'll be pleasantly surprised. The goal is survival. Get that done by whatever means necessary, then rip out the black hole that's pulling us towards oblivion, and rebuild. The nucleus of a decent team is there - it always has been - and the fans are faultless. It should never have come to this.
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