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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011

Omiya slams door on winless spell at home


SAITAMA — Omiya Ardija shed their infamous label as the only team not to have won at home in both divisions of the J. League this season, beating Jubilo Iwata 2-0 for their first victory at NACK5 Stadium on Saturday.

News photo
In pursuit: Yokohama F. Marinos defender Yuzo Kobayashi (front) and two Shimizu S-Pulse players vie for the ball in Saturday's match that ended in a scoreless draw. KYODO PHOTO

Under-22 Japanese international Keigo Higashi and Daigo Watanabe struck midway through the second half for Jun Suzuki's side, which also halted a five-match winless skid to the delight of the Omiya faithful.

Ardija also pulled seven points clear of 16th-place Ventforet Kofu in the relegation race.

"It's been really tough not having been able to win here for so long," Higashi said. "I wanted to make a difference tonight and I'm glad I was able to help the team in the end.

"The trick is to just keep this up."

"The best thing about this is we've finally given the fans something to cheer about," said Suzuki, whose team is at Gamba Osaka following a weekend off for the World Cup qualifiers.

"The tide started to turn for us in the second half, and Higashi and Watanabe made the most of it. We have a few days off now and we need to recuperate as much as we can from all the heat and the games this summer, and get ready for the stretch run."

Ardija fans thought they were in for another long night as their team started slowly against a solid Jubilo side coming off a midweek home draw to Vegalta Sendai.

Rodrigo Pimpao, the summer signing from Cerezo Osaka, had a couple of excellent chances to put the hosts in front but blew them both, missing close-range free headers near the beginning and end of the first half.

Jubilo had their moments but were equally inaccurate over the last third of the pitch, failing to create anything more than half-chances despite a few teasing crosses from Japan right back Yuichi Komano.

The frustrating exchange carried over into the second half and it wasn't until the 72nd minute that Omiya finally broke the deadlock through Higashi's fourth strike of the season.

The ever-dangerous Rafael headed down a ball into the box for Higashi, who did well to shake off his man with the first touch before slotting home past former Japan goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi.

After struggling for its first, Omiya needed only another four minutes to come up with their second.

Watanabe put the finishing touches on some neat passing in midfield, opening his 2011 account as the midfielder hit into the bottom right corner to lock up the three points.

"We self-destructed," Jubilo coach Masaaki Yanagishita said. "Too many of our players were selfish. We lost our shape and balance as a result of that, and they punished us.

"If we don't play as a team we're not going to win games and I hope our players learned that lesson today. If we're not positioned where we're supposed to be when we attack and defend, we're not going to succeed. It's as simple as that."

Also in J1, the Shunsuke Nakamura-less Yokohama F. Marinos drew 0-0 at Shimizu S-Pulse, while Sanfrecce Hiroshima edged Albirex Niigata 1-0 at home.

Sendai defeated Montedio Yamagata 2-1 at home in a matchup of two relegation-threatened teams.

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