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Sunday, 29 March 2009

S-Pa 2-0 Kyoto Sanga (Nabisco Cup)

S-Pulse cruised to victory in the Nabisco Cup group stage without ever really stepping out of second gear. A gorgeous Sunday afternoon was the setting for one of our bigger Nabisco crowds (11281), and given how few came up from Kyoto, one of the best home fan turn outs for this competition.

The cherry blossoms starting to bloom outside Nihondaira

As expected, Okazaki was rested, at least in part, after his substitute appearance in Japan's 1-0 victory over Bahrain yesterday. Jungo started his first first-team game since his injury last year, Ichikawa was given a day off and was replaced by Junpei. The full squad was as follows:

GK Nishibe

DF Takaki
DF Aoyama
DF Iwashita
DF Kodama

MF Hyodo
MF Edamura
MF Yamamoto
MF Fujimoto

FW Hara
FW Johnsen

Subs Used:

Okazaki on for Hara (67)
Ito on for Fujimoto (67)
Hiroi on for Aoyama (79)

It was a good game. I think.

It was a good, solid performance all told. Positive going forward, and at times sweeping through the Kyoto midfield and defence with real verve. Saying that, we had trouble getting past Kyoto's giant number three, Sidiclei, which was where many of our attacks came to shuddering halt.

We made 15 shots, and forced 9 corners. Kyoto's 16 goal kicks also bares testament to our positivity going forward, although we, and I get tired typing this every week, really should have made more of many of our opportunities. A good number of Kyoto's chances came off the back of errors whereby we gave possession away far too cheaply, something stronger teams would have punished us for.

Still, it'd be a little churlish to focus on the negatives in what was a strong offensive display with the result never really in doubt. Junpei scored an absolute peach just before half time to stake a claim for a return to regular first team football, and Edamura put the finishing touch on another sweeping attacking move down the right wing midway through the second half.

Johnsen is aching to bag his first goal, and he very nearly got it today. It took a split second reaction save from Mizutani in the Kyoto goal to deny him. Frode also appeared a lot more involved generally, dropping much deeper to help win the midfield battle instead of merely being left up front waiting for long balls hoofed forward, as per the Marinos game.
Players celebrate after Junpei puts us 1-0 up

Special mention to Iwashita, who was solid as a rock in defence and always dangerous at corners. A very good performance from our man at the back, and he matched that of Kyoto's Sidiclei in stopping attacking moves. He's coming on in leaps and bounds, and the departed Takagi's absence is all the more unnoticeable for it.

Our 2009 Nabisco campaign is off to a good start, and if we can get three points against the not-to-be-underestimated Yamagata in May, we'll have done the lion's share of the work in getting through to the knock out stage. See the bar on the right for current standings in our group, or click here for a little more depth.

In summary then, beautiful weather, a good result, daytime fireworks, two Loco Locos, and I met one of the fanzine's youngest readers! Why can't all Sundays be this nice?


Click here for some official pictures of the game, and directly below are extended highlights. This is a personal cam and not TV coverage.