Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tianjin Teda 0 at Nagoya Grampus 0 (AFC Champions League Matchday 4) - April 18, 2012

After watching F.C. Tokyo dismantle Beijing Guoan on Tuesday night, I took the Shinkansen to Nagoya on Wednesday to see another Chinese team visiting Japan in AFC Champions League action. This time it was Nagoya Grampus hosting Tianjin Teda in what was expected to be another win for a J.League side.

Mizuho Athletic Stadium

Grampus plays half of their games at Toyota Stadium, a very cool and modern venue located in Toyota City, which is where the famous car maker also happens to be. Built in 1997, it has a retractable roof and seats 45,000, but unfortunately for local fans, it is nearly an hour from Nagoya. To keep them happy, the club plays the other half of their games as well as their ACL matches at Mizuho Athletic Stadium, which is in Nagoya proper.

This is a much older venue that was built in 1941 and holds 27,000 fans. It is separated into a main stand and a back stand and you cannot move from one to the other. I prefer the cheaper back stand but all seats here are just benches (below), so if you want to sit in relative comfort, it will cost you. My ticket was 3,000 yen, while those in the main stand ran either 5,000 or 6,500 with another small advantage of being covered.

The food is mostly in front of the main gate (below) and there's quite a nice selection as well, with about 8 trucks serving a variety of Japanese dishes. My favourite is the miso kushi katsu, breaded pork dipped in miso sauce (a Nagoya staple). At 3 sticks for 400 yen, it is very reasonable, but you have to eat it quickly before the bread gets too soggy from the miso.

Before halftime, you can exit the seating area and wander outside, so I would recommend that you find a seat in the back stand and then mosey on over to the main gate to get your food.

There is nothing else here really. The Nagoya fans, like all in Japan, are pretty serious and despite a small attendance of 6,006, they made noise all game long. It's too bad they had little to cheer about.

The Game

The two teams met in the previous match in Tianjin and Nagoya won easily 3-0, so I expected another waltz in the park. Nope. Nagoya was missing three top players, including Australian national Joshua Kennedy and Japanese defender Tulio, so they had their work cut out for them. The first half was rather slow and neither team could build any momentum, with the best chance falling to Teda who lobbed one over Grampus goalie Seigo Narazaki (Japan's #1 keeper) only to see it bounce off the top of the bar.

The second half saw Nagoya start to take control and they were rewarded with a penalty in the 13th minute. The Tianjin players surrounded the referee from Hong Kong to protest but it was to no avail. Keiji Tamada lined up the spot kick and sent it wide left (below), much to the chagrin of the locals.

Tianjin used the miss to start their attack and they had a couple of strong shots that Narazaki handled well. As the clock wound down, Nagoya pressed for the winner, spending most of the last 10 minutes attacking the Teda net, but they could not manage to score, wasting two fantastic  chances when their shots missed badly. When the final whistle blew to end the 0-0 draw, the disgruntled fans moaned noticeably but still politely applauded the players when they came to the sideline to bow.

I've never seen a scoreless draw before in all the games I've gone to and I hope that is the last one I have to endure.

Next Up

Tonight I will be at the Nagoya Dome to see the hated Giants and the Chunichi Dragons in Central League action. Tomorrow I'll see the Dragons' minor league team taking on Fukuoka in an Western League match.. These are my last two games in Japan, at least while I live here, so I hope they are more memorable than tonight's snoozefest.



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