Sunday, 25 November 2012

S-Pulse 1-3 Gamba Osaka

Barry Barry writes

S-Pulse 1-3 Gamba Osaka
Omae 48 ------------------- Kurata 24, 64
--------------------------------- Leandro 52

Att 12391

Line Up

GK Hayashi

DF Yoshida
DF Hiraoka
DF Jong-a-Pin
DF Lee

MF Sugiyama
MF Muramatsu
MF Hattanda

FW Kawai
FW Omae
FW Kim

Subs used

Takagi on for Sugiyama (21)
Ishige on for Yoshida (58)
Kobayashi on for Hattanda (76)


Saturday, 10 November 2012

S-Pulse 2-0 Singapore / Jong a Pin

Barry Barry writes

S-Pulse 2-0 Singapore
Omae 19
Takahara 40

Miho Training Ground, Shimizu

Report

We've had a couple of visitors from Singapore today, so welcome!

S-Pulse beat the world number 163 (out of 207) today in a training match at Miho. Goals came from Omae and Takahara as most of our squad got a run our at one stage or another.

Jong a Pin didn't play, but this season's near ever-present defender may have been too busy signing a contract extension. I'm hearing today that he'll be staying with us at least for another season, and that is massive news.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Emperor's Cup 4th Round Draw

Barry Barry writes

S-Pulse will play Cerezo Osaka in the Emperor's Cup 4th round. The game will be played away at Cerezo's second home ground, the Nagai Stadium, and is due to take place on Saturday, December 15th.

Cerezo beat us at the 1/4 stage last year, but looking back at our starting line up, we'll be maybe 8 players different this year, and we WILL beat them. Trust me. :)

A tantalising prospect, not very likely given Zelvia's impending demotion to the JFL, but tantalising nonetheless, is the fact that we're set to play the winners of the Gamba Osaka v Machida Zelvia. We all know who manages Machida, don't we? Only former S-Pulse boss Ossie Ardiles. Would be amazing to welcome Ossie back to Nihondaira (or whatever corner of the country the game is arranged for).

New Kit for 2013 Revealed!

Barry Barry writes

As previously tweeted, our new kit has been unveiled. Click here for the full information and graphics, or here for the promo picture.

It signals a departure from the classic all orange kits we've sported until now, with black shorts and a black arm. The breaking up of the orange gives it a more serious edge if you ask me, and I'm a fan. The world map design is retained, which is of course a good thing. My girlfriend, rather bizarrely, commented that the home shirt reminded her of a dog(!!!). Not really sure what she was getting at there.

Maybe the biggest change is that the away kit is now a striking shade of azure. For twenty years, there was an apparent consensus amongst all J1 teams that away kits must be white. This is wrong on so many levels, and I'm glad we've bucked that trend. None of that wishy, washy sky coloured cyan malarkey you understand. It's a strong, solid shade of blue. Looks pretty smart too.

If you fancy one you better dig out the old piggy bank. With a name and a number you'll be set back over 17000 yen. That's a cool £133 sterling. With most Premier League shirts going for under fifty notes, it's really hard to see how they can justify it, but if people will spend it... Think I'll put my 17000 yen towards an away day to Kyoto next season.

S-Pulse 0-1 Niigata

Barry Barry writes

S-Pulse 0-1 Niigata
--------------------------------- Ishikawa 59

Nihondaira Stadium, Shizuoka
Att. 8710

Line Up

GK Hayashi

DF Yoshida
DF Hiraoka
DF Jong a Pin
DF Lee

MF Sugiyama (71)
MF Muramatsu
MF Hattanda

FW Kawai
FW Omae
FW Nabeta

Subs Used

Kobayashi on for Hattanda (HT)
Takagi on for Kawai (61)
Senuma on for Lee (71)

Report

My ears are still ringing from the woman stood behind me full on SCREAMING each time we went close to scoring. Think the girl in Jurassic Park and you get some idea. With the way things were unfolding on the pitch, it was doing my mood no favours, I can tell you. Maybe a good job we didn't equalise last night, or it would've been goodbye ear drums.

Rather like the away game earlier in the season, we were the only team in it, but lost to a sucker punch. Niigata looked to me like a team happy to play out an end of season mid table clash, but the problem for them is that they're most likely going down to J2. Especially for the first and last 15 minutes of the second half we we all over them. We ever hit the bar, but the last ball just never seemed to find the right man, or rather the man with the space to trouble the keeper. It's important to remember (and hard to forget) that we played 120 minutes just four days before. It all adds up.

Hey, look on the bright side. Urawa got battered so we're still only a point off 3rd.  Three games to go, and everything to play for. 10 days off now because of a World Cup qualifying weekend, and the next game sees us home to Gamba Osaka. Around this time last year they sold out the away end as they were in with a (slender) chance of the title. This year they're on the brink of J2, and will be fighting for their lives. Should make for a lively game, and I hope we rise to the occasion.

Videos

 Some Niigata video, the first few seconds of which shows their goal.


Sunday, 4 November 2012

S-Pulse 1-2 Kashima Antlers (League Cup Final)

Barry Barry writes

S-Pulse 1-2 Kashima Antlers (aet)
Omae 77 (pen) ----------- Shibasaki 73 (pen), 93

National Olympic Stadium, Tokyo
Att 45228

Line Up

GK Hayashi

DF Yoshida
DF Hiraoka
DF Jong a Pin (c) (111)
DF Lee (71)

MF Kawai (40)
MF Muramatsu
MF Hattanda

FW Omae
FW Kim (79)
FW Takagi

Subs used

Kobayashi on for Kawai (64)
Ishige on for Hattanda (90+1)
Senuma on for Muramatsu (96)

Report

There can only be one winner and, after extra time, it was them. A very tight game, not much to choose between either team. They took their chance very well and it won them the game. I thought we controlled the game for the most part, but ran out of steam in extra time. The equalising goal didn't really look like coming and Kashima always threatened on the counter.

Gutted, but for our new, young team I feel nothing but pride at this year's cup run. Had some mind blowing moments along the way, and yeah, we lost, but I'm not incorrect in saying we have bigger fish to fry. A third place finish would technically gain us more than this cup would have, so here's to destroying Niigata on Wednesday and moving third. And we're still in the Emperor's Cup, the 4th round draw of which will happen on Thursday, so check back for details of our next opponents then.

As is now kind of traditional for cup finals posts, I'll let the pictures do most of the talking.

 Who's that dodgy looking character?
Line ups
Beggars belief, but the official choreography was Kashima coloured. Horrific cock up by the organisers
 In the thick of it
 
The historic national stadium is to be rebuilt. It's currently a relic of a bygone era and is pretty awful, truth be told
 Maybe next year
Videos

Highights.



Us lot just before kick off.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Cup Final Special! 2008 :( 2010 :( 2012?

Barry Barry writes

Not sure about you, but I've not been able to concentrate on anything this week. Now with just two days to go before 20000+ S-Pulse fans descend on Tokyo, here's a short special about my S-Pulse cup final experiences so far.

2008 - Nabisco Cup

Oita Trinita 2-0 S-Pulse

Went into this certain of victory. Oita were on a slump, we were riding high. Result? We lost 2-0. As you can imagine, absolutely gutted.

 As snapped by the J's Goal website
Minutes before kick off

2010 - Emperor's Cup

Kashima Antlers 2-1 S-Pulse

At the end of 2010 we played the quarter final and semi, then the final on New Year's Day, all in the space of a week. It was a whirlwind Christmas period and with the accompanying yuletide parties, presents and drinking, I've never known anything like it.

I even had an early night on New Year's Eve before a 7.30am shinkansen to Tokyo. As it happened, we had another cracking day out, but it all ended in tears.
A beautiful cup final day
Well, it didn't end completely in tears. Two hours drowning of sorrows saw to that

2012 - Nabisco Cup

S-Pulse v Kashima Antlers

So, Saturday. With the incredible fashion of the quarter final victory and then all the needle surrounding the semi, it's now all down to final day.
 
I wrote a piece about what this Saturday means to us which was published on Goal.com today. I've since had a lot of traffic as a result and a hundred new Twitter friends. Hello and thank you to all my new followers! Thank you for all the likes and tweets. :)
 
Read the article in Japanese here. It was translated by the Goal.com staff from my original English text which follows below. It borrows a little from a recent article in J. Soccer issue 4, but has been largely rewritten with Saturday in mind.

What Saturday Means to S-Pulse

Since the J. League kicked off two teams have dominated both domestic cup competitions. Across the League and Emperor’s Cups, Shimizu S-Pulse have made nine final appearances, with this weekend making a round ten. The Shizuoka team rank only behind Ibaraki rivals Kashima Antlers who will notch up their 14th visit to the National Stadium* when the two head off for the League Cup on Saturday.

While the two clubs lead the country in cup finals, one crucial statistic separates them. From Kashima’s thirteen finals, they have won eight. By contrast S-Pulse have returned from Tokyo empty handed on seven of nine trips.

My conversion to a Shimizu fan was completed in April 2004 after a dramatic 4-3 league victory. That my second game was a dour home defeat in torrential rain mattered not. The damage had been done. That season also saw local legend Kenta Hasegawa begin his reign as manager. The S-Pulse old boy moulded a team around crowd favourites like Cho Jae-Jin, Ito, Aoyama, Ichikawa, and Okazaki. Crowds flooded to Nihondaira to watch dynamic, attacking football, and a return to the glories of the late 90s looked just over the horizon. 

But during his six year tenure I repeatedly watched Kenta’s carefully constructed squad play like champions for half a season, only to choke and fade when it mattered most. Cup football was no exception. Between 2004 and 2010, Shimizu lost three semi finals and three finals. 2008’s League Cup final typified the era. Relative J1 newcomers Oita Trinita walked out for their first final clear underdogs against on-paper favourites S-Pulse. In practice we hesitated, faltered and never looked in it. A 2-0 defeat to a team who would get relegated in emphatic style the following season.

Hasegawa’s local standing granted him more leeway than most, but patience eventually wore thin. As we fell limply away from the 2010 title race he announced his resignation, and in Iran national team coach Afshin Ghotbi’s appointment a revolution began. The tightly-knit squad and deeply ingrained pecking order broke apart. The local-is-best inward looking ideology was replaced overnight by the internationally experienced Ghotbi’s global vision. 

The culture of nearly-men had to be attacked from the ground up, and while player departures may have robbed the club of some talent, it wiped the slate someway clean to begin work to that end. Shrewd signings like Hayashi, Lee, Jong-a-Pin, Muramatsu, and Kawai formed the new heart of the team. Players previously on the periphery such as Omae became regular starters. Remaining members of the old regime, unhappy at struggling to hold down positions, were shipped out on loan. 

By no means a painless process, I’ve witnessed tensions on the terraces as the wholesale changes robbed fans of long standing favourites. Bumps along the path as the new look team took time to gel found me urging patience is some of those around me. Now as 2012 nears its climax everybody’s hard work may be about to bear its first tangible fruit.

That is why Saturday takes on a special significance. After ten years of falling short, now is the time for Afshin’s youngsters to prove they’re not the nearly team of Shimizu’s recent history. The route to the final in itself displays some of their finest qualities. Going 4-2 down on aggregate in the 87th  minute of the quarter final second leg would for many signal game over. Not knowing when they were beaten, strikes in the 88th and 93th minutes levelled the score and gave S-Pulse an incredible away goals victory. The semi final was a comeback of a different kind. Having lost the first leg following a ludicrous FC Tokyo dive in the box and subsequent penalty, the 2-1 deficit was reversed after a comprehensive 3-0 win. That initial injustice, which could have overwhelmed young minds, was instead channelled into revenge. 

A first title for a decade would give Shizuoka City something it’s clearly craving, but it would be far more than just a trophy. Any lingering doubts or glances backwards would be wiped away and in the wave of momentum such a triumph creates, this exciting new team would be propelled on the road to even greater things. 

The league cup’s value as a competition has on occasion come under scrutiny, but throughout this campaign S-Pulse have used the tournament to its full. Valuable match experience, and in some cases full pro debuts, have been gained by youngsters like Senuma, Shirasaki, Inukai and Ishige. This helped prepare them for subsequent roles in our league campaign. Whatever the starting eleven for the final, it’s been a team effort in the truest sense and the day will belong to everyone who got us there. Victory would herald the arrival of a new era and Ghotbi’s Shimizu would rightfully claim a spot in S-Pulse history as a team of winners.

*It was since pointed out that the 1997 final was played over home and away legs, so there was no national stadium involved that season.