Saturday, 26 September 2009

Grampus Crash Four Past Whinging Wallys

Pixie's gamble pays off as Kashima crash to a 1-4 home defeat. The curse of Kashima Stadium is now well and truly exorcised. Igor Burzanovic played a blinder, reveling in the role of creative force. His touch and vision proved a constant threat to a jittery Antlers defence.

Kennedy got Grampus off to a good start, tucking home the rebound after Igor's initial effort had been parried by Sogahata. The Aussie's height and close control proved a constant thorn in the side of Iwamasa and Iwa at the centre of the Kashima defence. He almost added to his tally with a header from Abe's cross a few minutes later, but it was left to the hapless Sogohata to double Nagoya's lead. The scatter-brained keeper, completely missing an attempted bunt upfield, and allowing the alert Burzanovic to dance past him and slot the ball into the unguarded net.

Having found themselves trailing by two goals after only 13 minutes, the Antlers proceeded to pepper Hirono's goal with long-range efforts. First, Araiba sent one fizzing over from 20 metres, then it was Motoyama's turn to send a couple of shots over the bar. Meanwhile Abe and Tanaka calmly dealt with any attempts to break down the flanks, and Bajalica and Yoshida easily dealt with anything through the middle. The increasingly frustrated Antlers, wilted under our constant pressure and rapid-fire passes in the buildup. This lead to some more crude challenges to try and stifle Kennedy's influence, which resulted towards the end of the half with Iwamasa collapsing after jostling with Josh in the area. There seems little doubt that the Aussie's elbow caught the defender as they jockeyed for space, but whether it was intentional only the mild-mannered forward can tell. Certainly, NHKs coverage makes it hard for the whinging Antlers to make much of a case.

HT: 2-0 to the good guys.

The argy-bargy as the players left the pitch after the first half, gave Stojkovic the perfect excuse to bring on Maki for Kennedy at the start of the second half. A change that would probably have occurred early in the half anyway, but the manager prudently chose to rest his key striker for the return leg of the ACL 1/4 final on Wednesday. Kashima continued to pepper Hirono's goal, but only a Marquinhos shot forced the Grampus custodian to make a save. The Brazilian finally got on the score sheet, heading home a low Ogasawara free kick. This pulled the home team within two goals, after Sugimoto had earlier sent a looping header into the goal to extend our lead. Unfortunately for the home fans, the error ridden defending had not finished gifting us chances. Igor blasted home from 20 metres after an errant pass near the edge of area gave him a clear sight of goal. Indeed, Sogahata almost managed to give him a hat-trick, but a last ditch challenge saved the keeper any further embarrassment.

Overall, this was a good team performance, with Yoshimura and Santos proving effective in midfield without being outstanding. Ogawa and Tamada made brief appearances as subs, but should be fresh for the encounter with Frontale on Wednesday. Despite his goal, Sugimoto did not create much, but bustled effectively in midfield, especially in the second half. The surprise was how effective the combination of Santos, Yoshimura, Magnum and Burzanovic proved. The team was still able to close down the opposition well, but was much sharper in its own buildup. Kawasaki will prove a more realistic test of how effective this prove than the disintegrating Antlers.

Kashima Antlers
Hitoshi Sogahata
Atsuto Uchida, Daiki Iwamasu, Go Iwa, Toru Araiba
Takeshi Aoki (Koji Nakata 61), Mitsuo Ogasawara, Masashi Motoyama (Danilo 57), Takuya Nozawa
Junzo Koroki (Yuya Osako 75), Marquinhos
Scorer: Marquinhos 74

Nagoya Grampus
Koichi Hirono
Hayuma Tanaka, Milos Bajalica, Maya Yoshida, Shohei Abe
Keita Sugimoto (Yoshizumi Ogawa 61), Keiji Yoshimura, Alex Santos, Magnum (Keiji Tamada 70)
Igor Burzanovic, Josh Kennedy (Yuki Maki HT)
Scorers: Kennedy 5, Burzanovic 13, 83, Sugimoto 53

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