Forget your glamour of Gamba Osaka winning the Asian Champions League and forget your glory of Kashima Antlers securing back to back J. League titles. This is the true nuts and bolts, bread and butter, and any other clichés you want to throw into the mix, this is what your average J. League match day is all about.
A hard-fought two all draw in the pouring rain? After last night and our Reysol meeting, I've felt recently like I've been transported back to England where I spent countless evenings watching football in the rain when I should have been out meeting girls or something. Last night at two nil down, dripping wet and with time running out, my fighting spirit and belief was in danger of running out with it.
What followed was a late, late show from our boys in orange, with Johnsen (80) and Edamura (88) chipping in with goals to salvage a point from what looked like a lost cause. I'm not ashamed to say I had tears of relief in my eyes when Edamura smashed the ball home with barely 120 seconds left. Eight minutes before that, Johnsen's first goal in an orange shirt had got us back in a game where our hopes were on the verge of disappearing down the drain with the falling rain and the spilt beer. It's taken a while coming, but now that issue has been put to rest the big man can concentrate on adding to his tally.
Well, four draws on the bounce, and while we've not lost since the derby, we've not won, or really looking like winning. Now are these games we'd have lost last year? Are these points we would have dropped entirely in 2008? I'm tempted, in my blind faith in all things bright orange, to say YES, and that yeah, we've drawn games we should have probably won on paper, but we've also drawn games we might easily have lost. It's easy to forget that before winning the (fictional) second stage last year, we had such horrible days at the office as the 4-1 spanking by later-to-be relegated Verdy.
So what's my point? To quote detective Columbo, I'm not sure I have one. Anyway, onwards we go and it's champions, best team in the country and all round tough old nut Kashima away on Sunday. It'll be nice to play a team who doesn't swamp the midfield (Hiroshima had six midfielders while Chiba had five) so we may be able to play some more football. Having etched out narrow draws with the likes of Reysol and Chiba, we'll probably go and beat Kashima 2-0. :-D
Just one more thing, after yesterday we are in dire need of a good performance, as the crowd reaction last night shows:
Johnsen on for Yamamoto (67)
Hara on for Nagia (67)
Tsujio on for Takaki (78)
Read another perspective here, from Mike Tuckerman. Click here for The Rising Sun's match report.