Waste not, want not

Jubilo Iwata have had a stuttering start to life back in J2, and if they don’t start converting their chances soon their stay in the second tier could be longer than they hope… (日本語版)

After 15 minutes of Jubilo Iwata’s game away to Omiya Ardija last weekend it is no exaggeration to say that the visitors could have been 5-0 up.

Instead, through a combination of hurried finishing, bad luck, and some impressive goalkeeping they somehow still found themselves locked in a goalless contest, and one they would ultimately go on to take nothing from.

The first chance came in just the third minute when Kenyu Sugimoto couldn’t quite convert on the stretch at the back post after some persistent work by Germain Ryo and a Yuto Suzuki cross from the right, and five minutes later it was Germain himself who was unable to time his jump correctly in order to connect with a tantalising Ko Matsubara cross.

Yasuhito Endo was the next to draw oohs from the nearly 9,000 fans at NACK5 Stadium as he steered a curling effort inches wide of Takashi Kasahara’s goal in the 10th minute, and a couple of minutes after that Endo, Sugimoto, and Shota Kaneko combined crisply before Sugimoto dragged an effort agonisingly wide from 13 yards out.

Kasahara was then called into action for the first time after a quarter of an hour when he got two strong hands to Dudu’s stabbed effort after Omiya failed to clear a corner, and at that point it started to feel like it just wasn’t going to be Jubilo’s afternoon.

“I think we did all the things we’d been working on in the first half here, but just couldn’t put the ball in the net,” an exasperated Akinobu Yokouchi said after seeing his team ultimately head home pointless after Angelotti struck a 94th-minute winner for Omiya.

“We also had good spells and chances in the second half too but weren’t able to decide things in our favour, and that’s an area we need to improve in.”

Indeed, the DAZN stats showed that Jubilo took 10 shots in the first 45 minutes, six of them on target, and their failure to strike a blow when in the ascendancy left them open to a sucker punch – which duly came two minutes after So Nakagawa was sent off in the 92nd minute for pulling Atsushi Kawata down when the last man.

“That was a game we should have won 3-0,” Matsubara said after the match. “We didn’t score in the first half, and when you don’t score goals in the first half of games like this they become difficult.”

Sugimoto was just as frank when asked what he thought the reason was for the team’s defeat, stating, “The fact we didn’t take our chances.

“We were in control for most of the 90 minutes, and were able to do a lot of the things we wanted to,” he continued. “In the first half we had chances we absolutely had to take, and that’s something we need to reflect on.”

When pressed as to how players can improve their accuracy in front of goal, the 30-year-old stressed there is no straightforward solution and that perseverance is key.

“I think it depends on the person. We were getting into good positions as a team and I had chances myself too, and it ultimately comes down to the individual. The only thing for it is practice.

“There’s also the atmosphere within the game, and the fact we didn’t take our chances was the cause of this defeat. I think we’ll have more games like this from now on too, so I just want to take it as a positive that this happened at the start of the season.”

Yokouchi will certainly hope his players can iron out the creases as soon as possible, with Jubilo targeting an immediate return to J1 after experiencing their third relegation from the top flight last year.

Their previous two spells in the second tier have both lasted for two seasons, although they have never finished lower than sixth, which this year would qualify them for the play-offs. For Matsubara, there is no doubt as to what a team of Jubilo’s stature should be targeting.

“We’re a club that has to be in J1, so it’s a must that we get back up within one year,” he said.

While relegated sides are usually seen as favourites to do just that, the fact Jubilo were dealt a two-transfer-window ban on account of the irregularities around their capture of Fabio Gonzalez last year complicates matters somewhat, and they weren’t among many people’s favourites ahead of the new campaign.

“In one sense, the fact the club couldn’t sign new players has maybe provided us with the positive of being able to play with the same players as last year and raise our level as a team,” Matsubara said. “But on the other hand, if we had a kind of trump card to bring on in the second half of games like this then things could have gone differently for us.”

Loan returnees aside, youngster Keisuke Goto is the only fresh face in the Jubilo squad this year having been promoted from the Under 18s, and he announced himself in style with a late brace in the opening day 3-2 defeat at home to Fagiano Okayama.

The 17-year-old also came on for the final 26 minutes against Omiya and was a lively presence in the final third, but whether a callow teenager can shoulder the hopes of a team of Jubilo’s stature remains to be seen.

At the other end of the experience spectrum they do of course still have Japan’s record cap holder Endo, and the 43-year-old was characteristically calm after the last-gasp loss in Saitama.

“I think this was a game we should have taken three points from,” he said, before singing from the same hymn sheet as his manager and team-mates.

“We could have scored three, four, or five goals in the first half. That would have led to a different result for us, but that’s football.

“We’re making more chances which is good, so now we just have to make sure we score goals.”

If they can put things things right in the first ever second tier Shizuoka derby this weekend their season would undoubtedly be given a real shot in the arm. However, if the same profligacy is on display against Shimizu S-Pulse at Ecopa Stadium then the clouds of doubt would surely start to gather over the sky blue half of Shizuoka.


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