Barry writes:Yamagata 0-1 S-Pulse
Our rich vein of form continued against Yamagata with a 1-0 victory up in the mountains. Now unbeaten in eleven, winning seven and drawing four, we climbed up to 2nd, just four points behind the severely faltering Antlers. There are eight games remaining, and as the title race starts to hot up, for the first time in years, we're right up there with a shot.
Our goal came from Johnsen after a pinpoint cross from Hyodo was met by The Big Norwegian. He was able to beat the defender and powered an excellent header into the back of the net which left the keeper no chance. This made up for an achingly close miss by Edamura twenty minutes earlier after an excellently penetrating run down the wing by a resurgent Ichikawa. That itself came not long after Iwashita very nearly added to his four goal tally this season, and it needed an excellent save from the Montedio keeper to deny him.
Yamagata caught us out on more than one occasion and it was far from a walk in the park. The home team have now lost their last four, and are in severe danger of the drop back to J2. Personally I hope they stay up, but they will have to be more decisive in front of goal if they're to manage it. At least twice they should have made more of their chances, and I couldn't help but think against a better team we'd have been punished.
In terms of statistics it was a pretty one-sided match, with 14-3 and 8-3 reflecting shots and corners both heavily in our favour. We face Kobe at home next week, and we'll have to be rather more deadly in front of goal if we want to close the gap on the defending champions further. After that we host Hiroshima, which is shaping up to be a huge game. Our final three games are against pretty tough opposition, so I'm hoping we can take some serious pointage over the next five weeks.
In the big picture this weekend, it was two big surprise results which let us gain ground on the top spot, with both Kashima and Frontale losing in games you would have put money on them winning. Gamba Osaka and Niigata both drew, and on Sunday Hiroshima could only draw with relegation threatened Kashiwa, so we end the weekend two points clear of 3rd with a better goal difference.
In all this chat, let's not forget that Kawasaki have the remaining 16 minutes of their rained off game with Kashima still to play. If they can hold onto their 3-1 lead, Kashima's goal difference will be cut by two, and join S-Pulse on plus 13. The title race is well and truly on!
Having just read my own post back, I can't help but notice how measured and calm it all seems. Nothing could be further from the truth - I think the prospect of having a pop at the title is just playing havoc with my nerves! COME ON BOYS - NOW FOR THE FINAL PUSH TOWARDS GLORY!
GK K. Yamamoto
Fujimoto on for Edamura (68)
Paulo on for Okazaki (74)
Full highlights. The yak ends and the action starts at 0:48.
For official club photos, click here (top row). The Rising Sun's review of this, and all other J. League games this weekend, can be found here.