Friday, 28 November 2014

G. Osaka 5 (FIVE) - 2 S-Pulse (Emp Cup 1/2 Final)

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

G. Osaka 5-2 S-Pulse
Usami 9, 72 ------------------- Kagami 20
Patrick 14, 37 ---------------- Takagi Y 24
Lins 85

Att 6708
Wednesday November 26th, 7pm
Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Takaki
DF Jakovic
DF Miura G
DF Lee KiJe

MF Ishige
MF Mizutani
MF Murata
MF Takagi Y

FW Kaneko
FW Kagami

Subs Used

Omae on for Kaneko (72)
Nagasawa on for Kagami (76)
Hiroi on for Miura (86)

Report

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.

Videos

Fuck off.

Monday, 24 November 2014

S-Pulse 2-2 Nagoya

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

S-Pulse 2-2 Nagoya
Novakovic 30 ーーー-ー Tanabe 21
Own Goal 60 -------------- Nagai 54

Att 17352
Saturday November 22nd, 5pm
IAI Stadium Nihondaira

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Kawai
DF Jakovic (42, 90)
DF Hiraoka
DF Yoshida (53)

MF Honda
MF Musaka
MF Takeuchi
MF Omae

FW Novakovic
FW Takagi T

Subs Used

Ishige on for Musaka (73)
Murata on for Takeuchi (83)
G. Miura on for Takagi T (91)

Report

As the relegation dogfight entered the end game, at the other end of the table, with the predictability of Urawa throwing away a seemingly unassailable lead, Urawa continued to do their best to through away a seemingly unassailable lead. Former S-Pulse boss Kenta Hasegawa has his Gamba team looking every bit like overhauling the Red Diamonds and their hoards of relentlessly booing fans to snatch the title. Meanwhile down the bottom, Kenta's former teammate Oenoki saw his team put in another mediocre display, saved only by Omiya and Cerezo Osaka not seizing the opportunity to close the gap.

Despite Shimizu playing with a man advantage for half an hour, Nagoya, with nothing to play for bear in mind, was still the team who could have most easily won the game. Only a huge let off when Kawamata couldn't beat Kushibiki, and then Jakovic earning a second yellow by pulling back a Nagoya forward, saved us a point. Our first equaliser effectively came via an assist from Grampus keeper Narazaki, and our second goal (a cross deflected in off Tulio's chest) came while Kawamata lay flat out having collided hard with the woodwork. Although he hadn't hit his head, it was a brave decision by the ref to allow play to continue.

It's the nature of the beast that teams in the bottom five are not very good and aren't going to win most of the their games, but given we were a solid mid table team in the summer, it's incredibly frustrating to see us flail around at the wrong end of the table. Away to Kashiwa on Saturday, and without Jakovic. A point could potentially be enough to claim safety, but I can't see it. I expect it to go to the final week. It should never have come to this.

Videos

The goals:

Thursday, 20 November 2014

2015 S-Pulse Kit

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

With thanks to Tichmall for inspiring this post, and glad to hear you have completed your collection!

These days we tend to reply maybe a bit too much on Twitter for breaking the news. What Twitter gains in convenience and speed, it loses in depth. So let's take a moment to fully appreciate our recently unveiled kit for next season, which I can only describe as a spectacular return to form.

"A spectacular return to form" Barry Valder, UKU
Away is a little simple compared to the extravagance of the home kit, but I'm not complaining. This is the first time in a few years our new kit has made me sit up and take notice. In recent seasons things have become rather tame compared to the uniquely striking shirts of the early years.
 Graphic borrowed from this excellent website - 8 pages of S-Pulse shirt history (Japanese)

The above graphic only goes up to 2009, which was the precise time I expressed a wish that "here's hoping ... five or six years down the line we see a return to the garish and outlandish shirts of the mid nineties." Just call me Mystic Meg. :)

2012 did see a flirtation with the world map of old, but it was a tentative toe-in-the-water testing of the temperature of people's reaction. After this year's shirt was dull in the extreme, respect to the kit bods - they've now gone for it whole-heartedly. The result is some solid gold S-Pulse sexiness.

Even my better half, who has precisely zero interest in the beautiful game, sat up and expressed her approval at the return to what I like to call S-Pulse Classic.

Roll on 2015 - in J1!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Kawasaki Frontale 2-3 S-Pulse

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

Kawasaki Frontale 2-3 S-Pulse
Fukumori 19 -------------------------------------------- Musaka 40
Kobayashi 44 ------------------------------------------- Yoshida 50
--------------------------------------------------------------- Murata 90

Att 19169
Sunday November 2nd, 2014
Todoroki Stadium, Kawasaki

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Kawai
DF Jakovic (76)
DF Hiraoka
DF Yoshida (85)

MF Honda
MF Musaka
MF Takeuchi
MF Takagi T

FW Omae
FW Novakovic

Subs Used

Ishige on for Takeuchi (65)
Murata on for Omae (77)
Sugiyama on for Takagi T (92)

Report

昨日覚えてる? "Do you remember (what happened) yesterday?"

If she's asking that within seconds of waking up, chances are it isn't good.

"Which bit?"

I ventured, a vague dread suggesting there may have been more than one episode to which she referred.

"The bit where you couldn't walk?"

Oh, crap.

"Or the bit where you fell asleep on the kitchen floor?"

Classy.

Unlike Murata then, I had clearly failed to cover myself in glory on Sunday night. Well, in a sense it had been coming. Since April I've been helping out with the Shimizu website, throwing up an English match summary after each game. This has been my absolute pleasure, and I've been more than happy to help. But for a fella used to standing behind the goal venting his anger at every throw in decision that went the wrong way, bottling it all up in the press box hasn't been easy. Especially when in the last few months the team has been underperforming so spectacularly.

Sunday then was my first time behind the goal since June, away at Kashima. It was just a Nabisco Cup group stage game, while in the league we sat comfortably, but unspectacularly, in the middle of J1. Not a lot was at stake. Things have changed. The 2200 travelling fans at Todoroki were in full battle cry mode from the outset. As an army they've been mobilised, and the message to the team, even if it hadn't been spelt out on a huge banner, was clear. We're with you.

Oenoki started with what's been working better of late. Kawai at left back and none of his favoured youngsters like Genta Miura and Mizutani in the first XI. I've not got a bad word to say about either of these players, or recent recruit Bueno, but as I previously said on here, now is not the time for a new manager to try and exert his stamp on the team. Stick with what's solid, get the points in the bag, and if you're still around next season, then fill your boots.

Watching from behind the goal, especially at Todoroki, isn't easy. The pitch is distant, the terrace incline is shallow, and it's genuinely hard to tell what's really going on anywhere beyond the near penalty area. What I do know is we played a lot better second half and deserved the win. No mean feat given Frontale were technically still in with a shot of the title at kick off. The three wins in our last five have still been interspersed with tepid displays against Hiroshima and Yokohama, but the desire we showed to pull us through on Sunday was noticeable. This is in no small part thanks to our support. I've been knocking around behind the goal for years now, and there was a real energy coming out of our end which set it above most other occasions. I said it before, but it's worth restating. In our darkest hour, the supporters have been unfalteringly fantastic, and it is them that is pulling the team towards safety.

So after the euphoric bedlam of Murata's impossibly tight shot beating Sugiyama (was the keeper expecting our number 22 to pull it back for Nova?) and the news that Cerezo and Omiya had both dropped points, I was such a good mood that I figured I'd skip the usual bullet train back to Shizuoka and save a few yen on the local line. This was fine, as the game gave no shortage of distraction to relive and pass those three hours, but therein lay my undoing. The Shinkansen allows you time for maybe a couple of cans, tops. That the local line gave me enough time to smash a six pack was hardly my fault. And I didn't force my better half to invite me to join her for the last hour of an all-you-can-drink course, now did I? Rightly or wrongly (mostly wrongly), that was several months of football frustration partly dealt with. It just took a few grovelling, well warranted apologies on Monday morning.

A top away day, but more than anything the most important thing to take from Saturday is that we're still two points from the relegation zone with three games to go. Moving in the right direction maybe, but in absolutely no position to do anything but fight harder. Home to Nagoya on the 22nd. Can see that one selling out. Like Sunday, and like the two games that remain after it, it's a must win. Absolute must win.

Pictures

 Be nice when it's finished (shame about the running track)
 Nowhere else I'd rather be
 俺たちは残留するぞー!

Videos

Our goals in wonderful slow motion.


The highlights.



Low quality, but the whole game.




Saturday, 1 November 2014

S-Pulse 1-3 Hiroshima

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

S-Pulse 1-3 Hiroshima
Takagi 80 ------------------ Ishihara 28, 38
--------------------------------- Sato 65

Att 13098
IAI Stadium Nihondaira
October 26th, 7pm

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Jakovic
DF Hiraoka
DF Yoshida

MF Kawai
MF Fujita
MF Honda
MF Musaka
MF Ishige

FW Omae
FW Novakovic

Subs Used

Takagi T on for Honda (53)
Takeuchi on for Musaka (64)
Murata on for Ishige (73)

Report

Beaten. :(

Videos

Highlights.

S-Pulse 2-1 Niigata

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

S-Pulse 2-1 Niigata
Ishige 12 ------------------- Ohi 72
Novakovic 90

Att 8539
IAI Stadium Nihondaira
October 22nd, 7pm

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Kawai
DF Jakovic
DF Hiraoka
DF Yoshida

MF Honda
MF Omae
MF Musaka
MF Ishige

FW Takagi T
FW Novakovic

Subs Used

Fujita on for Takagi T (71)
Takagi Y on for Ishige (76)
Murata on for Musaka (87)

Report

We won. :)

Videos

Highlights.



Sunday, 19 October 2014

Yokohama F. Marinos 1-0 S-Pulse

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

Yokohama F. Marinos 1-0 S-Pulse
Fujimoto 58

Att 19310
Nissan Stadium, Yokohama

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Kawai
DF Jakovic
DF Hiraoka
DF Yoshida

MF Musaka
MF Honda
MF Ishige
MF Takagi T

FW Omae
FW Novakovic

Subs used

Takagi Y on for Novakovic (67)
Murata on for Takagi T (81)
Lee Ki-Je on for Musaka (90)

Report

Not looking good is it, chaps? A pretty dire offering from both teams to be honest, but while we were unlucky in that Yokohama got a deflection to put the ball away, that would be to ignore the fact that they were the only team really in it. That they were painfully mediocre just served to highlight our own addled ineptitude at making much in the way of goal ward progress .

One highlight was Novakovic, his hard work and toil was only limited by those around him. He must be sick of playing for teams at the wrong end of the table. He deserves better. We were better of course until the manager was sacked. Mid table may not have been setting the J. League alight, but it was solid. It certainly wasn't staring down the barrel of a year in J2, and I struggle to see us getting out of the hole we've been dragged us into. Oenoki was never the man for the job, that's obvious, but with four of our last six games at home, Nagasawa and Jong a Pin on the brink of return, a spirit lifting cup run, and the unfaltering support of all in orange, he has everything working towards him in his mission to save us.

Home to Niigata on Wednesday, where we will gather, and we will support. If we can stay up it will be the result of a mammoth effort of all involved. In this, our darkest hour, it will be the fans shining the guiding light, and for them our team must now be playing. We were let off the hook yesterday with Cerezo losing and Kofu drawing, but we're still in a whole world of trouble.

It really is now or never.

Videos

Highlights.