And there it is - our first league defeat since November 8th, 2008. Yep, it hurts.
Yes, the floodlights were on and it's wasn't even one o'clock! A grey, overcast March afternoon was the backdrop for today's Tokai Derby, which was somehow in character for the host town. Nagoya has come over as a grey, overcast type of a city every time I've been. A kind of Japanese Coventry, if you will. Of the 2.2 million locals, only around 12000 had football on their minds today, with a good thousand travelling up from Shiz.
Despite being three times the size of Shizuoka, Nagoyans don't turn out in great numbers for their team. Their average crowds are pretty much on a par with S-Pulse's, which given their huge catchment area, and the ease of access to Mizuho Stadium, is surprising. It's also a shame, as they're a decent team who can play some nice stuff. Today was a good example of what the locals are missing out on - an actioned packed game which, sadly for me and the the hundreds of Shizuokan's who had made the trip, ended in a home win.
That wasn't quite the whole story, though, as we went up the other end four minutes later to grab one back. It was a brilliantly placed header from Okazaki which put us back in it on 80 minutes, but try as we might (and we did) we couldn't get though to make it all square.
Last season, we praised Nagoya for their unwillingness to use time wasting tactics to run the clock down, but with the marauding whites of S-Pulse throwing everything at the home goal, that was not a mistake they were about to make this year. The last ten minutes were roughly divided between tearing the ball away from red strikers who ran it time and again into the corner, and tearing our hair out as the substituted Nagoya players took disgustingly long to drag themselves off the pitch.
Well, yeah, maybe that's all part of the game, but it does display a certain lack of class, not to mention leave a slightly sour taste in the mouth. After missing out on any silverware last year, I get the impression Nagoya are not about to let anything so tiresome as decent sportsmanship get in the way of their first title in ten years.
I wanted to see Paulo start ahead of Yamamoto, but it wasn't to be. Yamamoto was taken off on 67 for the dropped Edamura. Hara started in his place. Jungo was on again as a sub, and he smashed one back off the bar within seconds of coming on. The sooner he's starting, the better.
Nagoya looked dangerous at times, and Davi is a deadly striker for sure, so I'm going to stick my neck out and predict a top two finish for the reds this season. We can take a lot from today, though. We gave them the run around in the second half, and with a little luck would have been on level terms before they doubled their lead. We were playing the type of good football we're known for, and crafting some nice chances. Out fans were far from distraught at the end, and despite the loss, I'm confident good times are just around the corner.
I would say watch out to Kyoto next week as someone is due a hiding, but they just beat Gamba 2-1, so who really knows what's going to happen in this league!?
Edamura on for Yamamoto (67)
Fujimoto on for Hyodo (67)
Ota on for Kodama (80)
Bonus Feature - Star Spotting!
After the game we headed into town to get something to eat, and who should we bump into? Only Seiko Matsuda's daughter, Sayaka Kanda!