¡Sanfrecce Olé!


2009-07-11 Urawa Reds 2-1 Sanfrecce

Posted by stefanole on 2009/07/27

The Boo Boys at the Big Arch in March - stefanole

The Moo Boys at the Big Arch in March - stefanole

There was bitter disappointment for the Purple Archers at the Saitama Stadium as they were sent home to Hiroshima with nothing after concluding a match they should have had sewn up at half-time. The game marks three straight defeats for Sanfrecce, their worst run this season, and certainly worse than the 2008 season in J2 where we only lost four games all season.

I’m actually on holiday back in the UK at the moment, which explains the mini-hiatus here. Eurosport UK decided to show this game over satellite though, so I have a TiVo’d (or Sky Plus’d, or whatever the appropriate verb is) copy that my parents made for me.

I missed the Sanfrecce goal since it was early in the game and the recording didn’t stretch that far, but from replays it was a very good goal where Hisato used all his agility to redirect Kashiwagi’s cross past Tsuzuki in the Urawa goal.

The rest of the first half was all about Sanfrecce’s trademark counterattacking style. Tactically, Sanfrecce seemed to be targeting the right side of Urawa’s defence, with Kashiwagi switching to the left side of the usual attacking triangle, and Takayanagi filling in at right attacking midfield and Hisato up top. The Eurosport commentators made much of the fact that Urawa had more of the possession (who was the home team, lads?) in contrast to the way the attempts on goal column was stacking up in Sanfrecce’s favour. They generally seemed incapable though of pronouncing any of the J-League teams’ or players’ names (they did get Sanfrecce right this time, but I’m told that they used to pronounce it with a hard c, as in ‘Sanfrekke’).

Anyway, the commentators correctly identified that this was going to be one of those games where one side has so many attempts on goal that you think they must score at least one more, but if they don’t you just know that Lady Luck is going to be very unkind. So it was in this game: in the 38th minute, Hisato had a shot tipped onto the crossbar and away. A minute later Tsuzuki saved from Hisato, and Makino’s goal-bound header was scrambled away by Tulio. Moriwaki, unchallenged, headed wide from the resulting corner. In the 51st minute, Tulio’s attempted headed clearance looped onto the crossbar, and Hisato could only prod the rebound straight at the Urawa keeper. On 53′, Kashiwagi miskicked pretty spectacularly with the goal begging after having been played through with an accurate long ball from Stoyanov, and Stoyanov was the provider again as Hisato shot at the keeper a minute later. In the 58th minute, Nakajima shot wide from ten yards out when he really should have done better, even if you take his weak shooting into account. In the 63rd minute, Takayanagi found himself through one-on-one with the keeper, but he didn’t really seem like he knew what he wanted to do and was intercepted again by the keeper. Makino headed at the keeper from the resulting corner. Any one of these chances could have wrapped the game up for Sanfrecce before Urawa came back, but it wasn’t to be their day.

Now it wouldn’t be Urawa without, shall we call it, controversy? I was no fan of Urawa’s petulant moaning and groaning at the referee as they were put down 1-0 by Sanfrecce at the Big Arch in March this year, or their fans’ bizarre “mooing”, which I have encountered neither before nor since in Japan. I have since learned that there is no love lost between Urawa and everyone else connected with Japanese football. From Takehara tripping himself to win a free kick in the 57th minute to Edmilson’s barrelling into defenders in the penalty area to try to impress the referee, they pulled out most of the tricks they knew to try to overturn the deficit. The behaviour of their captain, Suzuki, was the most disappointing. He led from the front by falling over far too easily and then having the temerity to ask for a yellow card from the referee. The only trick they didn’t pull out was the old frustrate-the-opposition-by-playing-in-the-corner gag that we all know and love, but the rumour is that the J-League nixed that tactic with a discreet internal memo. And of course, it wouldn’t be Urawa without the cow shed mooing the team off at half-time after being outclassed by the opposition.

And it wouldn’t be the J-League without some bizarre officiating from the men in onyx, as is the case with the Adidas referee kits nowadays. Several times the Eurosport commentators noted that the players seemed baffled by some of the strange decisions, a case in point being Makino’s bizarre yellow card. The referee stopped play after a corner had been taken to caution Makino for his handling of Tulio (who can look after himself, clearly, and in fact had been fouling Makino at previous corners) but instead of ordering a penalty against Sanfrecce he ordered the corner retaken. This makes no sense according to the Laws, and I am sure that the match assessor will have asked him wtf he thought he was doing after the match. You can only give a free kick for pushing or holding while the ball is in play, and as such you can only give a yellow card for it under the same circumstances. If the ball is out of play then the only unfair contact that can be punished is violent conduct (i.e. a red card). If the referee wanted to make an example of the defenders and warn them, he should have done it before the ball was put back in play, and then punish them if they didn’t listen, rather than the stupid mess he got himself into by applying the Laws incorrectly.

Speaking of incorrect application of the Laws, I think the assistant on Sanfrecce’s byline needs to be reeducated on the subtleties of Law 11 (Offside). I lost count of the number of times that the linesman penalised a player for being in an offside position rather than being offside (hint: it is not an offence to be in an offside position. A player only becomes offside when he becomes actively involved in play.) Just being in the penalty area does not make a player active. Must do better, J-League. (Man, I miss refereeing.) And on that note, the same linesman could do with being reminded that the offence is deliberate handball. If a player kicks the ball at you and you can’t move your hand out of the way in time, it is not handball. Keep your flag to yourself next time, jackass.

Nakajima and Edmilson at the Big Arch in March - stefanole

Nakajima and Edmilson at the Big Arch in March - stefanole

Urawa’s first goal came about as Edmilson got the benefit of the doubt from the assistant, in that same way that the opposite assistant refused Sanfrecce the same benefit. The Eurosport commentators thought that Edmilson was offside, but he looked level to me. He was played through on goal in the 69th minute after Nakajima made a stupid error in passing, and Edmilson was played through into the space behind the back line.

In the 76th minute, Urawa were awarded a penalty which Edmilson missed. Stoyanov made an ill-advised sliding tackle on Takehara in the penalty area, in which his foot rolled over the ball and he ended up with his legs wrapped around Takehara’s leg. A pretty clear penalty, but Takehara’s reaction was inexcusable. He rolled around as if he was being assaulted by some ravenous internal parasites, in a clear attempt to get Stoyanov sent off. Now I can only guess that Takehara was hurt by a collision with Stoyanov’s balls of steel, because the only real contact Stoyanov made with Takehara’s leg was with his crotch. In this case the referee got the decision(s) right, those being a penalty and a yellow card for the reckless tackle.

Urawa's Haraguchi at the Big Arch in March - stefanole

Urawa's Haraguchi at the Big Arch in March - stefanole

The second Urawa goal came about through one of the aforementioned tricks, which the referee unfortunately was not wise to. Haraguchi attempted to shield the ball from Stoyanov on Sanfrecce’s right flank, and promptly fell over the moment he was touched. Really dim refereeing. Haraguchi got a subtle kick in the head from Stoyanov for his troubles, but the damage was done. The free kick was centred by Ponte, and a lack of concentration among the Sanfrecce markers allowed Edmilson to stoop and head the ball past Nakabayashi.

Edmilson took the playacting to its inevitable conclusion as he made a pathetic dive on 90 minutes on the halfway line to try to win a free kick, and when the ball went out for a throw in he was insistent on getting a free kick. I guess the referee was sufficiently annoyed by these antics to add on five extra minutes. He probably had Takehara’s histrionics in mind also. The decisions didn’t improve however, as Hirashige was fouled on the edge of the box on 90’+1, but Urawa were given the free kick instead. One of the more bizarre decisions. There was some excitement at the end of the game as Tulio cleared a cross off the Urawa goal line, and Hirashige missed a near open-goal as the Urawa keeper flapped at a ball. There was also the enjoyment of seeing Takehara, his confidence apparently renewed, being repeatedly pwned by Stoyanov. The comedy award probably goes to the Urawa central defenders, who were accused of “Keystone Cops” defending in the second half after one cleared the ball straight into the face of his defensive partner, deflecting the ball into the goalkeeper’s arms.

Certainly the wrong result, but I would take Sanfrecce any day of the week: in the words of Eurosport, they were a joy to watch.


0 – 1 6′ H. Sato
Edmilson 69′ 1 – 1
Edmilson 85′ 2 – 1


………………………HISATO (FW)
..HATTORI………………………….…RAKUYAMA (MF)

Used substitutes:

Whoever the editor for these highlights was, s/he is either a Reds fan, in love with Takehara, or quite possibly both. I would not call them a balanced representation of what happened in the match.

Petrovic interview:

J-League highlight show for Round 17 (beware the announcer with the faux-foreigner accent):


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: