The first away game of Verdenik's regime took place on Saturday 23rd June at Sanfrecce's Big Arch stadium in Hiroshima. It brought Ardija up against former striker Naoki Ishihara as well as hot shot Hisato Sato. As the teams lined up, they found themselves at opposite ends of the J1 table, and Verdenik must have been slightly fearful of another battering after the previous week's poor home defensive performance against Reysol.
So the result of this match, a well-earned 0-0 draw, came as a great surprise to me and I guess, many other Squirrel fans too. I have only seen the briefest of highlights of this game, but clearly the defence put in a great shift, and the rest of the team weighed in too.
In only a short time with the team on the training ground, it seems that Verdenik has started to impose a system on the players which reaped full benefit here. Although the stats will point to almost total domination by Sanfrecce, Ardija did have one glorious chance to score through Daisuke Watabe from a Yu Hasegawa cross. Many would argue that Sato and Ishihara and the other Hiroshima attacking players had an off day, but I'd like to think that this clean sheet is a sign of the Ardija defence plugging the holes in their leaky defence.
Negative voices would describe this performance as dour and purely defensive, which it almost certainly was, however I would argue that Verdenik had no choice but to start with improving the defence, and a few shutouts in the next few weeks will build confidence and a platform upon which better football can be built. Suzuki's team had become shapeless and hapless, something had to be done and urgently or our J1 status would be soon to disappear.
A footnote to this game was the absence from the line-up and the bench of Brazilian striker Rafael. Rumours would soon be circulating via twitter that Rafael would leave us for Botafogo in Brazil.