New Japan coach watches J-League horror show
New Japan boss Vahid Halilhodzic got a crash course on the scale of his rebuilding job on Saturday as he watched J-League rivals FC Tokyo and Yokohama F-Marinos play out a turgid 0-0 draw.
The irony is unlikely to be lost on Halilhodzic that when asked to name a stand-out player, the Franco-Bosnian told reporters: "The Tokyo goalkeeper (Shuichi Gonda) played well. There were a couple of other interesting players."
It was hardly a ringing endorsement from the 62-year-old, watching his first J-League game just a day after arriving in Japan to begin the task of reviving the national team's flagging fortunes.
Gonda, a back-up keeper in Japan's 2014 World Cup squad under Italian Alberto Zaccheroni, produced several decent saves to give the home side a share of the spoils against a Yokohama team partly owned by Manchester City.
FC Tokyo drew their second game in a row of the fledgling season while Yokohama picked up their first point.
Halilhodzic, who guided Algeria to the last 16 of the World Cup last year, has little time before he names his first Japan squad for this month's home friendlies with Tunisia on March 27 and Uzbekistan on March 31.
Brought in to replace Mexican Javier Aguirre -- sacked last month following Japan's Asian Cup flop and amid match-fixing allegations dating back to a previous tenure in Spain -- he has wisely warned Japanese media not to expect a quick fix.
On Friday he told a news conference: "Don't expect Japan to suddenly play like Brazil or Barcelona."
There will be little danger of that on the evidence of Saturday's J-League games.
Seven-times Japanese champions Kashima Antlers slipped to their second straight defeat, ambushed 2-1 at home by last season's second division champions Shonan Bellmare in the upset of the day.
Last year's runners-up Urawa Reds made it two out of two by edging out another promoted side, Montedio Yamagata, 1-0 at home to stay joint top with 2013 champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima, 2-1 winners at Matsumoto Yamaga, the third of the trio to come up from the second tier.
Champions Gamba Osaka, held to a 2-2 draw by FC Tokyo on the opening weekend, crashed to a 1-0 defeat at Sagan Tosu, who trail the top two on goal difference.