We were poor. We made countless unforced errors and we lacked direction and purpose. It was a stark contrast seeing how well Kashima moved the ball around the park today. They had purpose. They had direction, and they had physical strength (although they were also extremely eager to go to ground under the slightest challenge).
It's no surprise that they're top with a game in hand - Antlers are by far the most organised and clinical team we've come up against. But even given that, the difference between success and failure is so very, very small. They ran the first half, were pulling us all over the pitch, and 1-0 was probably more than we deserved.
In the second 45 we were let off the hook once when an Antler managed to wallop it over when it was easier to score. But we still outshot the home team, and with Tsujio on for Takaki we displayed, albeit short, periods of confident forward movement. One of these led to Edamura pulling a goal back. An excellent surging run down the right wing by Tsujio resulted in a cross the red defence couldn't handle, and Edamura was there to smash it home.
The problem is, you know it's going to be a long afternoon when your two best midfielders are on the bench. As expected, Yamamoto started, and Hyodo (excuse me while I adjust my shorts) was also in again. And therein lied the difference. The calming, organised influence and solid physical presence of Paulo (not forgetting how he never gets given the run around, and his intelligence in movement) was replaced by the error-ridden play of Hyodo. The pace and attacking mind of Jungo was absent for Yamamoto's speculative long range efforts. When they go in, wonderful. When they don't, the less said the better.
So despite enjoying a healthy amount of possession in the second half, and occasionally looking like a team with a clue, time and time and time again we were reduced to passing it backwards / hopeless long balls which ended up nowhere / losing possession altogether under little to no pressure.
These shortcomings were summed up in our last move of the game when after running it deep inside the red half, the move ground to a halt when noone seemed to know where anyone else was / what anyone else was thinking. Ball lost, full time, zero points and we're down to 15th. Had we shown some decent direction and just a little inspiration in our movement, Kashima were there for the taking.
Well, we face Oita on Saturday. Oita are not defending champions. Oita have lost their last EIGHT games in a row. Oita have only won once all year. Kenta looked like a worried man today, and rightly so. If we don't win Saturday, and win well, his must know his days are numbered. He's a Shimizu legend no doubt, but that only buys so much goodwill with the fans and the board, and with so much quality in the team, to be wallowing where we are is unacceptable. His lack of experience is costing us, and barring a vast, VAST improvement over the next few games (Oita at home, Kyoto at home, Yamagata at home - ALL must win) if he's still at the helm in 2010 will remain to be seen.
Tsujio on for Takaki (HT)
Hara on for Okazaki (73)
Fujimoto on for Ito (80)
Kashima's 1st: (personal cam)
Kashima's 2nd: (personal cam)
The Rising Sun's report is here.
BARRY WRITES... I really should have thought of doing this as soon as highlights became available officially on YouTube a while back. Be...