Barry writes:S-Pulse 1-1 Hiroshima
Okazaki 44---------------- Sato 29
GK K. Yamamoto
Fujimoto on for Edamura (57)
M. Yamamoto on for Honda (78)
Hara on for Hyodo (82)
We are top of the league, said we are top of the league!
Yeah, well, it's only for a day, but it's been a while. Kashima will reclaim top spot tomorrow if they avoid defeat at home to Niigata, but for now, there's only one team in first place in J1, and that's us. :)
Shizuoka had been wet pretty much all week, but praise the football Gods, at 11am this morning the clouds parted and a gorgeous sunny day was the reward for the 18000+ fans who rocked Nihondaira. They had a fast paced (for the most part) game to enjoy with plenty of shots peppering each goal, but the majority, myself included, went home kicking themselves. If we'd made more of our chances we're not only be top, we're be two points clear.
Oh, well. I'm not complaining too much. Hiroshima are good, and a hard team to play against. When they have hold of the ball they are not about to give it up easily. If it meant passing it back and forward across their back four till our players (and fans) started falling asleep, then that's what it meant. The moment we grew sick of this private kickabout and committed ourselves, the ball was hoofed 70 metres up the field to their number 14 or 10 who would instigate an attack. To be fair, this style worked, and we had trouble gaining control of the game for most of the first half.
A great away following given the distance, and a rather lovely flag
This was the major theme of the day's play, and it produced a goal for the visitors after half an hour. After the long ball upfield, a good, low cross was played deep into the six yard box and was met by Sato who put it away. Kaito was unlucky not to get down in time to block the shot and it squirmed under him into the back of the net. There was a hint of offside, but that was according to Iwashita, and it's not down to him, sadly. 1-0 to the away team, but it's been nearly a decade and half since Hiroshima beat us at Nihondaira, so they must have known the game was far from over.
We swarmed forward incessantly as the clock started running down, but it came to naught. The last chance came when Masaki received a ball in the box with, what appeared to me to be some time to control it before a shot, but he skied it with his first touch. Dang. :(
Next (after cup weekend) is Oita away in a fortnight. If we beat them they go down to J2 with five games remaining. Ouch. A kind of revenge for last year's Nabisco Cup, I guess, but we need to win it to maintain out title challenge and for no other reason. We're top, we're unbeaten in 13 and we have three players off with the national team this week. Things are pretty bloody bright for S-Pulse right now, but now let's get on with the final push to glory - three points in Kyushu, please!
Official pictures here. Full highlights:
And just so you can feel the atmosphere of A Zone, here's Okazaki's equaliser from a personal cam:
The mood was far from downcast at the end despite two points eluding our grasp: