S-Pulse 1-0 Kobe
Ichikawa 82 -------------- Nam-Il sent off 55
GK K. Yamamoto
M. Yamamoto on for Ito (67)
Fujimoto on for Hyodo (67)
Hara on for Edamura (81)
Our third win in a row took us to within a point of Kashima who lost again, this time crushed at home 4-1 by Nagoya. Just five games ago the gap was looking insurmountable, but thanks to an incredible collapse by the defending champions, and a twelve game unbeaten streak by ourselves, the final seven games of the season is shaping up to be quite interesting after all!
Ten men can be notoriously hard to play against (just ask Tokyo) and so it was as we laboured our way towards a third straight 1-0 win. It was a game of few clear cut chances, and I was wondering if a point wouldn't be all that bad when we finally broke the deadlock. We're going to have be better against Hiroshima on Saturday if we want to move up to first, but I don't doubt we're capable.
We're well placed for an assault on the title, but it's worth remembering that Kashima still have to finish their game with Kawasaki, and while being 3-1 down, who knows what may happen in the last 16 minutes. Regardless of the outcome, Kashima will still be in the driving seat and it will still be in their hands. There are seven games remaining - 21 points - and a lot can happen in seven games. Just ask Urawa: July 18th - August 29th: Played 7, Lost 7. Goals against 15, goals for 4.
So yeah, noone's getting too excited just yet, but for the first time in years we've got a real shot at the championship, and we want it. We want it bad. We're good enough, but we need to keep our eyes on the prize, not get carried away, and takes maximum points against Oita, Reysol and at least three more of our other remaining games if we're to end top. Do we believe we can do it? Course we do!
A video I took of the players entering the arena:
Ichikawa's goal (personal cam). The roar when it hits the net gives some indication of the tension at that stage in the game:
Official pictures can be found here (top row). Click here for The Rising Sun's reports on the weekend's action.
Tuesday evening edit: I've since seen the red card incident (available on this video, around 2:50), and while a trailing arm anywhere near a face is always going to have a ref reaching for his pocket, I can't help but cringe at what seems like Ota making a huge meal out of it. Kosuke is an excellent player, and has had a cracking season so far. I'm made up with him as a signing and as a regular starting member, but that was disappointing to see. I'd hate for us to become known as a diving team. We want to win, but let's win right. That's what makes us stand out above the Jubilo style of win-and-win-dirty in the late nineties. Come on boys, no more silliness, please!