In a tight, tactically interesting affair light on entertainment, Nagoya Grampus limited their own attacking instincts and shackled Vegalta Sendai to record their first goalless draw of the 2012 campaign at the Toyota Stadium, and prevented Makoto Teguramori’s men from scoring for only the third time this season.
The contest was book-ended by two incidents which may either have produced a wholly different spectacle or alternatively sent Vegalta to their second defeat in six matches. Four minutes had been played when an unopposed Kodai Watanabe placed his header over Seigo Narazaki’s crossbar from Ryang Yong-Gi’s corner, and then two minutes into stoppage time referee Jumpei Iida failed to award what appeared an undeniable penalty for Grampus, as centre-back Makota Kakuda climbed over Josh Kennedy’s shoulders to clear a cross and forced the Australian striker to the turf. The additional two points from any subsequently converted spot kick would have moved Dragan Stojković’s side into fourth, but the Serbian manager must merely content himself in being two points off an AFC Champions League position and seven points shy of first.
Grampus dominated possession to a significant degree, keeping the ball for close to two-thirds of the match, but this came largely as a result of a tactical decision by Teguramori, who was content for his defence and midfield to sit deep inside their own territory and only seek to win the ball as Nagoya crossed the half-way line, while looking to respond quickly on the counter. The midfield pairing of Toshihiro Matsushita and Naoya Tamura proved particularly effective in nullifying the threat of Kennedy, any attempt to utilise the significant height advantage of the 6’4″ striker to provide for Grampus’s Kensuke Nagai and Mu Kanazaki thwarted, as they sat no more than five yards in front of Makoto Kakuda and Watanabe and dealt comfortably with any opportunities Kennedy tried to create. On the rare occasion the 2010 and 2011 J.League Top Scorer was able to exploit any space afforded to him, he was laborious with the ball at his feet, exemplified by a 51st minute opportunity in which he could have shot first-time from 16 yards but who instead tried to force his way through an impossible gap between Naoki Sugai and Kakuda. Twelve minutes later he didn’t anticipate teammates Daniel and Tulio Tanaka failing to meet a superb cross from Jungo Fujimoto, and unmarked at the back post an outstretched boot would likely have been rewarded with his fifth goal of the season.
Nagai, outstanding for his team this season and the subject of a pre-match presentation prior to his departure to London 2012 with the men’s Olympic football team, was much less potent here, Park Ju-Sung equal to the 23-year old’s pace and flair, while on the the opposite flank Mu Kanazaki flattered to deceive, much of his possession wasted and finding little joy against Sugai until the match entered the last fifteen minutes.
To their credit, Nagoya rendered Wilson and his Vegalta counterparts ineffectual, not even their frequent switching of players between wings and centre-forward able to release the Brazilian as the nearest Grampus player was assigned to track his movements. The 27-year old from Araras has a goalscoring rate of one in two matches, but with 25 minutes remaining he miscued the single opportunity presented to him following a lovely pull-back from Ryang Yong-Gi.
The introduction of Kunimitsu Sekiguchi for Wilson with just under 20 minutes to play nearly turned the match in the visitors’ favour, a quick break giving Vegalta five versus three as Ryang eased past Daniel on the left and fed Shingo Akamine, but the central defender did superbly to recover his ground to beat the substitute to the ball before he could get his strike away. Two further shots from the 26-year old produced corners, but Vegalta’s late pressure was rebuffed and each side took a point from the match.
Having led J.League Division 1 since Matchday Two and for a period of precisely sixteen weeks, Vegalta relinquished first position to Sanfrecce who sit at the top with an equal aggregate goal difference but by virtue of having netted more frequently. While Vegalta have played two matches less than Sanfre in front of their own respective support, this may well make little difference in terms of deciding the battle for the league title. Any team from thirteenth upwards can leap into the top half of the table with a single victory, Kawasaki Frontale in tenth underlining how competitive the division is once again in sitting merely four points away from a Champions League placing. Although the five point gap between thirteenth-place Vissel Kobe and Omiya Ardija below is yet to provide decisive confirmation as to which clubs will focus solely on combating against potential relegation, Sanfrecce play the bottom five in the remaining weeks of the season, while Vegalta will see the benefit of one less comparatively winnable fixture. Should both teams sustain their previous levels of performance as the second period of this campaign continues, the outcome of their meeting on 15 September at the Big Arch could prove critical.
|Nagoya Grampus||0||Vegalta Sendai||0|
|Match Statistics||Match Statistics|
|Jungo Fujimoto||32′||Naoya Tamura||65′|