April 28, 2009: Last season, everything went right for Oita Trinita.
But this year...
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong at home to FC Tokyo on Saturday, and a cruel 1-0 defeat with the last kick of the game -- a Kajiyama penalty -- left them at the foot of the table with just four points from seven matches.
The main talking point was the first-half dismissal of their pivotal Brazilian midfielder Edmilson, who received two yellow cards in the space of three minutes and was heading for the showers after 32 minutes.
The first yellow came after 29 minutes and there can be no complaints from the player over this one. After conceding a needless free kick for grabbing the back of Kajiyama's shirt, Edmilson reacted angrily to the decision and was promptly booked for dissent. The foul was silly, and the reaction was over the top, so he deserved that one.
But the second?
That looked very harsh to me; maybe a foul but never a yellow card after he turned into trouble and clashed with Kajiyama again.
When the red card came out, Edmilson at first seemed to accept it with a wry smile and started walking off the pitch; but after a few steps he lost it, and went back to have a go at the referee. He was fuming, and only the intervention of a few teammates prevented what could have been a serious disciplinary issue for the Brazilian.
In the end he received a one-match suspension -- ruling him out of the bottom-of-the-table clash at Kashiwa on Wednesday. I thought Oita might have appealed the red card, but on Tuesday the J.League said they had received nothing. While the club had every right to feel aggrieved by the second yellow for Edmilson, maybe they thought it better to keep a low profile, as his behaviour before leaving the field could have exacerbated the problem and brought an even lengthier ban.
With 10 men for an hour, Oita looked like they would escape with a point, only for Takahashi to panic deep into extra time and manhandle Akamine. Referee Hiroyoshi Takayama had no hesitation pointing to the spot, from where Kajiyama beat Nishikawa to earn a massive three points for Tokyo manager Jofuku.
What a tough finish for Nishikawa, who had pulled off some magnificent saves behind his overworked defence in keeping a clean sheet deep into stoppage time. Among them was a cool tip-over to deny Tokyo substitute Suzuki, whose expertly-executed volley from the edge of the box was dipping right under the bar. I note the Japanese TV commentator described it as a "loop shoot", a phrase they normally use for a "chip" or a "lob". This magnificent strike from Suzuki was neither a chip nor a lob, so "loop shoot" in no way did it justice. "Sizzling dipping volley" might have been more appropriate!