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BARRY WRITES...  I really should have thought of doing this as soon as highlights became available officially on YouTube a while back. Be...

Saturday, 28 September 2013

S-Pulse 2-1 Ventforet Kofu

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

S-Pulse 2-1 Ventforet Kofu
Omae 14, 57 ------------- Patrick 1

Att 15088
Nihondaira Stadium, KO 3pm
Shizuoka city, Shizuoka Prefecture

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Muramatsu (18)
DF Hiraoka
DF Jong-a-Pin

MF Kawai
MF Ishige
MF Sugiyama (22)
MF Honda (38)

FW Radončić
FW Omae
FW Takagi

Subs Used

Murata on for Takagi (69)
Yoshida on for Kawai (69)
Takeuchi on for (94)

Report

I'll get my moan out the way first. I was a bit under the weather this week, so watched this one from home on TV Shizuoka. Never again. Coverage starting 1 minute before kick off and ending 1 minute after the whistle you can let slide, but replays of nothing but the goals, advert breaks during the action twice per half, and the commentator screaming when the ball went anywhere vaguely near the goal (regardless of any real danger). It drove me mad.

The icing on the cake was when Kofu put the ball in the net after the whistle had gone for a foul. That small detail didn't stop the commentator reeling off the new scoreline and goal scorer at the top of his voice. Only when the co-commentator whispered to him did he stop. Even in you'd missed the whistle, that none of the Kofu players were celebrating must have been a clue? No, TV Shizuoka shouldn't be let anywhere near football coverage until they learn how to do it properly.

Make no mistake, this was a big result. Kofu, while in 15th, have only lost one from their last nine, pulling away, in terms of points at least, from the bottom three. In Patrick I can see one very big reason why they've been on such a good run. The man is immense. Not only in stature, but impact. It was his header in the 30th second which put the visitors in front, and that set out his stall. He was causing all kinds of problems, and when a pass back was a fraction too slow he was there to pounce. Kushibiki got there just in time, and while the deflection off the forward could have gone anywhere, we got the rub of the green on that occasion.

We got another bit of luck to draw level when Kofu's Sasaki made a total mess of a simple header to lay it off to Omae. Still with Sasaki and the keeper to deal with, Genki placed it home to get us back on terms. It was Genki again, who since regaining full fitness has been a revelation since his return. Coupled with Radončić, they've forged a wonderful understanding. Desperately unlucky not to have snatched an equaliser at the death last week, Radon was central to our winner. Just off the top of the penalty area he held it up, laid it off to Muramatsu who played it through to Genki. Omae did the rest.

Kofu will likely stay up as they were no push overs, but we saw out the game and move up to 11th. With four wins from our last five (and last week's defeat a bit harsh, perhaps) we are the form team We go to Hiroshima next week who are playing for the title, so it will be a massive test. A win would put us anywhere up to 8th, on the fringes of the prize money and a couple more wins away from an ACL spot! Over optimistic? Maybe, but I can't help it.

S-Pulse!

Videos

Highlights.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Yokohama F. Marinos 1-0 Shimizu S-Pulse

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

Yokohama F. Marinos 1-0 Shimizu S-Pulse
Nakamura 4

Att 13416
KO 7pm, Mitsuzawa Nippatsu Stadium
Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Sugiyama
DF Muramatsu
DF Jong-a-Pin (64)

MF Kawai
MF Ishige
MF Honda
MF Takeuchi

FW Omae
FW Takagi
FW Radoncic (24)

Substitutes used

Murata on for Takeuchi (63)
Yoshida on for Takagi (78)
Ito on for Kawai (88)

Report

In due course!

Videos

Thanks, William!


Saturday, 14 September 2013

S-Pulse 2-1 Nagoya

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

S-Pulse 2-1 Nagoya Grampus
Radoncic 59 -------------- Masukawa 52
Omae 93

Att 13189

Kick off 3pm, Nihondaira Stadium
Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Hiraoka
DF Jong-a-Pin
DF Sugiyama
DF Mutamatsu

MF Ishige
MF Kawai
MF Honda
MF Takagi (24)

FW Radoncic (23)
FW Omae

Subs used

Murata on for Takagi (68)
Lee Ki-Ji on for Honda (74)
Takeuchi on for Hiraoka (79)

Report




God damn, right. It's a beautiful day.

First thoughts have to go to Hiraoka who went off late on with a dislocated sholder. Yasuhiro has been fantastic this season, so here's hoping they can pop it back in without too much pain, and we see him back soon.

Another late, late winner. Brilliant scenes behind the home goal when Genki popped up to nod it home like Okazaki at his best. All credit to Radoncic whose control and quick thinking in the centre of the field set up Genki to lay it off to Murata.

Full report to come tomorrow.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Wednesday

With apologies. What with life getting in the way, and then the announcement that the J. League was to give up being a competition worth watching, I never got around to writing about this fantastic victory.  Nagoya always give us a fiery, derby-like game, and Saturday was no exception. Great result from our boys.

Read all about it on the boss's website, here.

Videos

Highlights.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

New 2 Stage and Post Season Championship System for the J. League?

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

New 2 Stage and Post Season Championship System for the J. League? That title rolls off the tongue with all the fluidity and grace of the recently announced plans for J1 2015.

A few months ago news was leaked that the league was hoping to return to a two stage system from next year. This was immediately and comprehensively denounced by the large majority of J. League supporters. Want an idea of the extent of feeling? Here's what Urawa fans threw together in protest. Most pointed is the fact there are countless individual banners, not merely a collective effort.

Borrowed from this blog
This was a scene repeated all over the country. The people had spoken. Japanese fans simply do not want stages and their associated weakness at deciding the year's best team. The suits slunk off defeated, but not without a parting swipe that they'd still be changing things eventually.

I went into full details of the gaping holes in the old double stage system back in April, but if you think those were grounds for objection, just you wait until you see what lunacy the J. League has dreamt up for 2015.

Use the Term System Loosely

OK, brace yourself. This is not a joke. This really is how J1 is going to be contested in two years time. 

There will be two stages of 17 games. Home and away games will be distributed over those stages. Never mind that the potential fixture inequalities create a mess straight off the bat. Just ignore that.

When both stages have been completed the year will enter the post season tournament phase.

The winner of Stage 1 will play the runners up of Stage 2. One leg? Two? Nobody knows yet.
The winner of Stage 2 will play the runners up of Stage 1. Clear? OK.

The winner of these games then play each other. One leg? Two? Again, who the hell knows. 
And the winner of this is the champion? God no. Of course not.

The winner of the above game will play the team with the greatest number of points won over the two stages
The winner of that will be the champions. 

Seriously. I must state again that I am not joking. This is actually what has been reported today. Confusing? Unfair? Needlessly convoluted? Never mind all that, think of the sponsorship money to be had in all those extra games (anything up to eight). That really is what it comes down to. It's not in the interests of clubs or players, and certainly not supporters.

Where to Start?

Scenario 1)
One team wins both stages. The same team finishes second both stages. 
Who plays who in the play offs? We'll be short by three competitors. 
Two teams denied 1st or 2nd place finishes, and the team with the highest number of total  points will be the 1st placed team. 
So where do we go to make up the numbers? 3rd place? 4th place? 
Where are the double stage winners (inevitably the highest point earners) dropped into the post season tournament?
Ultimately you could see the grand final between the highest total points winners and a team who finished 3rd or 4th in one stage. They may have finished bottom in the other stage, but never mind that, now they're playing for the championship.

Let Your Voice be Heard

It's an insult to the integrity of Japanese football. It's spitting in the face of fans who have made it abundantly clear this is the opposite of what they want. It's gimmicky, it's cynical and it's cheap. It's vast wads of sponsorship cash and it's jobs for the suits. 

J. League fans have perhaps come of age since the J1 abandoned two stages in 2005. They know what they want, and they're deadly serious. A fair league with no tacky add-ons. I agree 100%, and if I'm honest, I don't think I'd spend money watching football reduced to a circus.

TV companies are ordered not to broadcast banners like those above, but supporters won't be silenced. This game belongs to supporters first and foremost. If you're in Japan and feel the same way as most, make a banner to take to your next home game. If you're not J. Side, Tweet like mad using the hashtag below. It means, literally, Opposition to 2 Stage System.

The league has displayed contempt for fans thus far, and appear intent on pushing their plans through regardless of the opposition, so don't make it easy for them.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

S-Pulse 2-0 Fujieda MYFC (Emp Cup 2nd Round)

Barry BARRY WRITES...

S-Pulse 2-0 Fujieda MYFC
Omae 72
Radončić 74

Att 5215
Nihondaira Stadium, KO 3pm
Shizuoka city, Shizuoka prefecture

Line Up

GK Takahara

DF Hiraoka
DF Jong-a-Pin
DF Muramatsu

MF Ishige
MF Kawaii
MF Honda
MF Sugiyama

FW Takagi
FW Omae
FW Radončić

Subs Used

Murata on for Sugiyama (58)
Takeuchi on for Radončić (78)
Hattanda on for Takagi (92)

Report

S-Pulse strolled past Shizuoka newcomers Fujieda MYFC yesterday with goals from Genki and Radončić. Giant killings happen of course, but they shouldn't. Yesterday one didn't. Our 3rd round opponents shouldn't pose too much of an obstacle, either. We'll play the winner of Yokohama FC (15th in J2) and Zweigen Kanazawa (4th in JFL) going on to meet Frontale (so long as they beat their own lower division opponents) in the 4th round.

Anyway, getting ahead of ourselves a little here. For now, our 3rd round game is home at Nihondaira on a date the JFL are yet to announce.

Videos

Both goals from a personal uploader.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Oita Trinita 2-3 S-Pulse

Barry BARRY WRITES...

Oita Trinita 2-3 S-Pulse 
Morishima 82, 94 ----------------- Muramatsu 43
------------------------------------------- Omae 44
------------------------------------------- Takagi 63

Att 9108
Oita Bank Stadium, 7pm
Oita City, Oita Prefecture

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Hiraoka
DF Jong-a-Pin
DF Muramatsu

MF Ishige
MF Kawai
MF Sugiyama (36)
MF Honda

FW Takagi
FW Omae
FW Radončić

Subs Used

Takeuchi on for Honda (70)
Murata on for Takagi (81)
Ito on for Radončić (91)

Special Report: UKU Summer Expedition 2013


Friday – Welcome to Hell(s)

Having balanced up all possible methods of clearing the 500 miles between Shizuoka and Oita it was the bullet train which came out tops. Unlike for Sapporo and Fukuoka, Shizuoka Airport doesn’t offer an Oita route, meaning sadly no away game flight this year. What’s probably a novelty for most Honshu teams, must, for fans of your Trinitas or Consadoles, be something of a drag. Based where we are, S-Pulse are within day-return reach of anywhere up to Sendai out east, or Kobe out west. Avispa fans no doubt accumulate a burgeoning collection of air miles over a season, but day trips must be frustratingly infrequent. 

A bridge too far in 24 hours, Oita had been pencilled in as the year’s big away trip from the day the fixtures were announced. Like Sapporo this time last year, if you’re going all that way, you have to make a trip of it. What else is there in the area aside from a football stadium and a game to watch? Well, 15 minutes up the road is Beppu, the hot spring capital of the country. That’ll do.

On the train at 6.30am, the shinkansen made short work of the 400 miles to Kokura, and after a change to the wonderfully named Sonic I was in Beppu before midday. Boasting wooden flooring and lush faux leather reclining seats, the Sonic not only has a cool moniker, it’s a cut above your average locomotive. Beppu means hot springs, but the volcanic activity doesn’t stop there. After a fried chicken (not KFC) and beer lunch, the assembled UKU members joined a tour of Beppu’s 8 “Hell”s. These are a collection of various seismic phenomena, including geysers, bubbling mud pools and bright red water hovering just under boiling point. 
 The Sonic. Classy
Two of Beppu's 8 Hells
Beppu is a resort town, so despite its small size has a high number of places to drink, some family friendly, others decidedly sketchy (“Show Pub Universal Babes”). I was voted down on Universal Babes, so instead we found a purveyor of some regional delicacies, ordered a stack of Asahis, and got ourselves in the mood with a Sky Perfect On Demand replay of Wednesday’s 4-3 excitement. Spirits were high, the beer was flowing, but determined not to fall into the old trap of peaking too soon, we called it a night early, preserving energy for the main event.

Saturday – Sandbaths, Sake and Soccer

Thankful for the evening kick off, we took Saturday as a chance to savour more of Beppu's famed spa attractions. Have you ever had a bath? Probably. Have you ever had one in sand? Piping hot and heated by water bubbling up from deep underground? Well, I hadn’t, but I’m glad I did. You lay flat on you back, staring up at the wooden beams as a member of staff buries you up to your neck. It’s heavy.  It’s hot. And you sweat. A lot. Ten minutes you spend encased, quite enough for this camper. I would definitely do it again, but evidently this isn’t something you can find in very many places. That means if you’re in the area and aren't claustrophobic, don’t miss out! 
 Where I was buried alive. Takegawara onsen

After ticking Beppu Tower off the to-do list, it was a fifteen minute train ride to Oita for the main event: Oita Trinita vs S-Pulse. Not a highlight of the day’s J1 program for anyone except us and the home team, but without your bread and butter you’re just left with desert, and you’d soon get sick of Death by Chocolate every meal. Trinita, bottom of J1 with just one win all season, play at the Oita Bank Dome 30 minutes of out of town. The bus ride had me realise how first time away fans to Shimizu must feel. Having alighted at Shizuoka and jumped on the shuttle bus, the arduous 45 minute ride up to Nihondaira must have them wondering if they’re ever going to see a game of football. 

Oita Dome may be in the middle of nowhere, but it’s a beauty. Opened in 2001, it has a retractable roof which slides over a supporting structure. Even when the roof is open it looks like a dome, and while it does have a running track, the far goal doesn’t feel as distant as at the Nissan or Ajinomoto. Cut into the ground, you enter at the top of the first tier, with the pitch below you. 

Spacious, modern and comfortable, this probably ranks at the top of my list for J. Stadia with athletics tracks. Only the access and lack of home fans counted against it. When things were going well, Oita regularly attracted over 20000. Only 9000 were there on Saturday, and 6% of those were in orange.  When the good times return, I hope so will the fans. 
 A beautiful stadium
 This ground would rock if ever full up
The Game

The match itself was in the first half something of a scrappy affair. We were unable to find our rhythm, and Oita, while most likely down, are not yet out. Former S-Pulse assistant manager Tasaka has them fighting for everything, and while it saw them sneak up from J2 last season via the play offs, they’ve repeatedly come unstuck against better opposition. Their undoing on Saturday was in two late 1st half minutes. Firstly Muramatsu started and finished a lightening counter move, and seconds later Genki Omae scored a classy goal to mark his first since returning to Shimizu.

Takagi continued his fine form and added to his midweek hat trick, and at that point it seemed we were going to run riot. We went close, almost extended out lead more than once, but Oita were the ones to net next, with 8 minutes to go. Another was added in the 94th minute which had the nerves jangling, especially when the last action of the game was an Oita free kick on the edge of the box. It came to nought, and we all heaved a huge sigh of relief. We should have had the game put to bed long before nerves came into play, but we held on for a second win in four days, not forgetting we've found the net seven times since Wednesday.
 Job done!

The wind in our sails, and bellies full of Dango Jiru, we headed back to the town centre, to drink and eat until they kicked us out. Which was 12am. Tokyo Oita most certainly ain’t. Honourable mention once more to Sky Perfect On Demand whose replay of the match provided the background to our revelry.

Sunday – Monkey Business

What else is there to do in the area then apart from hot springs, sand baths and football? Well, there’s monkeys. Hundreds of them running wild. On Sunday a short jaunt along the coast took me to Takasaki Mountain and national park, long famed for its simian inhabitants. These little primates are common all over Japan’s countless mountains, but here they are fed regularly to keep them from bothering the local farmers. As such they stay in the area and visitors are provided a rare chance to walk freely amongst hundreds of wild monkeys.
Don't be fooled by the fence. They were running around everywhere

An aquarium next door, Oita Umitamago (literally Sea Egg), provided the end to the day. It’s right over the road and from that vantage point you got an idea of just how mountainous this little corner of the country is. Clouds covered the mountain ranges surrounding the bay and provide a spectacular backdrop to what is a pretty cool aquarium. That all done, a quiet one in front of the TV with Liverpool vs Manchester United was decided for me. Plans to watch in a local bar were scuppered upon discovering both sports bars I'd found in Oita city centre were closed on Sundays. Again, Tokyo it most certainly isn’t. 

Monday – Can I leave Yet?

Monday began with me wondering why on Earth I was still in Oita. Scouring tourist guides for any more must-see spots drew a blank, so I killed time visiting Funai Castle (stay outside, for goodness sake), and dropping by Trinita’s long-forgotten original home, the now-called Oita River Stadium. My stadium geekery perhaps wouldn’t normally extend to stadia not used for pro football in a decade, but I guess that’s a reflection on the number of other attractions in the area. 
 Funai Castle. I went inside, so you don't have to

You hear of travellers visiting places only to fall in love and never leave. I doubt this has ever happened in Oita. On my way home, I was talking to a friend from Fukuoka: “Oita has nothing interesting” she says. Now you tell me. Well, it does have some cool stuff, and I saw it. But you need two days, maximum. If it wasn’t for the football, I’d have done it in less than two. But to be fair, if it wasn’t for the football I’d never have gone there in the first place.

That it hardly stopped raining once in three days didn’t help, but Oita definitely loses out to big brother Fukuoka in terms of points of interest / things to do / night life / reasons to visit. So it was with a sense of mild relief that the time to came to board my train home. With the obligatory bagfuls of souvenirs in tow, I stumbled off the bullet train back in Shizuoka a couple of hours ago. 


Another away ground checked off, three points in the bag, and a cracking weekend away with friends. I hope also I'm now a little wiser about planning away trips. Research tourist attractions before booking three nights in a hotel. Next away day? Yokohama. Now I know there’s some cool stuff up there. :)
That's now 21 grounds for the flag. Retirement coming soon?
Videos

Highlights.