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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...

Sunday, 7 December 2014

S-Pulse 0-0 Kofu

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

S-Pulse 0-0 Kofu

Att 19842
Saturday December 6th, 3:30pm
IAI Stadium Nihondaira, Shizuoka

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Kawai (60)
DF Jakovic
DF Hiraoka
DF Yoshida

MF Honda
MF Takeuchi
MF Omae
MF Ishige

FW Novakovic
FW Takagi T

Subs Used

Nagasawa on for Ishige (57)
Musaka on for Takeuchi (78)
Miura G on for Takagi T (92)

Report

Job done. I can't really complain about the manner it was achieved, because if it was to be either 90 minutes of sexy, silky passing football and losing, or aimless, long ball hoofery and drawing, then there was no choice. As it transpired, after a bright opening minute or two we kicked off our attacking shoes, pulled up a chair, brewed a nice cup of tea, and settled back for the afternoon.

Wasting time and occasionally booting the ball forward was the major theme of proceedings. Not being able to hold on to possession was an unwelcome addition to the final 15 minutes. Knowing one Kofu goal would have relegated us, it was a painful game to endure, especially because the only team who looked like scoring wasn't us.
  Few sights (or sounds) in J1 match a sold out Kop
Away end half an hour before kick off
Representin'
We held on, Kushibiki made a couple of crucial saves, and S-Pulse survived demotion by one point. A massive relief of course, but tinged by the fact a new manager wasn't announced immediately after the game. With the current regime in place can anyone honestly see us doing anything next season but struggling again? I can't. Oenoki didn't just have a few games to settle in. He had half a season. And we were shite. From beginning to end. A few exceptional performances kept our heads above water, but without Ogawa's late goal last week for Nagoya against Omiya we'd be down.

Well, who knows? Maybe I'll be proved wrong next year. Hell, we could end stage one bottom, stage two second, and then win the league! What's not to like?! Oh yeah, that from 2015 J1 is impossible to take seriously. Convoluted and unfair, it's becoming a parody of a football league. There's maybe a few mischievous away days to be had, but the football? Well, I guess it takes the stress out of it when you know, regardless of points earned over the year, the table is going to be manipulated and warped for the sole purpose of selling a few more tickets and sponsorship rights. Meh, it's been fun while it lasted.

So the curtain has come down on the 2014 J. League season. It's been a gas, and when I moan and whinge, it's only because I care. :) See you next season, Happy Christmas and have a great new year!

Videos


Bored? Here's the whole match (minus the first 5 minutes).



The moment we stayed up.

Friday, 5 December 2014

You Don't Know What You've Got Til It's (Almost) Gone

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

Shimizu are one of only a handful of J1 teams to have never been relegated. We're also one of only three of the Original 10 yet to win the championship. Technically one of two, as the F of Yokohama Flügels won J1 in both 2003 & 2004. Sure we won the league in 1999, with more points over the year than anyone else, but you know how things used to be. Two stages and all that. Iwata beat us on penalties to nullify a 16 point discrepancy in class, and they were given the trophy. Heh, ho. The dark days of multistage nonsense. Let's hope we don't see a return to that meaningless circus anytime soon... *sigh*

Anyway, I'm getting side tracked. What I mean to say it is that since 1992 we're been pretty average. That said, two domestic and one continental cup isn't to be sniffed at, and in the early years we were generally nearer the top than bottom. But speaking in terms of the big hitters over the last 22 years, S-Pulse have been also-rans more often than not.

Culturally we hold greater stock than our trophy cabinet might suggest. This a combination of the benefits of J. League founding membership, a string of unforgettable globe-covered shirts, and a strong samba supporter identity. A successfully marketed brand has little benefit on the pitch though. Just look to FC Nippon (aka Verdy Kawasaki, aka Tokyo Verdy 1969, aka 3rd worst team in J2). In a rapidly expanding pyramid nobody can afford to stand still, as former top J1 mainstays JEF United and Jubilo Iwata will join Verdy in testifying. Lose your foothold and there are plenty ready to step in.

And it's there we now stand: on the edge. If we go over and surrender our top flight berth there's no guarantee of regaining it. Before you know it you've joined that list of "Oh yeah, didn't they used to be in J1?" teams. A spectacularly misjudged mid-season firing, followed by an equally mystifying appointment, sent an otherwise mid-table season into free fall. Now isn't the time to delve into the whys and hows that led us here. I've already done that to death. Though our fans are already painfully aware, and you can well argue it goes without saying, the importance of tomorrow cannot be overstated.

It's taken an all-or-nothing final game to give us our first sell out of the season. A mediocre S-Pulse has brought in a 14000 average, the 5th lowest in J1. With that in mind, how many would you expect to turn out for a Wednesday night against Nagasaki? It's no exaggeration to say Nihondaira's location and access work against everything the club tries to attract fans, but that's another argument for another day. The bottom line is J2 football would see thousands finding other things to do.

What of the team? I'd postulate demotion would see (including but not restricted to) Jakovic, Honda, Omae, Takagi T, Novakovic and Jong-a-Pin out the door faster than you say "You can't win anything with (the) kids (team manager)". None of them should settle for J2 football, and whether they have national team ambitions or not, they'd be wasted in the second tier. Before I pipe up with the apparently logical extension that our team is therefore Too good go down, I'll instead wheel out the equally hackneyed but infinitely more accurate The table doesn't lie. Should we drop, we'd begin J2 with an even younger squad than we have now, and fewer experienced heads to lead the way back.

Unlike other high profile relegations, we're not a club faltering under the weight of ageing "stars" stunting the development of the new generation. Anything but. We've just been hopelessly (mis)managed since the summer, with a defensive constitution that makes a sieve look watertight. The second half of this season has been a disaster, but a combination of Cerezo imploding in a pink cloud of incompetence, and Omiya having an even worse time than us (so far), has let us off the hook. Another year and we'd already be down.

Here we are. One point from safety. One defeat from J2. It's entirely down to us. Being this close gives you a genuine appreciation of visiting the Kashimas, Marinos' and Urawas of this world each week. What fan is willing to trade that for (admittedly quite appealing) trips to Kanazawa, Fukuoka and Ehime? Nobody. And who wants to be welcoming handfuls of visiting supporters every other week rather than thousands? Again, nobody.

So while it's screamingly obvious that survival means everything for the immediate future of this club, whatever happens tomorrow there has to be major changes before 2015. Let's have them happen knowing we will be kicking off in March where Shizuoka City needs us to be: in J1.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

It's a Funny Old Game

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

As the great Jimmy Greaves was fond of pointing out, it's a funny old game. It suuuuure is.

Much like S-Pulse next week, Jubilo only needed a draw today. Whereas a point will see us secure a J1 berth for another year, theirs would see them through to the J2 play off final. At 1-1 halfway through 4 minutes of additional time, Montedio win a corner. Without a winner they're out the play offs. They send up keeper Norihiro Yamagishi, and this happens:



And in slow motion from within the travelling fans, who had covered 380 miles to be there:


Or in real time. Bloody hell. :D Try telling me you didn't just get goosebumps.

What a difference a second makes

Thanks to their blue and white stripes matching Brighton's, I've always felt a slight affinity with Yamagata. I even went along to their J1 debut in 2009, and enjoyed a beer with a couple of their fans in Shimizu the following season. So Yamagata are definitely in soft spot territory. The fact the above drama played out against Iwata makes it all priceless. Brought back memories of this time last year.

Another season in J2 for Jubilo then. Megalolz. This is all well and good, but we're only 90 minutes from joining them. One point is what's needed to make sure we don't suffer the same ignominy of demotion. We've never lost at home to Kofu in the league but regardless, I don't expect next Saturday to be anything other than excruciating. 

It's up to Oenoki to marshal his men to safety, and ensure Iwata's inevitable revenge for last season is delayed at least another year. Sobbing into your scarf at full time comes to us all eventually, and is part of what makes this beautiful game the greatest in the world. We have it in our power to make sure it doesn't come to us just yet.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Kashiwa 3-1 S-Pulse

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

Kashiwa 3-1 S-Pulse
Leandro 10 ------------------ Nagasawa 82
Dudu 38, 62

Att 13470
Saturday November 29th, 2pm
Hitachi Kashiwa Soccer Stadium, Kashiwa

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Kawai
DF Miura G
DF Hiraoka
DF Yoshida (15)

MF Honda
MF Musaka (32)
MF Omae
MF Takeuchi

FW Takagi T
FW Novakovic

Subs Used

Ishige on for Takeuchi (43)
Murata on for Yoshida (63)
Nagasawa on for Omae (72)

Report

Today's hero -  Yoshizumi Ogawa

So predictably we got turned over by Kashiwa, conceding our 40th, 41st and 42nd goals since the managerial change in the process. Wonderful. Check the highlights below for some more flat-footed defending, yellow shirts sweeping though with ease. It's been such a recurring feature of the last few months, I'm actually pretty used to it now. On the plus side, Nagasawa scored his first goal since his return on Wednesday. Huge news ahead of the final weekend, but more of that in a bit.

First, who we need to give thanks to is Nagoya's Yoshizumi Ogawa. The Nagoya midfielder placed home a 92nd minute winner against Omiya Ardija to send the thousands of Shimizu fans watching on TV wild. Why? Because that one goal means next week is now 100% in our hands. A draw will keep us up. The only scenario that sees us go down is if we lose, and Omiya win. Now of course, given how poor we've been, and the fact Omiya are home to the uber shite Cerezo Osaka, this is totally possible. But being home to Kofu, a team already safe in the knowledge that they won their J1 survival a fortnight ago, is on paper the least threatening game we've had since we played Cerezo in October.

We'll have Nagasawa back - maybe to even start. Jakovic will be available after suspension, and with no new major upsets to our squad, we should be as strong as is possible. Last week, and especially this, we were massively let off the hook. Another season and Omiya would have won one or both of those two and we'd be down already.

So yeah, ball in our court, fate in our hands blah blah blah, but one thing everyone knows about football is if something is mathematically possible, then it does happen. So we have to go out and dispose of Kofu. We need an early goal to settle nerves, and play our own game. If we concede first then things will go to shit. Omiya will not fail to beat Cerezo. That must be taken as a given, so we simply MUST NOT LOSE.

If we manage to screw it up from here, then who can possible have any complaints? So come on, S-Pulse. Get out there. Get the job done. End this season, start again with a new manager next year.

Videos

The goals.



Friday, 28 November 2014

G. Osaka 5 (FIVE) - 2 S-Pulse (Emp Cup 1/2 Final)

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

G. Osaka 5-2 S-Pulse
Usami 9, 72 ------------------- Kagami 20
Patrick 14, 37 ---------------- Takagi Y 24
Lins 85

Att 6708
Wednesday November 26th, 7pm
Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Takaki
DF Jakovic
DF Miura G
DF Lee KiJe

MF Ishige
MF Mizutani
MF Murata
MF Takagi Y

FW Kaneko
FW Kagami

Subs Used

Omae on for Kaneko (72)
Nagasawa on for Kagami (76)
Hiroi on for Miura (86)

Report

Having seen that line up, no S-Pulse fan in their right mind had any illusions about the way this tie was going to go. It was was a B Team. A reserve side. To spell it out:

Of our starting XI, two had started against Nagoya.
Perhaps only Kushibiki will be starting Saturday against Kashiwa.

Of G. Osaka's starting XI, eight started away at Urawa.

Yes, of course J1 survival is the priority. But Osaka are trying to win the league, and only felt the need to rest three players, all of which were on the bench.

We were sent out into this cup semi final with practically no chance of winning. Survival may well be the priority, but for all its faults, the Emperor's cup is THE cup tournament in Japan, and comes with an ACL spot and a shit-ton of cash for the winner.

Osaka absolutely have to win this weekend if they hope to overturn Urawa's lead at the top of J1. Yet they managed to balance their league ambitions with the rigours of a cup semi final. Us on the other hand felt the need to rest all but the keeper (Jakovic is suspended for Kashiwa). Even our bench was sparse. Are we so unfit that only the keeper could manage this game ahead of Saturday? No, so in how much of a panic do you have to be to as good as (needlessly) forfeit a game?

Given this back story, it was one of most farcical 90 minutes I've watched. As a fan it was like having the piss taken. I felt for the youngsters (average age: 22) sent out to do a job. Kagami and Kaneko did great, as did Takagi Y for his goal. But giving them and others the responsibility to drag the team through to the final is horrendous. What was the team speech before the game? "Right, you lot are only playing because we don't want to get relegated. Good luck against a near full strength XI of the country's hottest team. If you get us through to the final, don't expect to play."

No, they all knew the situation, and so did we. But what can you do but support? Yes, but within reason. This was a waste of an otherwise decent cup run, and a blow to what momentum we may have recently built up. An utterly depressing night to be an S-Pulse fan.

So yeah, away at Kashiwa then. If things are still in our hands this time next week I'll be pleasantly surprised. The goal is survival. Get that done by whatever means necessary, then rip out the black hole that's pulling us towards oblivion, and rebuild. The nucleus of a decent team is there - it always has been - and the fans are faultless. It should never have come to this.

Videos

Fuck off.

Monday, 24 November 2014

S-Pulse 2-2 Nagoya

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

S-Pulse 2-2 Nagoya
Novakovic 30 ーーー-ー Tanabe 21
Own Goal 60 -------------- Nagai 54

Att 17352
Saturday November 22nd, 5pm
IAI Stadium Nihondaira

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Kawai
DF Jakovic (42, 90)
DF Hiraoka
DF Yoshida (53)

MF Honda
MF Musaka
MF Takeuchi
MF Omae

FW Novakovic
FW Takagi T

Subs Used

Ishige on for Musaka (73)
Murata on for Takeuchi (83)
G. Miura on for Takagi T (91)

Report

As the relegation dogfight entered the end game, at the other end of the table, with the predictability of Urawa throwing away a seemingly unassailable lead, Urawa continued to do their best to through away a seemingly unassailable lead. Former S-Pulse boss Kenta Hasegawa has his Gamba team looking every bit like overhauling the Red Diamonds and their hoards of relentlessly booing fans to snatch the title. Meanwhile down the bottom, Kenta's former teammate Oenoki saw his team put in another mediocre display, saved only by Omiya and Cerezo Osaka not seizing the opportunity to close the gap.

Despite Shimizu playing with a man advantage for half an hour, Nagoya, with nothing to play for bear in mind, was still the team who could have most easily won the game. Only a huge let off when Kawamata couldn't beat Kushibiki, and then Jakovic earning a second yellow by pulling back a Nagoya forward, saved us a point. Our first equaliser effectively came via an assist from Grampus keeper Narazaki, and our second goal (a cross deflected in off Tulio's chest) came while Kawamata lay flat out having collided hard with the woodwork. Although he hadn't hit his head, it was a brave decision by the ref to allow play to continue.

It's the nature of the beast that teams in the bottom five are not very good and aren't going to win most of the their games, but given we were a solid mid table team in the summer, it's incredibly frustrating to see us flail around at the wrong end of the table. Away to Kashiwa on Saturday, and without Jakovic. A point could potentially be enough to claim safety, but I can't see it. I expect it to go to the final week. It should never have come to this.

Videos

The goals:

Thursday, 20 November 2014

2015 S-Pulse Kit

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

With thanks to Tichmall for inspiring this post, and glad to hear you have completed your collection!

These days we tend to reply maybe a bit too much on Twitter for breaking the news. What Twitter gains in convenience and speed, it loses in depth. So let's take a moment to fully appreciate our recently unveiled kit for next season, which I can only describe as a spectacular return to form.

"A spectacular return to form" Barry Valder, UKU
Away is a little simple compared to the extravagance of the home kit, but I'm not complaining. This is the first time in a few years our new kit has made me sit up and take notice. In recent seasons things have become rather tame compared to the uniquely striking shirts of the early years.
 Graphic borrowed from this excellent website - 8 pages of S-Pulse shirt history (Japanese)

The above graphic only goes up to 2009, which was the precise time I expressed a wish that "here's hoping ... five or six years down the line we see a return to the garish and outlandish shirts of the mid nineties." Just call me Mystic Meg. :)

2012 did see a flirtation with the world map of old, but it was a tentative toe-in-the-water testing of people's reaction. After this year's shirt was dull in the extreme, respect to the kit bods - they've now gone for it whole-heartedly. The result is some solid gold S-Pulse sexiness.

Even my better half, who has precisely zero interest in the beautiful game, sat up and expressed her approval at the return to what I like to call S-Pulse Classic.

Roll on 2015 - in J1!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Kawasaki Frontale 2-3 S-Pulse

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

Kawasaki Frontale 2-3 S-Pulse
Fukumori 19 -------------------------------------------- Musaka 40
Kobayashi 44 ------------------------------------------- Yoshida 50
--------------------------------------------------------------- Murata 90

Att 19169
Sunday November 2nd, 2014
Todoroki Stadium, Kawasaki

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Kawai
DF Jakovic (76)
DF Hiraoka
DF Yoshida (85)

MF Honda
MF Musaka
MF Takeuchi
MF Takagi T

FW Omae
FW Novakovic

Subs Used

Ishige on for Takeuchi (65)
Murata on for Omae (77)
Sugiyama on for Takagi T (92)

Report

昨日覚えてる? "Do you remember (what happened) yesterday?"

If she's asking that within seconds of waking up, chances are it isn't good.

"Which bit?"

I ventured, a vague dread suggesting there may have been more than one episode to which she referred.

"The bit where you couldn't walk?"

Oh, crap.

"Or the bit where you fell asleep on the kitchen floor?"

Classy.

Unlike Murata then, I had clearly failed to cover myself in glory on Sunday night. Well, in a sense it had been coming. Since April I've been helping out with the Shimizu website, throwing up an English match summary after each game. This has been my absolute pleasure, and I've been more than happy to help. But for a fella used to standing behind the goal venting his anger at every throw in decision that went the wrong way, bottling it all up in the press box hasn't been easy. Especially when in the last few months the team has been underperforming so spectacularly.

Sunday then was my first time behind the goal since June, away at Kashima. It was just a Nabisco Cup group stage game, while in the league we sat comfortably, but unspectacularly, in the middle of J1. Not a lot was at stake. Things have changed. The 2200 travelling fans at Todoroki were in full battle cry mode from the outset. As an army they've been mobilised, and the message to the team, even if it hadn't been spelt out on a huge banner, was clear. We're with you.

Oenoki started with what's been working better of late. Kawai at left back and none of his favoured youngsters like Genta Miura and Mizutani in the first XI. I've not got a bad word to say about either of these players, or recent recruit Bueno, but as I previously said on here, now is not the time for a new manager to try and exert his stamp on the team. Stick with what's solid, get the points in the bag, and if you're still around next season, then fill your boots.

Watching from behind the goal, especially at Todoroki, isn't easy. The pitch is distant, the terrace incline is shallow, and it's genuinely hard to tell what's really going on anywhere beyond the near penalty area. What I do know is we played a lot better second half and deserved the win. No mean feat given Frontale were technically still in with a shot of the title at kick off. The three wins in our last five have still been interspersed with tepid displays against Hiroshima and Yokohama, but the desire we showed to pull us through on Sunday was noticeable. This is in no small part thanks to our support. I've been knocking around behind the goal for years now, and there was a real energy coming out of our end which set it above most other occasions. I said it before, but it's worth restating. In our darkest hour, the supporters have been unfalteringly fantastic, and it is them that is pulling the team towards safety.

So after the euphoric bedlam of Murata's impossibly tight shot beating Sugiyama (was the keeper expecting our number 22 to pull it back for Nova?) and the news that Cerezo and Omiya had both dropped points, I was such a good mood that I figured I'd skip the usual bullet train back to Shizuoka and save a few yen on the local line. This was fine, as the game gave no shortage of distraction to relive and pass those three hours, but therein lay my undoing. The Shinkansen allows you time for maybe a couple of cans, tops. That the local line gave me enough time to smash a six pack was hardly my fault. And I didn't force my better half to invite me to join her for the last hour of an all-you-can-drink course, now did I? Rightly or wrongly (mostly wrongly), that was several months of football frustration partly dealt with. It just took a few grovelling, well warranted apologies on Monday morning.

A top away day, but more than anything the most important thing to take from Saturday is that we're still two points from the relegation zone with three games to go. Moving in the right direction maybe, but in absolutely no position to do anything but fight harder. Home to Nagoya on the 22nd. Can see that one selling out. Like Sunday, and like the two games that remain after it, it's a must win. Absolute must win.

Pictures

 Be nice when it's finished (shame about the running track)
 Nowhere else I'd rather be
 俺たちは残留するぞー!

Videos

Our goals in wonderful slow motion.


The highlights.



Low quality, but the whole game.




Saturday, 1 November 2014

S-Pulse 1-3 Hiroshima

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

S-Pulse 1-3 Hiroshima
Takagi 80 ------------------ Ishihara 28, 38
--------------------------------- Sato 65

Att 13098
IAI Stadium Nihondaira
October 26th, 7pm

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Jakovic
DF Hiraoka
DF Yoshida

MF Kawai
MF Fujita
MF Honda
MF Musaka
MF Ishige

FW Omae
FW Novakovic

Subs Used

Takagi T on for Honda (53)
Takeuchi on for Musaka (64)
Murata on for Ishige (73)

Report

Beaten. :(

Videos

Highlights.

S-Pulse 2-1 Niigata

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

S-Pulse 2-1 Niigata
Ishige 12 ------------------- Ohi 72
Novakovic 90

Att 8539
IAI Stadium Nihondaira
October 22nd, 7pm

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Kawai
DF Jakovic
DF Hiraoka
DF Yoshida

MF Honda
MF Omae
MF Musaka
MF Ishige

FW Takagi T
FW Novakovic

Subs Used

Fujita on for Takagi T (71)
Takagi Y on for Ishige (76)
Murata on for Musaka (87)

Report

We won. :)

Videos

Highlights.



Sunday, 19 October 2014

Yokohama F. Marinos 1-0 S-Pulse

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

Yokohama F. Marinos 1-0 S-Pulse
Fujimoto 58

Att 19310
Nissan Stadium, Yokohama

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Kawai
DF Jakovic
DF Hiraoka
DF Yoshida

MF Musaka
MF Honda
MF Ishige
MF Takagi T

FW Omae
FW Novakovic

Subs used

Takagi Y on for Novakovic (67)
Murata on for Takagi T (81)
Lee Ki-Je on for Musaka (90)

Report

Not looking good is it, chaps? A pretty dire offering from both teams to be honest, but while we were unlucky in that Yokohama got a deflection to put the ball away, that would be to ignore the fact that they were the only team really in it. That they were painfully mediocre just served to highlight our own addled ineptitude at making much in the way of goal ward progress .

One highlight was Novakovic, his hard work and toil was only limited by those around him. He must be sick of playing for teams at the wrong end of the table. He deserves better. We were better of course until the manager was sacked. Mid table may not have been setting the J. League alight, but it was solid. It certainly wasn't staring down the barrel of a year in J2, and I struggle to see us getting out of the hole we've been dragged us into. Oenoki was never the man for the job, that's obvious, but with four of our last six games at home, Nagasawa and Jong a Pin on the brink of return, a spirit lifting cup run, and the unfaltering support of all in orange, he has everything working towards him in his mission to save us.

Home to Niigata on Wednesday, where we will gather, and we will support. If we can stay up it will be the result of a mammoth effort of all involved. In this, our darkest hour, it will be the fans shining the guiding light, and for them our team must now be playing. We were let off the hook yesterday with Cerezo losing and Kofu drawing, but we're still in a whole world of trouble.

It really is now or never.

Videos

Highlights.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Nagoya 2-2 S-Pulse (AET) S-Pulse win 5-3 on penalties (Emp Cup 1/4 Final)

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

Nagoya 2-2 S-Pulse (aet) 
Ogawa 72 ------------------ Takagi Y 65
Nagai 82 -------------------- Takagi T 67

S-Pulse win 5-3 on penalties

Att 6113
Mizuho Stadium, Nagoya

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Kawai
DF Jakovic (79)
DF Hiraoka
DF Yoshida

MF Takagi Y
MF Honda
MF Murata
MF Ishige

FW Takagi T
FW Omae

Subs Used

Mizutani on for Takagi Y(76)
Lee Ki-Je on for Kawai (81)
Murata on for Ishige (106)

Report

No classic, but the only thing that matters is that we squeezed through. On balance we probably deserved it, especially away from home. Defending on their goals was cause for concern, though. That said, we were solid as a rock from set pieces, so credit where it's due, we may be heading in the right direction.

Without Novakovic we were left to juggle a bit up front, especially given the lack of anything approaching what can be called height. You have to work with what you've got though, and that we did. Both goals came via decent approach play on the ground, and the brothers Takagi put their respective goals away very tidily indeed. Given the chances we made we should have had the game beyond Nagoya's reach going into the final 15 minutes, but I can't really moan. An away win (draw, but you know) for the second Emperor's Cup tie in a row, both against in-form teams.

The semi final will be in Tokyo, so neutral ground for whoever we face (Omiya or G. Osaka). But just when the traditionally-ignored-by-the-masses-until-the-final Emperor's Cup is starting to get interesting, the semi final is scheduled for a Wednesday night. Go figure. Well, I don't doubt we'll still get ridiculously over excited and subsequently heartbroken. That's what this wonderful, pointless, beautiful, infuriating, gorgeous game called football is all about.

Videos

Got a bit of time on your hands? Why not watch the whole 90 minutes? Via YouTube user, nay YouTube legend, Terukaza Oyama. Amazing work, that man. First half, part one:



First half, part two:



Second half, part one:



Second half, part two:



No extra time I'm afraid, but you can jump straight to the penalties courtesy of YouTuber JagdOrkus:

Sunday, 5 October 2014

S-Pulse 3-0 Cerezo Osaka

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

S-Pulse 3-0 Cerezo Osaka
Ishige 8
Hiraoka 77
Murata 94

Att 11917
IAI Stadium Nihondaira, Shizuoka

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Kawai
DF Jakovic
DF Hiraoka
DF Yoshida

MF Honda
MF Omae
MF Musaka
MF Ishige

FW Novakovic
FW Takagi T

Subs Used

Murata on for Omae (84)
Mizutani on for Honda (85)
Takaki on for Takagi T (90)

Report



Our first win after six defeats and a draw. Halle-bloody-lujah.

Not enough to take us out the drop zone though, and nothing has been achieved yet. Regardless, this is huge in terms of turning our season around. Yes, Cerezo were crap. They were irritable, desperate and let themselves down, not least for their red card. But we dominated from start to finish and should have been 3-0 up at half time, let alone full time.

The starting eleven, still missing Jong a Pin, was far more solid than some of Oenoki's recent line ups. Kawai I'll take over Mizutani any day of the week, and the same for Jakovic over Miura. Defenece after all is where we've come undone with goal after goal seeping through. Today we kept a clean sheet, and when Cerezo were hitching it forward for Diego Forlan for the last half an hour, that's far from a given, even in a game we dictated.

That's what these last seven games are all about. Being solid. Getting points. This is not the time to give minutes to youngsters, at least not from kick off. So a better performance, but everything still to do. We have four of our last seven games at home, so with home advantage and our boys doing what we all know they can, we should stay up.

Well, next week we have the nice distraction of the cup 1/4 finals. Away at Nagoya, which is going to be very tough to overcome, but with the carrot of a semi final dangling in sight we'll be up for it. Kick off Saturday at 7pm - excited? I know am. :)

Videos

Highlights.



The goals in beautiful slow motion from YouTube user imoimo9.







Sunday, 28 September 2014

Omiya Ardija 2-1 S-Pulse

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

Omiya Ardija 2-1 S-Pulse
Zlatan 9 ----------------------------------- Honda 50
Ienaga 73

Att 11684
NACK5 Stadium, Saitama city

Line Up

GK Kushibiki
DF Bueno, Hiraoka, Miura G, Kawai
MF Ishige, Honda, Musaka, Musaka
FW Omae, Novakovic

Subs Used

Takagi T on for Mizutani (67)
KiJe on for Kawai (76)
Kaneko on for Ishige (84)

Report

The seventh defeat since Ghobti was fired, inevitably we're now sitting in the relegation zone. I could reel off some of the increasingly long list of horrendous stats our new boss is racking up, but what's the point? The club are happy enough it would seem. 

Cerezo at home on Sunday., and with just eight games to go, it's do or die. Make no mistake, we are definitely going to get relegated unless something major is done.

Videos

The goals. Honda's one is something special. Omiya's second, on the other hand... Jesus wept.


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

S-Pulse 0-3 G. Osaka

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

S-Pulse 0-3 G. Osaka
---------------------------------- Usami 21
---------------------------------- Niwa 84
---------------------------------- Lins 95

Att 15093
IAI Stadium Nihondaira

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Bueno
DF Hiraoka
DF Miura G
DF Yoshida (18)

MF Ishige
MF Honda (64)
MF Musaka
MF Mizutani

FW Omae
FW Novakovic

Subs used

Takagi T on for Mizutani (63)
Murata on for Bueno (77)
Hiroi on for Honda (86)

Report

Surprised? No, me neither.

We weren't that bad, but G. Osaka are a team in form, and the chances we made didn't even come close to being converted. To sum up what's wrong in three seconds, I present Lin's goal. Has a defence every looked so thoroughly defeated? It's painful to watch.

Now on six defeats from eight, eight goals for but TWENTY TWO against, we've now dropped to 15th. Only Tokushima sport a worse goal difference.

If we don't beat Omiya next week, we can have no complaints if we get relegated in December. Right now it's all about getting points. In that regard, things have to improve, or down is the only way we're headed.


Videos

Highlights.


Sunday, 21 September 2014

Vissel Kobe 3-1 S-Pulse

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

Vissel Kobe 3-1 S-Pulse
Pedro 11, 58 -------------------------- Novakovic 69
Marquinhos 39

Att 14850
Kobe Universiade Memorial Stadium, Kobe

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Yoshida
DF Bueno
DF Hiraoka
DF Miura G

MF Musaka
MF Honda
MF Takagi T
MF Lee Ki-Je

FW Omae
FW Novakovic

Subs used

Ishige on for Takagi T (HT)
Mizutani (81) on for Honda (HT)
Murata on for Bueno (66)

Report

Another Saturday, another handful of goals for the opposition and no points for us. This new appointment really isn't going very well so far, is it? Since the new boss's first game away at Tokyo, we've conceded a total of 19 goals. That's almost half our entire season's amount in seven games. We welcome 4th top scorer's Gamba Osaka to Nihondaira on Tuesday, the team who put four past us before the World Cup, so brace yourselves!

Taking over with two thirds of the season gone, Oenoki never had the luxury of a substantial transition period. Five defeats out of seven is poor, but most worrying is the number of goals we're leaking. Yes, we've been without Jong a Pin and Jakovic, but are we really that one dimensional? Of course not, but it's getting harder to ignore the fast accumulating pile of negative stats.

Two points off the relegation zone, but one defeat from 17th. 10 games to go. Safe to say any transitional period has expired. We're not a bottom half team. Time for Oenoki to start delivering.

Videos

The goals.




Saturday, 13 September 2014

S-Pulse 1-4 Urawa Red Diamonds

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

S-Pulse 1-4 Urawa Red Diamonds
Hiraoka 76 ----------------- Moriwaki 22
--------------------------------- Lee 28
--------------------------------- Makino 72
--------------------------------- Own goal 91

Ecopa Stadium, Fukuroi city
Att. 19059

Line Up

GK Kushibiki

DF Yoshida
DF Bueno
DF Hiraoka
DF Mizutani

MF Musaka
MF Honda
MF Takagi T
MF Ishige

FW Omae
FW Novakovic

Subs used

Takagi Y on for Mizutani (69)
Murata on for Honda (80)

Report

With this result Urawa, the only team in Japan I know named after a shape, strode four points clear at the top of J1. On today's evidence, I can't see them relinquishing their lead. They were far from spectacular, but while we were disjointed and, aside from a lively opening 20 minutes, didn't trouble them, what they did they did well. They made fewer mistakes than most J. League teams, broke with pace and purpose, and defended their lead deep and well. Come December, if we don't see them adding to their 2006 J1 title I'll be one very surprised little Englishman.

As mentioned, we started brightly, and Novakovic should have opened the scoring around the 15 minute mark. Within 15 minutes of that chance, the visitors were two up, and we were reeling. The second half saw us all bluster and no end product, with possession generally progressing to the edge of the final third before a black shirt (not the ref, Urawa's bloody gorgeous away kit) intervened.

A 72nd minute Makino header off a corner put the game beyond us. At 3-0 there was still time for Hiraoka to snatch his own headed corner goal four minutes later, but the flurry of Shimizu attacks that followed rarely troubled Nishikawa. In stoppage time Aizawa fluffed a clearance to a black shirt and in the resulting mess the ball rebounded in off an orange shirt, and that really was game over.

Hopefully we'll look back on this game as a pivotal one in the Oenoki era. It lends stark contrast to the last game at Ecopa against Urawa under Hasegawa's charge. Just shy of 39000 were there, 20000 more than today, and we snatched victory in the most exhilarating of circumstances. Oenoki will take time to find his best XI, and there may be more bumps along the way until that happens. Today he was missing Jakovic through suspension and Jong-a-Pin through injury, which is half our defence right there. The 18 year old Mizutani worked hard, but it was a tall order for him to make the step up against the league leaders. What we need to do now is avoid defeat away next week, because another loss could see us in the relegation zone.

The Curious Case of The Perpetually Booing Fans

I mentioned something on Twitter which I'll elaborate on here, and that's Urawa's supporter culture. Until today I've always watched Shimizu Urawa match ups from behind the goal. If you've ever had the pleasure you'll know barely anything is audible over our joyous samba din. I now help with the S-Pulse English Twitter service, so am lucky enough to view matches from the press zone. Today I was located half way towards the away end, and WHAT. A. FUCKING. ROW.

The best thing about Urawa fans in their numbers. They've had the biggest traveling support for many years now. The worst thing is the booing and whistling. When they had the ball, they sang their hearts out. When we had it, and we had it a lot despite the result, a soul destroying caterwaul of jeering and whining oozed from the away end. This held true the full 94 minutes, even when at 4-1 up away from home you'd think they'd be reveling in their successful away day. Is it intended to break the spirit of the opposition? If it is, then it's ineffective. They've not won any domestic silverware since 2006, more than once coming off second best in winner-takes-all situations. Maybe that's precisely why the team with the biggest gates and deepest pockets have been consistently unable to make the most of those enviable resources; the simmering negativity and antagonism which infuses every game they play.

My background as a fan is in the lower leagues of English football, and there is absolutely no shortage of negativity there. But it's all shot through with a self-depreciating sense of humour, and like most any supporter culture, ultimately a premium is placed on supporting your own team over abusing the opposition. With Urawa it comes off, at best, 50/50. If that's what works for them, who am I to judge? What I will say though is upon my arrival in Japan I count my blessings I wasn't stationed in Saitama. Had I been, I might now be stood behind the goal spending as much energy taunting and heckling the visitors than supporting my own team. I don't doubt that would quickly become a pretty dreary way to watch football.

Which begs the question, why is a supporter culture so focused on the negative able to boast the biggest crowds in the country? The reasons for being the best supported club go way beyond this one particular custom, but in a country where every other team has fans which spend their effort supporting over haranguing, could it be that Urawa's uniquely toxic atmosphere actively attracts fans? Simply because it's the only club in the country, perhaps one of the only opportunities in Japan full stop, to encourage and revel in abusive behaviour? Urawa may be cannily tapping into a human instinct oft suppressed in Japan - the occasional requirement to blow off some vitriolic steam.

Well, that's a whole sociological and psychological study right there, and maybe I'm just talking bollocks. After all, every Urawa fan I've spoken to has been a thoroughly nice chap/chappet. I stand by what I said, though. No amount of silverware (not that much in Urawa's case, anyway) could make up for stripping away the joy of singing and cheering and replacing it with bile and disdain game in, game out. I'd rather samba any day.

Videos

Highlights.


Thursday, 11 September 2014

Barry's Round Up!

Barry BARRY WRITES... 

We're back - and it feels good! Sometimes a break's required to recharge the batteries and assess what's really important. And what's that? Watching your team win football matches, having a laugh while you're at it. The two games I got to last month at Brighton's beautiful shrine to soccer the AMEX were both a good laugh, and ended in the right result. But what of S-Pulse during my four month enforced lay off (lazy spell)?

Well, following the master class in bad timing that was the sacking of Afshin, we unsurprisingly took a nosedive. In the immediate aftermath we lost three of four, conceded 10, and only managed a narrow win against the spectacularly rubbish Tokushima. None too inspiring, then. To be honest, you could have shipped Alex Ferguson over and he'd have struggled to steady a team reeling having seen its leader so abruptly axed.

We can't afford David Moyes let alone Fergie, so instead we've installed Katsumi Oenoki at the helm. In Oenoki we have, following footsteps made by former team mate and fellow Shimizu lad Kenta Hasegawa, another old boy in charge. He's been promoted from youth team boss where he'd been honing the skills required in management since 2008. This might be his debut as a first team coach, but given his years experience at Miho, the new environs of Nihondaira's technical area should take minimal acclimatisation.

While our starting elevens have so far largely been tweakings of Ghotbi's side (one big exception being the return of Lee KiJe), Oenoki of course brings intricate knowledge of our former youth players. He's been happy to call upon these and other youngsters, meaning we've seen the likes of Mizutani, Genta Miura, Kagami and Ibuki run out in orange the last few weeks.

So while we're still hovering too close to the drop zone for comfort, if you squint, the green shoots of recovery are visible. Ever the blind optimist (simpering idiot), I'm willing to believe things are about to take an upturn. They pretty much have to, because while Tokushima are to all Is and Ps already a J2 team, of those below us, Sendai and Nagoya ain't going down, and Cerezo will keep throwing money around like maniacs until they move out the bottom three. That just leaves one of Omiya or Kofu to put a run together, and we're right down in the mire.

The green shoots to which I tenuously refer are a 2-2 draw away at second placed Tosu who before that game had the stingiest defence in the league (should have won it, but conceded in stoppage time), and a 2-1 away cup win at FC Tokyo, ground out with zero height up front. We've signed defender Bueno who looked a decent prospect against Tokyo. Strong, persistent and good in the air. With a fit Jong-a-Pin our defence shapes up nicely. Crucially, we're still in the cup, so have something to aim for this year.

So that's pretty much the shape of things as we head into our annual Ecopa fixture against Urawa. It's the only time we use the 50000 seater bowl situated an hour from Shimizu. This is in part due to problems of safety we've experienced when welcoming the Saitamians(?) to town. The last few years they've habitually misbehaved, whether at Nihondaira (pulling down S-Pulse banners. #sigh) or Ecopa (aiming fireworks at our team bus. #rolleyes), but Ecopa undeniably offers greater security and easier in-stand segregation (rarely required at Nihondaira where fans can normally mingle freely). As much as anything though, the yearly jaunt to Fukuroi in an invaluable exercise in marketing.

Situated deep in the traditionally sky blue half of Shizuoka prefecture, Ecopa (an amalgam of Ecology, Pal and Park, if you were wondering) offers a chance to dangle a bright orange carrot in front of the region's school children. Thousands of free tickets are dispersed around the surrounding towns' elementary schools in the hope kids bring their parents, have a gay (old meaning) old time, and everyone heads home at 5pm with a burning love ignited for all things Shimizu. Out of respect for regional boundaries the free ticket generosity stops at the border of Fukuroi and Iwata, which is a shame really. God knows those poor kids could do with some top flight football.

Saturday then will be against the best Urawa team for a while, currently perched above Tosu atop the table. A tough old game for sure, but an ideal opportunity for Oenoki to show us what he's got, and to maybe steal a few wavering Iwata fans in the process. I'll be throwing a match report up here Saturday evening or Sunday lunchtime, but my Twitter (@spulseukultras) and the official S-Pulse account (@spulse_eng) will be the best places to keep right up to date.

Right, I think that's everything. Now time for another four month break (joke).