Can somebody pinch me? Was that really the same team which was lucky to get away with a point against Reysol? Coming off the back of such recent wretched form, we went into today's game with Urawa ever so slightly wary we might be on the end of a good hiding. Hearing that not only Teru, but also Paulo, had been recalled into the starting eleven however, came as hugely encouraging news.
Many people have been wondering over Kenta's logic at not playing at least one of our two most experienced and important midfielders. Today they both got their chance, and we here at UK Ultras Towers feel totally vindicated. We've been calling for greater use of Paulo for weeks, and today he proved why. The guy is a class apart. He was absolutely instrumental in holding our midfield together and instigating many of our attacks. He's must be knackered after playing a full game, but thank you Paulo - you didn't stop running and you put in a great performance.
Urawa were good and always dangerous. They were attacking and had us on the back foot more than once. On the negative side, Edmilson completely eclipsed Tulio when it came to claiming the award for the most petulant, whining little sod on the pitch.
We looked fast, alert and dangerous on the counter, and we often had the visitors reeling back from another failed attack. Had we not made so many unforced errors, we may well have a) taken the lead b) equalised earlier. Nagai looked good when brought on towards the end, and went achingly close to heading it home shortly after his introduction.
When Arata slammed the ball home on 86 minutes to draw level, and claim his first pro goal while he was at it, it was nothing more than we deserved. This game, which we could so easily have won at the death, was for that reason frustrating, but having gone into today with confidence at a low, and our form nothing short of horrible, we can take a lot from the draw.
Our fans can also be proud. Hosting a game at Ecopa is asking a lot for our fanbase to traipse all the way over to Fukuroi, but my doubts were blown out the water as over 10000 more than could have fit in 'Daira packed in for a great game of football. Hopefully any first timers will now be heading over to Shimizu in future.
It's all off to Hiroshima on Saturday where three points would really be nice, thanks very much! Too many draws is better than too many defeats, but if we don't start converting draws into wins, we'll end up ruing the dropped points. Jungo was rested today, so we can expect to see him start, and I want to see Teru back in too. Paulo is probably exhausted after racking up a full 90 minutes, bless him! Okazaki and Johnsen to start, with Hara waiting to come on at the hour if the Norweigian still hasn't found the net.
Arata's goal including full build up (personal cam)
Official pics here.