SAITAMA – JEF United Chiba missed a chance to bolster their bid for first-division survival by conceding a second-half equalizer to fellow strugglers Omiya Ardija in a 1-1 draw on Saturday night.
JEF went into the match at Nack 5 Stadium in 16th place in the 18-team division — having taken only a solitary point from its previous five games — and a first-half header from Brazilian striker Neto Baiano gave the Chiba side hope on a night when second-from-bottom Kashiwa Reysol drew 1-1 with Yokohama F. Marinos.
But an equalizer from Omiya’s Rafael midway through the second half checked JEF’s momentum, leaving the club five points adrift with manager Atsuhiko Ejiri still looking for his first win since taking over from Alex Miller late last month.
“It was a tough game and our second in the space of a week, but we tried to challenge and cover and cut them off in midfield,” Ejiri said. “We still need a little more movement in the team, but we kept fighting until the end. Now we just have to get back to training and put in the hard work.”
JEF escaped the drop in dramatic circumstances last season, staging an against-the-odds comeback to beat FC Tokyo on the final day.
Defender Eddy Bosnar is in no hurry to repeat the experience.
“I don’t think it was a useful experience because it makes you go crazy with the stress,” he said. “If we stay calm, then we can stay in the league.”
Mato Neretljak came close to giving Omiya the lead as the home side turned up the early pressure, but after weathering the storm, JEF suddenly found itself in front.
Keisuke Ota swung in a cross from deep on the right, and Baiano rose above his marker to head in his first goal since joining from Vitoria last month.
But Omiya began the second half strongly, and Rafael made the improvement count in the 63rd minute. The Brazilian picked up the ball on the left wing, and, after turning defender Shohei Ikeda inside out, calmly slotted the ball through goalkeeper Ryo Kushino’s legs for the equalizer.
Referee Masayoshi Okada refused to entertain calls for a penalty after JEF’s Masaki Chugo fell in the box in a frantic finale, and an Ota goal ruled out for offside further frustrated the visitors.
“We didn’t play so badly, but we gave away a stupid goal on the counter and you can’t do that,” Bosnar said. “In the end we’re not happy with a point, but it’s hard to win 1-0 away. We have to start winning games at home. In the next two games we really have to get some points on the board.”
Elsewhere in the J. League, Urawa Reds’ season reached a new nadir with a 2-1 loss at Sanfrecce Hiroshima that consigned the Saitama side to its sixth league defeat in a row.
Shimizu S-Pulse claimed local bragging rights with a 5-1 demolition of Shizuoka rivals Jubilo Iwata, while Kyoto Sanga came from behind to beat Albirex Niigata 2-1.