September 25, 2009: When a team scores a late equaliser to snatch a point away from home, you'd expect them to be reasonably content.
Not Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Not these days.
Their 1-1 draw at Kashiwa Reysol recently was regarded as two points lost rather than one point gained; evidence of the remarkable rise and renewed ambition of this modest club under manager Mihailo Petrovic.
Croatian import Mihael Mikic, in fact, has not given up on the championship just yet.
“We had a chance for three points, and then the chance to fight for the championship,” said the midfielder. “If we'd won this match we would have been only four points behind first place.”
Fighting talk indeed from Mikic, who has brought balance and consistency to the right flank in Sanfrecce's fluid 3-4-2-1 formation.
“We are having a great season,” he says. “From the second league to the first league and now a chance to be champion is unbelievable for this club.
“Sanfrecce is not such a big club. It is a little club, and what this coach is making here and how we play is something new in Japan.”
Against Reysol, Sanfrecce gave a very good impersonation of Arsenal on one of their more frustrating afternoons – plenty of possession but too much fancy stuff around the box and nothing much to show for it at the end.
Mikic admitted that their performance against Reysol had been the exception rather than the rule.
“We had so many chances to shoot from 16 or 20 metres but it was just pass-pass-pass, like Arsenal in England. We wanted to walk the ball into the goal. Maybe we must shoot more from 16, 18, 20 metres, but our boss wants a game with many passes.”
Mikic is thoroughly enjoying himself in his first season in Japan, and says that anyone back home in Europe who thinks the level of football here is low would be in for a big surprise.
The biggest difference, he feels, is the supporters – and he is certainly not complaining about that!
“In Japan the supporters are not so aggressive. They always give you the support and that is a little different from Europe -- not so much pressure.
“Here, when you play in the middle of the table okay; when you play up in the table okay; when you play a little down…well, they are not so happy but there is no big stress.”