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WE FIGHT TOGETHER

2010-02-24 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0-1 Shandong Luneng Taishan (updated)

Posted by stefanole on 2010/02/25

NISHIKAWA Shusaku is unable to stop HAN's header from creeping into the corner of the net - stefanole

NISHIKAWA Shusaku is unable to stop HAN's header from creeping into the corner of the net - stefanole

Sanfrecce’s ACL campaign got off to a bad start, after a narrow 0-1 loss in Hiroshima.

Shandong’s new manager, Branko IVANKOVIC, declared afterwards that his team’s performance “couldn’t have been any better”. If this is true, then there is hope for Sanfrecce’s ACL campaign yet, as both sides were guilty of playing disjointed and unconvincing football.

The damage was done in the 77th minute, as Chinese international HAN Peng squeezed a header past Nishikawa in the Sanfrecce goal. The cross came from a corner, and the Sanfrecce defence had not reorganised properly after Shandong had forced a break in play by making a substitution.

Sanfrecce’s manager, Mihailo PETROVIC, conceded that the goal was a poor one to give away, saying: “We hardly gave away any chances to our opponents but did give away the goal, which we should not have done.”

Shandong's Lebanese midfielder Roda ANTAR sends NAKAJIMA Koji flying - stefanole

Petrovic also hinted at the poor standard of discipline in the Chinese side, which was particularly marked after the goal, by noting that “The game was as tough as I had expected but our players showed strong determination and good discipline throughout the game.”

Two dangerous sliding tackles within minutes of each other saw two Shandong players booked, with first Stoyanov, and then Makino stretchered off. From where I was sitting, the tackles were dangerous enough that the referee must have surely have considered reaching into his back pocket for a red card, but then I would say that. Stoyanov however made the point quite vehemently to both the referee and the Shandong players after his teammate was hurt, that any more bullshit would not be received so graciously. After that, Shandong calmed down noticibly, which for their sakes was probably just as well. It is a truism that if the referee will not serve justice, then the players will take the law into their own hands. It is fortunate then that the force of Stoyanov’s personality was enough to give the Shandong players pause for thought. The referee punished Shandong’s shenanigans near the end with four minutes of additional time, but Shandong almost scored on the counterattack as Sanfrecce threw everything at the visitors.

As for Sanfrecce’s poor performance, Petrovic noted the absence of loanee YAMAZAKI Masato and midfield maestro AOYAMA Toshihiro. I think however that the latter was more damaging to Sanfrecce’s cause, as it meant NAKAJIMA Koji started in midfield. Not mentioned in print (though possibly mentioned in the interview with Petrovic) was the absence of winger Mihael MIKIC, who was replaced by another loanee, YAMAGISHI Satoru. The inclusion of Nakajima and Yamagishi certainly had consequences for Sanfrecce’s counterattacking game, as on several occasions both players had the occasion to run at the retreating Shandong backline but elected to stand on the ball (or indeed miscontrol it) instead. Petrovic perhaps hinted at Mikic’s absence as he said: “Football is like an orchestra and Hiroshima can play a good tune when we have 13 to 14 musical instruments. But today, we were missing two or three.” Perhaps if I get really bored, I could muse on which instrument a particular player is.

Hisato looks on as Shandong's Carlos hooks the ball away - stefanole

Petrovic also made some interesting comments about the “integration” of captain SATO Hisato into the side. The official ACL website credits this to the fact that Hisato has been away on international duty, but the same thing happened at the end of last season, and Hisato led us to fourth place. In reality what I think Petrovic is hinting at, is the fact that Sanfrecce tried out a new formation against Shandong (a quite fundamental tactical decision which the media outlets seem to have missed), with obviously limited success.

I have already noted elsewhere that Kashiwagi’s move to Urawa would have consequences for the cohesion of Sanfrecce’s attack, especially around the penalty area, and Petrovic has obviously been thinking along similar lines. After the match he noted that: “Our players also lacked precision with their crossing and could not combine with each other around the box as much as they usually do.” I noted in particular that teams may find it easier to isolate Hisato from the midfield with Kashiwagi now gone, and gone with him is his ability to unlock opposition defences with a key pass. To compensate, Petrovic changed from a 3-6-1 formation to a 3-5-2, with LEE “Chunson” Tadanari joining Hisato up top.

In all honesty, while changing the formation now would seem a gamble, Kashiwagi’s departure has left Petrovic with few options. TAKAHAGI Yojiro and TAKAYANAGI Issei are rarely on form at the same time, and with Aoyama injured, there was little option but to move Chunson up to partner Hisato and hope that his bustling would compensate for Sanfrecce’s handicapped passing game. As it was, midfield anchor MORISAKI Kazu was a little quiet, and more often than not it was Stoyanov who was trying to drive the Sanfrecce attack with balls that were ambitious as always, but often inaccurate. Sanfrecce’s selection difficulties were underlined by the fact that midfielder ISHIKAWA Hironori was on the bench, signed out of University over the winter.

The crowd was pretty good though, which I was pleased about. Since ACL games are played in midweek, and maybe because it is still just the group stages, I noticed how common it was for other Japanese clubs to achieve only four-digit attendances at their matches last year. Sanfrecce managed a respectable 11,955 however – not overwhelming especially considering that this is the first continental cup match Hiroshima have played in 44 years, but respectable. One annoyance however, was the fact that the club sold out of nearly all their ACL-branded merchandise, after two weeks of mailshots and publicity (and a promise that it would go on sale at the V-Point store in Hiroshima tomorrow – a promise I presume will now be broken). I find it difficult to understand that the club could not have anticipated a high demand, but by the time I got to the stall the towels, pennants and other accoutrements had all sold out. All that was left was two dozen t-shirts, size S (probably equivalent to XS in Europe and the US, in other words something you would buy a pre-teen). Poor show, guys.

Shandong's DENG Zhuoxiang shoots over at the death - stefanole

Shandong's DENG Zhuoxiang shoots over at the death - stefanole

Well, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, it was not a terrible night. I do think that Petrovic is right to be satisfied at least with the way that his players fought, even if it was not in a particularly coordinated way, though the offside trap was usually effective.

There was also a slightly surreal moment, when the “English” announcer (with a Chinese accent as thick as sweet-and-sour sauce) bade us to welcome the travelling Chinese fans. As the big screen zoomed in for a tight shot of about twenty people ranged behind the obligatory red flag, they began waving their miniature flags furiously, just like in every Chinese propaganda film you’ve ever seen ever. I grinned to myself as I imagined the Chinese government issuing the travelling fans with the flags, and instructing them on their correct usage.

So, Sanfrecce’s first match did not quite go off as I was hoping. There is still the J. League opener against S-Pulse though, and if we can get the league campaign off to a good start, then hopefully the ACL results will follow.

Attendance:

11,955 (ACL average 11,955)

Goals:

Han Peng (77′)

Lineup:

……………………….HISATO………..CHUNSON (FW)

HATTORI….YOJIRO……KAZU…NAKAJIMA ..YAMAGISHI (MF)

….MAKINO……………..STOYANOV…………….. RYOTA (DF)

…………………………….NISHIKAWA (GK)

Used Substitutes:
ISSEI (CHUNSON 81′)
KOHEI (HATTORI 84′)

Misconduct:

HATTORI (YC, 53′)

Notes:

AO and YAMAZAKI injured. MIKIC out also.

Highlights:

unavailable as of the time of writing

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