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Sanga seem to be a sandwich short of a Pecnik

Relegation-threatened Kyoto Sanga are poised precariously above the drop zone of J2. As I wrote in the last edition of JSoccer Magazine, they seem to be a sandwich short of a Pecnik (see below:) As long-term readers of JSoccer Magazine may already be aware, I'm a bit of a closet Kyoto Sanga fan in my spare time. I've always thought of them as a big club, partly because they were one of the original members of the very first professional J.League and partly because I've had a strong affiliation with the Kansai area since my DJing days brought me in on various musical missions. Although it was in the midst of the cherry-blossom season, this time my mission was football on a whistle-top tour of Kansai, and top of my agenda was Kyoto versus JEF United. Would the seventh-placed purple-shirted pals be capable of swinging out of said trees to capture the unbeaten Chibians (if I may call them that) unawares? The short answer to that was 'no'. Like the cherry blossom washing away in the monsoon April weather conditions, Sanga was soon facing a similar fate as they failed to cope completely with the rain and the opposition. No criticism is implied in the former observation, as most teams would struggle with the ball getting stuck in the water and then skipping off the turf in irregular succession. In other words, it was difficult for midfielders to know if the best policy was to play the ball short or long. Short balls were often intercepted while longer passes went into touch with alarming frequency. Cue yawns from your jet-lagged correspondent. At least, the meagre fare on show gave me more time to take in the sodden surroundings. Kyoto may have a municipal ground, which may not be keeping up with the Joneses (or should that be the Tanakas) of nearby Osaka, but that does not detract from the beauty of the layout. Unfortunately, open-roofed stands are unattractive during rainy times, which led to a much smaller than normal gate. Perhaps the regulars at Sanga have already noted how similar to an amphitheatre the design is, with its impressive statues surrounding the ground. Perhaps less impressive, albeit high on the bizarre scale, are the two giant-sized inflatable armchairs at either side of the pitch. Quite what message they convey is beyond me, but the words 'Family Chair' must mean something to the locals. Forgive the digression, but I'm looking for reasons to be cheerful about Kyoto's chances this season. Unfortunately, Sanga didn't look like scoring in a month of Nichiyobis, but seeing as this was a Sunday I was thinking the impossible might happen. By that, I didn't mean that Kyoto keeper Daichi Sugimoto might come sliding out and concede a free kick for accidental handball. Nejc Pecnik's subsequent free kick was blocked, but later the Slovenian was to be Kyoto's tormentor-in-chief on this watery occasion. Shortly afterwards, Kyoto were undone in another deadball situation. The aformentioned Sugimoto failed to deal adequately with a free kick from the right, which he only managed to pat out straight onto the head of Kim Hyun Hun. With just quarter of an hour on the clock, it already looked doom and gloom for Kyoto, who seemed to have all the stuffing knocked out of them with this body blow. Rather than seeing a comeback on the cards, I was seeing a variety of foul throws being committed by both sides going strangely unpunished. At least this added some entertainment as drizzle turned to downpour. The second half saw JEF remain on the front foot and led to the visitors doubling their advantage in the 63rd minute. Pecnik rose high to head home a left wing cross and leave Kyoto's faint hopes of gaining a point or more in tatters. The perennial play-off contenders will have to settle for mid-table mediocrity at best this season, judging by this performance. JEF, meanwhile, are a very different proposition. Pecnik's fourth goal of the season is a real reason for optimism and a belief that promotion is possible. Part of that is down to the personable Pecnik, a journalist's dream if ever I've known one with a name that lends itself to so many potential headlines like 'Pecnik hampers Kyoto's faint play-off hopes' and the like. JEF will need the former Sheffield Wednesday man to stay on form if they're to finish top of the pile. Meanwhile, Kyoto need something similar from last season's top scorer, Masahi Oguro, if they are to be play-off contenders.

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