Monday 11 July 2016

Vs Nagoya Grampus (away) 9/7/16 - 2nd stage, match 2

Nagoya Grampus 0 - 3 Kawasaki Frontale 

Seems like we are playing a lot of away games at the moment and this weekend it was Nagoya we were visiting. July is a pretty crazy month. We play six times, four of them away. If we can come out of July still top and unbeaten we’ll be going well I reckon. As a city, I quite like Nagoya. It seems fairly unpretentious. I was kind of ambivalent about the team coming into the fixture, possibly not so much afterwards. As a British person, they were probably the first Japanese football team I ever heard of.  So on the second Saturday of July, I found myself following in the footsteps of Gary Lineker. I think he also spent quite a lot of time sitting in the stands at Grampus games. To me, the ground had a kind of central European feel to it and felt very much like a athletics stadium again. We were quite a distance from the pitch, but maybe that’s just because we’d been much closer at Sendai the previous week. Can’t beat a ground without a running track. Unfortunately there aren't many of them in J1 it seems. There was a forecast for rain so we expected that we were going to get soaked as most of the stadium was uncovered. Thankfully though, the rain had pretty much stopped by the time we were heading to the ground.

I was terrified to see that Nagoya were fourth from bottom coming in to this game. I’m still working out the fine details of the theory, but it seems that if a team is in the bottom three and we should beat them easily, we will somehow contrive to manufacture a draw. Kazama named an unchanged side from Sendai. I guess with the injuries at the moment, the team is pretty much picking itself. Please excuse me if I am a little light on details or insight about this game. I was pretty badly hungover on Saturday morning. But once I was on the terrace my head started clearing a little. Once again we took  a decent amount of fans. This is probably a pretty easy away game to make if you can afford the shinkansen and I guess in spite of the disappointment at the end of the first stage we still have plenty of reasons to be enthusiastic at the moment. This enthusiasm obviously rubbed off on the players as we looked in total control in the first half. I think there was a period where we must had the ball for about five minutes, winning it back immediately as soon as Nagoya took it off us. It’s something of a shame that we managed to score only once in the first half as we were making chances. It looked as if Okubo was going to have another frustrating afternoon and it was once again someone else who put the first goal in. Kobayashi put a great ball across the goalmouth that Otsuka just failed to connect with and it ran right through to Kengo on the other wing. He managed to collect it, turn and cross it back in where Kobayashi met it with a powerful header that the goalie couldn’t stop. Lovely! Nagoya had a couple of chances but nothing too worrying. Nagoya seemed to have two tactics for the game. When they had the ball, ‘hoof it to the big guy’ who was very big indeed but thankfully didn’t seem very skilful. When they didn’t have the ball, the tactic was ‘kick whoever has the ball’. I guess our passing game means that we will attract quite a lot of fouls but Nagoya played like a bunch of thugs really.

The second half started without any changes for Frontale and we kind of continued where we had left off. We didn’t have the wobble that we had for large parts of the second half at Sendai. The team was looking dangerous and comfortable (like an armchair on a motorbike, maybe?). It seemed inevitable that we’d get another goal and although it took a little while to come it was well worth waiting for, at least in its significance rather than the actual goal itself. I think most of us have been a little worried about Okubo’s form recently. He’s missed a lot of chances and has only scored from the penalty spot. Therefore it was great to see him pass the ball out to Kurumaya on the wing who managed to drive a low cross in that Okubo just about connected with. I thought it might have actually gone in without him touching it, but apparently not. Something certainly wrong-footed the keeper. Okubo celebrated it like he hadn’t been worried at all, but I guess it must have been weighing on his mind a little. It was certainly weighing on mine. After this, I guess the game was pretty much over. Nagoya weren’t offering much and we were looking pretty good. It took a little while to come but we got a third on 77 minutes with a cracking curling blast from Kengo from the edge of the box. I really like Neto’s little dummied pass to set him up. I could have had a great photo of his celebration but sadly someone in front of me was unsurprisingly also celebrating. I am left to rue what could have been.

At this stage we were really playing the ball around nicely and the points were secured. It would have been nice if the ref had just blown up and we could have called it a day there and then. Sadly it wasn’t to be. Given that Nagoya had pretty much no chance of getting any points from the game I guess they thought they needed to make their mark in another way. In the middle of the pitch their number 15 Lee made a pretty nasty and very late challenge on Kengo and put him out of the match and out of quite a few more matches I suspect. I’m not sure it was a malicious challenge but it definitely merited the red card it got and it pretty much summed up their nasty negative game plan. It totally took the gloss off the victory too. Whilst they’re still not sure how serious the injury is, it seems that there is no break but they suspect ligament damage. It’s definitely going to rule him out for at least a few months I reckon. And it’s yet another injury at a bad time. They are mounting up and Oshima and Harakawa are going to the Olympics soon. We’re definitely going to be making use of the whole squad this season. Four more games in the next 20 days. It couldn’t have come at a worse time really. Especially as he has been playing really well and with loads of energy recently. Oh, and remind me again what happened last time Kengo missed a game through injury….

So, some positives and negatives from the game. Definite positives are the result and the performance. I can’t think of anyone who had a bad game. Elsinho was looking much livelier and seemed to be on a mission to nutmeg the whole Nagoya team. The defence were pretty solid and when they weren’t Sung-Ryong made a few good saves. The midfield was creating plenty of chances and looked like they would never lose the ball. And up front both forwards scored and hopefully this is the start of another run of goals for Yoshito. Personal highlights were the person behind me who was singing all the Frontale songs in a kind of Enka style with loads of vibrato. It was really fun! And one other highlight was Kano Kenta’s hair which is just amazing in its colour, style and bounciness. The big negative is pretty obvious. Poor Kengo! Injuries are piling up with no sign of anyone coming back and the Olympics are coming soon. The next month or so will be crucial. Oshima will be as big a miss as Kengo as I think he has been fantastic recently. To lose both at the same time will be a big blow. Well, let’s see what happens I guess and keep all our fingers crossed. 

Next up, Albirex Niigata are coming to the Todoroki. They are currently sitting fourth from bottom so who knows what might happen. We definitely under performed at their place earlier in the season so hopefully we can do a bit better this time. And then next Saturday we’re away again, this time to Jubilo Iwata so I will get the chance to follow in the footsteps of another English striker. Jay Bothroyd maybe not as famous or successful as Gary Lineker though. Let’s hope we can keep things together and keep the run of 3-0 victories going.  


GK 1. S
ung-Ryong JUNG
DF 4. IGAWA Yusuke
DF 20. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 27. OTSUKA Shohei
FW 13. OKUBO Yoshito

GK 30. A
RAI Shota
MF 6. TASAKA Yusuke 
(on for OTSUKA 78')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
MF 25. KANO Kenta
(on for EDUARDO NETO 90')
MF 26. MIYOSHI Koji (on for NAKAMURA 86')

KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 36'  1-0
OKUBO (Frontale) 53'  2-0

NAKAMURA (Frontale) 77'  3-0


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