Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Nagoya 3-2 S-Pa

And I just hope Nagoya are grateful for their three points. Our inability to convert our vastly superior shot rate, and our numerous corners into even an equalising goal sees Nagoya return to top spot. All I can say is I hope they now go on and win the thing. The least said about Nishibe's goalkeeping on their second goal the better.

Least we're still in the cup! May even end up playing Nagoya in the final if we get there!


I don't know about Shizza, but that one word explains exactly how I am feeling tonight, and I suspect I am not the only one.

I really don't get it this season. There have been so many games where I've watched safe in the knowledge that we were playing better football or were the better team and then later have headed home disappointed. Games that should have been victories turning into draws, and when we should get a point we often end up with nothing. Frustrating to say the least.

Oka-chan, my personal hero, got us off to a good start a brisk 6 minutes in and although it was one -all at half time I felt we were evenly matched and we had a good shot at winning the game, but I would have settled for a draw given that Grampus have been one of the better sides this year and that we were away from home. Yajima came on and blasted a beautiful little number into the top right-hand corner of the net and confirmed my belief - for yes, we STILL believe - that we could win.

And then what happens? Nishibe decides that he hasn't done his clown routine for a while and true to form, royally buggers it up and gifts Nagoya an equalizer. My fellow UK Ultras and I had a hard time believing it really happened, especially after a great save in the first half. (Speaking of saves, the Nagoya goalie had to go to some length to keep us out in the first, just catching a great little shot with the tips of his fingers, lucky git.) Unfortunately Grampus rapidly followed their equalizer with a free kick by Tamada and put themselves into the lead.

But still, we believers declared that all was not lost and there were a solid 30 minutes for us to equalize, possibly even take the lead again. And certainly we dominated the last half hour with Grampus only breaking away a few times, giving us one very hairy moment towards the end when it looked like being an extremely unjust result of 4-2. Honestly, I think I would have cried. Despite pounding the pressure and the addition of Hara, we just couldn't get the ball to hit the back of the net. Too many silly shots squandered, too many occasions when the ball was passed to the invisible man, and too many mistakes.

I guess that's football, and its just the way the cookie crumbles... but I would really like to see us playing the way I know we can. So much young talent in the team willing to score, so lets see them do it!

That said, good to see Okazaki in the starting line up again, he's clearly hungry for first team football and is getting the ball in the net regularly, hopefully a few more games will see him increase his goal tally, and Hara too if he gets on the park sooner in future.

Oh, and it has to be said - both Shizza and I were impressed with the way Nagoya didn't waste time messing around in the last ten minutes - so many other teams do, especially when there is real danger of your opponents getting that equalizer. Then again, maybe they didn't perceive any danger...

Sunday, 24 August 2008

S-Pa 3-2 Kashiwa

This just in: full match report from someone actually in attendance! Click here for Mike Tuckerman's report on events.

Unbeaten in five, in the semi final of the cup and having just completed the double over a team in sixth - with the right spin, even the most mediocre of seasons can look almost presentable! While S-Pa pummelled the Kashiwa goal, and ultimately claimed their seventh win of the season, yours truly was riding a bullet back to Shiz after a weekend away in Chiba. As a Disneyland virgin, I had a thoroughly good time and would recommend it to anyone, but as seven o'clock rolled around on Saturday, much to the better half's chagrin, my attentions turned to my mobile phone as updates poured in from Shimizu.

It didn't take long for the first goal notification. With Okazaki in the starting line up for the first time since Frontale away, he wasted no time in staking his claim to his place by making it one nil in the first minute. The score was doubled by Edamura on eleven minutes, but when the half time score of 2-2 came through, as infuriating as it was, it sadly didn't come as that much of a shock. Losing a two goal lead to Oita not long back softened the blow somewhat... That said, S-Pa came out in the second half and thanks to Okazaki were in the lead again in less than five minutes. We continued to pepper the Kashiwa goal with shots matching our first half tally of seven. Kashiwa only managed two efforts, one less than the first 45. They weren't helped by being reduced to ten men on 78 minutes.

Time for a little more spin / looking on the bright side: We're now up to the giddy heights of 14th, and are only one win from 9th. We're above Jubilo who crumbled to a 3-1 away defeat and who will probably be in the drop zone once Marinos have dispatched Sapporo later today. Perhaps most amazingly, we've only lost once more than Nagoya who sit in second. However, it's Grampus who we face away on Wednesday - not a game I'm expecting a hell of a lot of return from! Still, we have a habit of rising to the big occasions, and Nagoya may well be knackered from being the first team to beat Antlers at Kashima Stadium in God knows how long, so lets have it!

Here's a couple of personal videos from yesterday's game starting with Okazaki's opener:

Okachan's second to make it 3-2 to the Mighty Oranges:

The obligatory post match celebrations:

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

We've got the best fans in the league!

Not my words, but those of a totally unrelated Oita Trinita supporter. As spied on the World Soccer News Message Board this week, User Oitim confirmed what S-Pa fans the world over already knew, (admittedly what all supporters believe of their team's fans), and that's that S-Pulse are proud owners of the best fans in the J. League! Not only that, it was quickly corroborated by another J. League match-goer:

Cheers, chaps - good to know all our efforts are appreciated! In seriousness, I've always been impressed with the devotion shown by so many S-Pa fans. The efforts they go to when it comes to maintaining a cracking atmosphere down at The 'Daira can't be understated. For example, The One Person One Flag Project which has voluntarily worked to produce hundreds of orange flags to be distributed at games. Coupled with the huge number of other individually produced flags, it produces a wall of colour - especially effective when on the road as at the Yamaha earlier this season.
The OPOF Project is but one of many similar fan-led initiatives; another being the band which plays non-stop, from start to finish, and never missus a game, home or away. The point of the thread I quoted from earlier was the tendency of certain fans to expend the majority of their energies on booing their opposition, seemingly supporting their own team in the gaps. I'm glad down at The 'Daira we've got such a positive, passionate, hard-working and imaginative group of supporters, and I'm made up that other fans are coming out saying we're among the best in the league! I also know for a fact we're attracted new fans from around the country simply because of our colourful support.

This blog's been rather doomy and gloomy of late. Nabisco Cup aside, this year has been a total wash out. The growing group calling for an end to Kenta's reign is creating a split in opinions on the terraces, but looking at the bigger picture, we're got a lot to be proud of. I've seen in the last few years the efforts the club is making in increasing its fan base around the City of Shizuoka and beyond. It's clearly been paying off too, with average crowds way up on three years ago - and that's continued despite this year's indifferent form! Now let's pull our fingers out, secure J1 football for another year (maybe picking up the Nabisco Cup along the way) and then use our considerable supporter power to ensure mediocrity is not tolerated at Nihondaira!

Monday, 18 August 2008

S-Pa 1-1 F. Marinos

Yet another game we should have won but didn't. Yet another chance to haul ourselves away from 15th position missed. The longer we wallow down the wrong end of the table, there bigger the emerging split in the fan base becomes. On the whistle, the behind the goal crew was split between those booing the continued poor form, those getting behind the team, and a sizeable number too bloody exhausted and let down to do either. Greeting the S-Pulse team bus as it emerged from the stadium was a small but vocal group berating the recent form and chanting (though I'm not totally versed in Japanese mob vocabulary, I did check) for Kenta's neck. It's safe to say the moment we go out the League Cup that group will grow considerably.

Next up is Reysol at home, the first home game of the season I won't be at, although many others of the Ultras family will be behind the goal as usual. Another poor result on Saturday and things will start getting really sticky for Kenta. With a team full of young talent, 15th position was surprising after ten games, but unthinkable after 21. Yes, we're missing an out and out striker aka Jae-Jin, but looking at Kyoto, Fernandinho seems to be doing OK up front. His transfer was the most baffling thing to of happened this season, and something which has proven in no way justified (which of course we all knew the moment we heard about it). As mentioned previously, Kenta is in the privileged position of having been in charge at Nihondaira longer than any other manager. If he's still there at the start of next year is something I'm really starting to wonder about...

Anyway, enough doom and gloom, I'll just give a quick mention before I sign off to the brilliant Marinos umbrella dance - by far the most imaginative and colourful display a team has brought to Nihondaira in years!

Here's our goal from Iwashita captured on my camera. Please excuse the finger over the top of the screen for half of it!

Monday, 11 August 2008

Oita 2-2 S-Pa

Two nil up away from home and you let it slip?


Thanks only to every other team this year either not wanting to win the title, or wanting to go down, we're still not in the relegation zone. Amazing, given how the way we've been playing has seen us begging to be there.

Well, next up is Marinos at home which is all set for a sell out. Only one other team has sold the 'Diara out this year, and that was J***o, so fair play to Marinos! They're either bringing a lot down or else we're just filling up our ground ready to claim 15th place as our own!!

Here's a good video from the Omiya match / meteorological event which we BDO'd to last week. :)

Thursday, 7 August 2008

S-Pa 2-1 Antlers - S-Pa through to the semis!

So that would be the best team in the country? The team that won the double last year and are sitting top of the table looking likely to retain their crown? Yeah, well woteva - we just dumped them out the cup.

Having beaten them in the league earlier this year, and holding them to a goalless draw in the frst leg of this tie, it's becoming something of a habit see off the Antlers. Kashima played by far the best football any team has bothered to at 'Daira so far this season, and to be fair, it paid dividends, with a whole more shots than the home team. Nishibe was tested a few times, and had to be at his best once or twice, but for all the possession and shots, Kashima rarely looked like they were going to get the second strike which would have put them through on away goals.
After their goal came on 57 minutes, it was a nervy last half hour, with the last ten minutes in particular lasting what felt like forever. Saying that, we went close a few times with one-on-ones, and a ball cleared off the line. It was a cracking game, and had I been a neutral, a whole lot more enjoyable, probably! The tension was mad, and the sense of relief in thr ground can be heard on the first of the videos below.

We were missing usual starting members Honda, Okazaki, and Jungo last night which clearly had an impact on Kenta's starting eleven, but apart from Aurerio who was as much of a threat as a lame duck, the team worked their socks off. It's not that Aurerio doesn't try, it's just that he can't seem to cut it at this level. Not surprisingly, he was replaced with Hara on the hour. Special mention should go to Marcos Paulo who is a different player to the one who made his début a couple of months back.

Beating Jubilo comes first, with doing Antlers coming in a distant second, but seeing them off tonight was fucking magic. Next up are Nabisco Cup holders Gamba home and away. Not the easiest of prospects, but one we have no reason to fear. Let's 'ave it!!

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Rainy days and football never get me down...

Oooops, bit late this blog post - been a busy week of parties (Happy Birthday to me) and fun. Sunday last was my first BDO (Big Day Out) this year due to monies, and I've yet to see an away win. Mind you, I'm thanking my lucky stars it was an away draw seeing as it nearly went down the pan in the last few minutes!

The rain at the start of the game was initially cooling and pleasant, we UK Ultras get a tad hot every now and again and welcomed the first drops. The torrential downpour that followed was somewhat less desired however! There was an awesome turnout of Shimizu peeps at Omiya Park and the rain did not put them off, the singing was as loud as ever. We do love our team.

It was another frustrating game though, with S-Pa having plenty of chances, and plenty of shots on-target - so on-target in fact that the ball continually landed in the keepers' hands. Frustrating as ever. In fact, there was only one occasion when the keeper actually had to make an effort to save the ball. Its not that we are a bad team, we are good, but when will we start scoring more?

Jungo was injured early on in the game due to a careless tackle which may or may not have seen certain members of the UK Ultras shouting abusive language. Looks like he's out all season, can't say I am overly chuffed about that, here's hoping he recovers quickly and as well as possible.

When Omiya scored their goal, I thought I was going to die, and could sense Shizza next to me, in the same, "oh-my-God-you-must-be-kidding-not-another-last-chance-loss" and the relief that swept through me when it was declared offside is uncomparable. Nishibe was on pretty good form on Sunday too, he has almost been forgiven now for last year's appalling "the sun was in my eyes" event.

Still, we love the 'Pulse and I'm sure when Oka-chan and co get back, there'll be goals a plenty.

Oh yeah, and does anyone else think Ardija are more red than orange?

Highlights (Got to be happy with those travelling hoards on a Sunday evening!) :

The Offside (Check the bag which goes flying spraying it's contents all around :-D ) :