Sunday, 30 November 2008

S-Pa 3-2 JEF United

Here's an excellent video from the last home game of the season which captures all the fun of the game, a great video of this year's last Loco Loco, and an awesome shot of our very own UK Ultras flag in the centre of the screen for several seconds. Enjoy!



Now the goals individually, starting with Hyodo's boomer.



From an alternate angle:



Our second:



Our third:



Lucky for JEF, both Jubilo and Verdy lost. All the best for next week!

Friday, 28 November 2008

S-Pa v JEF United (Preview)

I can't believe we're here already - the last home game of the season! Since March, the year has just flown by, and it'll be with a heavy heart that I make my way up to Nihondaira tomorrow morning. No more 'Daira for four months!! It's back to real life we go! Back to families, back to long-suffering, and badly neglected, girlfriends, and back to other things too numerous to mention which have been pushed aside for the last eight months.

Still, before all that nonsense, we have one final Saturday down the 'Daira to enjoy. While we've got slim to no chance of sneaking into the third ACL spot, our visitors JEF United have everything to play for. JEF are the team with the longest running uninterrupted spell in Japan's top flight. In the current J. League, and as Furukawa Electric in the Japan Soccer League before it, JEF have racked up an impressive total of 43 seasons of top flight football.

It's all on the line going into to tomorrow's game, as a result for S-Pulse could all but seal JEF's demotion to J2. A win for us, and it would only need Verdy and Jubilo to both pick up a point and that's it - good night JEF. At least new arrivals to J2 from the JFL, Tochigi SC would set up a new local(ish) derby for them!

As you may expect, the Yellow Dogs of Chibapool will be out in force tomorrow. They have completely sold old their upper tier allocation of away area tickets, which, if memory serves, makes them the only team aside from Jubilo to have done that this year. The, as of Friday lunchtime, 1094 remaining tickets may well go on the day. Led by ex-Liverpool coach Alex Miller, who has so far done an amazing job of dragging them to within sight of safety, they will not be happy with anything other than three points.

S-Pulse on the other hand have only pride to play for. Well pride stood us in pretty good stead last week when we saw off newly manager-less Urawa in Saitama, but do we really have the heart to relegate a team? You're God damn right we do! It's survival of the fittest in this world, Chiba old chums, and besides, the humiliation you caused us with this little beauty is still far from being forgiven or forgotten!



Nishibe wont be starting tomorrow. :-D

Well, worst case scenario we get beat, the chances are Jubilo won't be coming away from Kashima with too much. Over 30000 will be piling into Kashima Stadium to see Antlers retain their title with three more points. They're not going to want to have to traipse up to Sapporo next week to do it there if they can help it! So a loss, while a downer on which to end the season, could at least plunge our rivals to within a whisker of J2 oblivion!

The forecast points to sunshine, so pack your sandwiches, don't forget your beer, and get down 'Daira early for another near-full house. It's your last chance till 2009!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Shimizu S-Pulse: A Team on the GROW

With our last home game of the season heading for a near sell out, I decided to have a look at our average crowd for this year. I found out something pretty interesting which deserves to be noted.

2008 has borne S-Pulse's highest average home gate since 1995!!!

This season we have registered our highest average crowd
since the initial J. League boom subsided back in the mid nighties. It even tops seasons such as 2003 where bumper 30000 plus crowds at Ecopa or The Kokuritsu distorted the average number found at Nihondaira each week.

Another 19000 plus crowd packs in for the defeat of Gamba Osaka

Well this year, Nihondaira was on average 80% full for every single game.
That deserves a massive OTSUKARESAMA to all our wonderful, and growing! band of S-Pulse fanatics! Not only to us, but also the club, whose tireless efforts within the local community to stregthen ties and foster a new generation of supporters is continuing to bare fruit.

On the pitch, the first third of 2008 especially was rather hit and miss, but despite that, on the terraces we've outdone the last TWELVE seasons. That is something we can all be rightly proud of!

Why not bring a friend to a game or three next year, and let's top it again in 2009!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Urawa Reds 1-2 S-Pa

Beating last year's champions and 2nd place team in the space of a week - a nice pick me up after the league cup and derby disappointments! Having a wedding to attend the previous day meant neither me or Fuz were in any fit state to be waking up at 5am Sunday as per last season. We followed the game from Shizuoka with stinking hangovers, but these were helped considerably by our first ever three points at the Saitama Stadium.

Urawa were going for the league title. We were playing for pride. We came away with all three points and were utterly deserved winners. Both teams had 14 shots on goal, and the fact both teams also had 15 goal kicks also speaks for the many chances created.

Edamura's opening goal was an absolute peach, and one of those you can just watch again and again. Tulio smashed it home in the second half to level, and S-Pulse got away with a goal line clearance a little later, but a lovely move which ended in a perfectly place shot by substitute Yajima won the game for S-Pa.

We now sit five points off an ACL spot with only two games left, so our only realistic route into continental football next season is via the Emperor's Cup. Going into the quarter final with FC Tokyo, I'm pretty confident.

Our squad this year has matured and evolved with each game, and having dispensed with last year's top two placed teams (not to mention the recent defeats of Gamba and Kawasaki) we are clearly a different prospect to the stuttering outfit which spent the first third of the season hovering around the drop zone. With rumours of Nagoya's proven goal scorer Johnsen set to join us, his experience, no to mention 13ish goals a season, would help wonders in the continued development of some of our young guns like Okazaki, Hara and Yajima.

Well, with the season starting to draw to an end, it's hard to look past Kashima as champions yet again. They only need three points against relegation threatened Jubilo this Saturday to wrap up their sixth championship. Sixth out of only sixteen seasons, bare in mind! An amazing record, but one not quite secured yet. If previous years have shown anything, it's that the championship is very rarely a simple matter! Jubilo are fighting for their lives, and Nagoya and Kawasaki are waiting in the wings to step back to first place should Antlers slip up!

I've said it time and again, but there really are few leagues which can match the J. League for drama - bring on the final two weeks!

Highlights:



The final few seconds. The silence that engulfs the stadium at the whistle is soon filled by our travelling thousands. Listen and look out for Loco Loco at around 4 minutes!



Good stuff. :)

Friday, 21 November 2008

Welcome to The Outsourcing Stadium Nihondaira?

Well, whatever it was going to be, it was always going to be awful! As previously reported, 'Daira's name was up for sale, and today a four year naming rights deal was announced. The new name for Nihondaira is the cringe-inducingly uncool Outsourcing Stadium Nihondaira. The winning company is Out Sourcing Inc, but just what they do is something you'll have to figure out for yourself, as I have no idea.

The deal is set to run for four years, and is worth a cool 360 million yen. That equates to over £2.5 million or just shy of US$ 3.8 million. This a pretty hefty cash injection so I'm hoping we see a decent investment in talent on the pitch, whether it be through the already more than healthy youth system, or through (Kenta sanctioned) signings.

Outsourcing Stadium Nihondaira!

The reaction on one S-Pulse message board was a mixture of gratitude and disappointment. Gratitude to the company concerned for the huge investment, but disappointment at what is a pretty lame and generic moniker for a such a unique stadium. Personally I'm awaiting the endless puns and jokes on the name which are sure to follow!

The mountain range which divides Shizuoka and Shimizu, and which gives the stadium it's name, will never have it's name sold. As such, the football ground which sits in Nihondaira's foothills will for the vast majority of us be forever known as just that - Nihondaira Stadium, as it's been called since it was built in 1991.

An abbreviated and more palatable version of Outsourcing Stadium Nihondaira (it's a pain even to type!) is already being discussed. A forerunner for that honour is The Austa, which doesn't sound all that bad I suppose... If you really can't stand the name, tune in again in 2012 as the name will be up for sale once more! Best start saving!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Emperor's Cup 1/4 Final Venues Confirmed

S-Pa v FC Tokyo: Yurtec Stadium, Sendai, December 20th, 1pm

The Emperor's Cup in all it's wonderful randomness today had the venues of the quarter finals confirmed. Unlike the English FA Cup, games from the 5th round in are played at neutral venues. Well, not all of them, just some. S-Pulse were one of the unlucky ones last round and got to play a team who were placed at their home ground. Some of the other games were at neutral venues, but not all. I not even going to begin to pretend I understand why this is, but there you have it.

Well, for the 1/4 finals it's all fair and square with all four games staged at venues nuetral to all teams. Or so I was expecting! As it turns out one of the games is a home game. The team in question are Sagan Tosu, and the full quarter final draw looks a little something like this:

Yokohama F. Marinos v Sagan Tosu:
Best Amenity Stadium (home of Sagan Tosu)
S-Pa v FC Tokyo: Yurtec Stadium, Sendai (home of Vegalta Sendai)
Kashiwa Reysol v Sanfrecce Hiroshima: Momotaro Stadium (home of Fagiano Okayama)
Nagoya v Osaka or Jubilo Iwata: Kobe Universiade (occasional home of Vissel Kobe)

Well, S-Pulse and FC Tokyo's clash has had Sendai's impressive-looking, football-only Yurtec Stadium chosen to host it. A bit of a trek for all concerned, I'm sure you'll agree. That's the "magic" of the cup though, and for all we know a semi final could be at Ecopa, where we'd have played last year had we beat Gamba in the 1/4 final, so no complaints!

If anyone does know the rationale behind Sagan Tosu getting to play at home while all others play away (travelling hundreds of miles and spending thousand of yen in the process), then do please share it! It took nearly a week after the completion of the 5th round to announce these venues, so there are clearly anything but random, decided by the mythical "fixture computer".

Anyway, politics aside, here's out chance to make another cup final! Our league season is over, so let's have it! Win this one and we're 90 minutes from another BDO to Tokyo! Game on!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Kashima Antlers 3-4 S-Pa (Emperor's Cup 5th Round)

And it doesn't get much tighter than that!

After Kashima scored with five minutes of extra time to go I was bracing myself for the lottery of a penalty shoot out, but there was rookie of the year (in my humble opinion!) Kazuki Hara to put it in in the very last minute of extra time! He at once saved us the hell of a shoot out, knocked out defending champions Kashima Antlers, and put S-Pulse into the quarter finals of the Emperor's Cup! After the anguish of the Nabisco, it's great to know there's another competition still to play for!

Highlights from yesterday's game and a half:



Well, the 2008 record against last year's double winners is none too shoddy at all! P5 W3 D1 L1, which breaks down like this:

League:

S-Pulse 1-0 Antlers
Antlers 2-0 S-Pulse

Nabisco Cup

Antlers 0-0 S-Pulse

S-Pulse 2-1 Antlers

Emperor's Cup

Antlers 3-4 S-Pulse

So now next up is FC Tokyo who today knocked out Albirex Niigata. The match is to be played December 20th. We're now only two games away from another BDO to the Kokuritsu, and from equaling the record for cup final appearances during the pro era. Still, we know that's a long way off just yet! Our record against FC Tokyo this year is pretty solid: 1-0 at home, 5-1 away, (not to mention 3-1 home and 1-1 away in the league cup) so we have nothing to fear!!

Well done to S-Pulse today, seriously. Bouncing back from recent events to put the holders of the competition out is no mean feat! After the hellish week of the Nabisco cup final loss followed by the Derby Debacle, well it shows a real strength of character to come from behind and despatch the best team in the country. S-Pulse - the pride of Shizuoka prefecture - you make us proud!

Emperor's Cup 1/4 final full draw:

Yokohama F. Marinos v Sagan Tosu
Gamba Osaka or Jubilo Iwata v Nagoya Grampus
S-Pulse v FC Tokyo
Kashiwa Reysol v Sanfrecce Hiroshima

To be played December 20th

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Gamba Osaka 5-0 Adelaide United (ACL Final)

Arise Gamba Osaka (the team we recently battered 3-1), you are now Champions of Asia!

Great news for Japanese football as a team from J1 wins the ACL for a second year running, and with it, the title of best team on the continent.

The aggregate final score of 5-0 paints an entirely accurate picture. 3-0 at home, 2-0 away. There was only ever going to be one winner of this tie, and while it was something of a walkover, you can only beat who's put in front of you. In the semi final, Gamba dumped out last year's winners Urawa, who were bizarrely dropped into the tournament at the quarter finals, after the group stage was completed, and thousands of miles had been travelled and hundreds of minutes of football played.

Compare that with Gamba who next year won't enjoy the advantage of being placed in the tournament half way through. Indeed they may well not even get the chance to defend their title at all! Despite having won the thing, to compete in the competition next year they have to earn it like any other team. A top three finish in the J. League is looking unlikely, so unless they grab Japan's forth ACL spot by winning the Emperor's Cup, they most likely won't be in next year's tournament.

Well, forgetting the tournament's mad little idiosyncrasies for a minute, it's time to raise a glass to the Champions of Asia: Gamba Osaka. Undefeated throughout the tournament, and thoroughly deserved winners. Enjoy it!

Totally unrelated, here's a gorgeous rainbow which spread it's arms around Shizuoka earlier today.
Nice. :)

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Iwata 1-0 S-Pa

I have nothing to say about this, so here's a couple of videos instead:

The players come out as thousands of S-Pa fans turn the stadium orange, white and black:



After the whistle, the players get what's coming to them when they let down 10000 travelling die-hards:



And if that doesn't give you a headache, I don't know what will...

And finally, here's a video of Jae-Jin scoring the winner in the 93rd minute of last year's Shizuoka Derby.



Not that you can see it, but God that felt good. :)

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

S-Pa 1-0 JEF United

And there was me talking about a nice, low key game... The only thing low about tonight was the crowd. 4214 rattled around inside Nihondaira as one of the most open games of the season unfolded with 26 shots between the two teams, several rebounds off the woodwork and countless near misses.
To be fair to JEF, the following they brought down for a game of little importance to them was pretty good. They have far bigger fish to fry, and as their fans continued to bounce around even after the final whistle, it was clear the Emperor's Cup comes nowhere close to J1 survival. The semi-reserve team they put out also bore testament to that.

But forgetting all that, the game was non-stop end to end stuff, and how we went into stoppage time still goal-less was anyone's guess. Both teams had had the ball in the net with each ruled out for offside. For us Okazaki had headed home after a thunderbolt from sub Omae Genki came back off the bar, but the flag was up.

So as the ref had the whistle in his mouth, extra time was looming, and everyone started wondering what time they would get home, Okazaki broke free, was pushed wide by the keeper, almost impossibly wide, but under pressure from the JEF defender he somehow got to the ball inches from the touchline and turned it in the from the tightest of tight angles. Have a look here to get some idea of how acute the angle was.

The place erupted, I now have a horribly painful case of whiplash as my skeleton attempted to exit my body with joy, and for two minutes, the pain of last Saturday was forgotten. The goal had been coming all game and the fact it meant we avoided 30 extra minutes I don't think anyone wanted, meant it was not only elation, but also a decent amount of relief, which washed over 'Daira.

It was the last kick of the game, and never has a 94th minute stoppage time winner been more deserved. Next up Antlers for the 5th time this season. November 15th.

The Goal:



And extended highlights:



Night night!!

Emperor's Cup Round 4: S-Pa v JEF (preview)

Riding the bullet back to Shiz on Saturday evening, I could barely imagine watching another game of football this year, let alone the very next Wednesday. Well, three days have passed and all I can say about tonight's Emperor's Cup (the Japanese equivalent of the FA Cup) fourth round tie is BRING IT!!!

What better way to forget a lost cup final that getting stuck straight back into another cup competition? This game would have been played on Sunday had we not been busy on the Saturday, so it was shifted to midweek. As such, we'll be lucky to see more than four thousand there tonight. Cup football, especially midweek cup football, in Japan never seems to catch the imagination. That's until teams reach the final whereby they then take 20000 fans to Tokyo!

Well it's all good. I'm looking forward to a night down at the 'Daira considerably more low-key than recent cup events. We want the win as much as any game, but a game lacking the tension of the Kashima league cup quarter final will be warmly welcomed by many! And speaking of Antlers, the winner tonight is rewarded with a trip to Ibaraki for a last 16 game. Kashima, who only made it past Kokushikan University on penalties on Sunday, are going for another league and cup double, so the draw could have been kinder!

After the last 16, ties are pre-planned to be staged at neutral venues all over the country. I guess the rationale behind it is to spread the game around to areas which don't normally see professional football, but for the fans of both teams who have to trek hundreds of miles, it has always struck me as an odd system.

After Saturday there is only one team in the history of professional football in Japan that has been to more cup finals than S-Pulse, (yep, that would be Kashima, then!) so with our awesome cup pedigree lets steam in to the this with the confidence only a team with eight final appearances can have! JEF are a different prospect to the team which lost eight from it's first eleven games in the league, but for all their exertions in trying to stay up, I hope the cup is going to prove one distraction too many.

Whatever happens tonight it's a perfect way to ease ourselves and our still-smarting hearts back into the footballing mindset before Saturday's massive Shizuoka Derby. Jubilo have their J1 status on the line, so things may get heated! So far as tonight goes, lets have a win for us, and no repeat of Nishibe getting lobbed from 70 meters as per last season's league game, please!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Nabisco Cup Final 2008: Oita 2-0 S-Pa

Our glorious cup run comes to an end in defeat.

Luckily, enough fun was had over the course of the day to balance out the disappointment of what might have been.

I'm still totally unable to attempt any kind of match-related report, so instead here are a load of pictures of the BDO to the Kokuritsu.

Pic as featured on J's Goal football website.



Finally a video of our players doing the rounds after the whistle. I remember very little about taking this, such was the daze I was in.


Noone does it like S-Pulse: