SAITAMA – Albirex Niigata preserved their unbeaten start to the J. League season but failed to find a way past Omiya Ardija in a 0-0 draw on Saturday.
Albirex went into the match at Nack5 Stadium in fourth place in the embryonic table after two wins and two draws, but suffered an early setback when star player Cho Young Cheol was forced out of the game in the fourth minute after pulling up with a hamstring injury.
Neither team could take the initiative in the South Korean’s absence, with driving rain and sloppy passing contributing to a frustrating match that left neither manager fully satisfied at the result.
“This was a game that we were capable of winning,” said Albirex manager Hisashi Kurosaki. “Really we have to be taking three points from games like this.
“We had an accident at the start of the game, but the players came together and we played aggressive football for the full 90 minutes. We showed what we could do today.”
Fumiya Kogure replaced Cho after the winger fell to the ground clutching his left thigh on his first surge forward, and the substitute’s performance drew praise from his manager after hurriedly stepping into the fray.
“Kogure came on in a bit of a scramble, and in his previous game he played on the right rather than the left so his positioning wasn’t always good,” Kurosaki said. “But in the second half he picked up some loose balls and started attacks. He dribbled, his rhythm was good and he made some chances for us, so I’m pleased with him.”
Albirex midfielder Isao Homma cleared a Yuki Fukaya header off the line five minutes after Cho’s departure, but any fears the visitors had of an all-out Ardija assult were eased as the home side struggled to find cohesion in the final third of the pitch.
Albirex striker Bruno Lopes went closest to breaking the deadlock in a lively end to the first half with two headers that narrowly missed the target, but Keigo Higashi and Kota Ueda both unleashed shots as Omiya came out fighting after the interval.
Ardija defender Kazuhiro Murakami had to be sharp to lunge in front of Michael and nick the ball off the line in the 70th minute, but goalmouth action was at a premium and a late drive over the bar from Niigata substitute Noriyoshi Sakai summed things up for both sides.
“In the first half our movement was good but we couldn’t do anything when we got to the penalty area,” said Omiya manager Jun Suzuki. “We missed some chances and our decision-making wasn’t so good, and we couldn’t make as much use of the wings as we would have liked. It wasn’t so bad overall but what we do in front of goal is something we have to work on.
“Of course it has an effect when a player has to leave the game so early and is replaced with a different type of player. But more than just one player, it was about how we played against them as a team.”
Elsewhere in the J. League, Yokohama F. Marinos recovered from two goals down to beat Avispa Fukuoka 3-2, leaving the promoted Kyushu side pointless after five games. Ventforet Kofu are still looing for their first win of the season after a 1-1 draw with Sanfrecce Hiroshima, while Nagoya Grampus and Shimizu S-Pulse also played out a 1-1 tie.
Ryoichi Maeda and Ryohei Yamazaki both bagged braces in Jubilo Iwata’s 4-0 win over Montedio Yamagata, while Hideaki Kitajima also hit a double for Kashiwa Reysol in their 3-1 win over Urawa Reds.
Vissel Kobe beat Kawasaki Frontale 1-0, and in the day’s late game, league-leader Vegalta Sendai drew 1-1 with Cerezo Osaka