Wednesday 5 October 2016

Vs Vissel Kobe (away) 1/10/16 - 2nd Stage match 14

Vissel Kobe 3 - 0 Kawasaki Frontale
For the second post in a row, where to start with this game? Because we were playing in the evening we were aware of Urawa’s smashing of Gamba earlier in the day, so it was crucial that we put in a good performance in order to keep ahead of them overall. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what we did. In fact, it’s the opposite of what we did. This game was a shambles and we were woeful. The second stage is gone, being first over the whole season looks pretty much finished too and on current form I am seriously doubtful that we will be able to do anything of note in the championship play off. So far, so depressing. I think I am going to struggle to pick anything positive out of the burnt remains of this game and of our season’s hopes.

Vissel Kobe’s ground was a new one for me and I was pretty impressed with it. Probably due to the fact that there isn’t a running track which always makes the match experience a lot better. Maybe on Saturday a running track might have helped shield us from the terrible football we were playing. It wasn’t the biggest, but it was quite impressive, as you’d expect a 2002 World Cup stadium to be, I guess. There was a nice echo from our early chants off the back wall at the other end of the stadium. Didn’t hear it later, probably because the Vissel fans seemed to be in a bit of a good mood and good voice. We started the game with almost a full strength line up. The only difference being the goalies selected, due to injuries, Takagi starting and the still slightly injured Ando on the bench. But we didn’t really have much reason to worry as Takagi had done a decent enough job against Yokohama when he had to come on. But our fourth choice keeper was starting and our injured third choice keeper was on the bench. So definitely not full strength in that department. Whether Sung-Ryong or Shota could have made much a difference, we’ll never know. There seemed to be a feeling that they might have on twitter after the game, but I think the real problem was with the outfield players. Tasaka was again playing in a back three as he has done in the last few games. Neto and Yoshito were back, recharged (possibly) after the break enforced by their suspensions. I recall that in the past that Yoshito always seems to get a good reception from the Kobe fans (his former team), but on Saturday there were definitely a few boos mixed in with the applause. And definitely some jeers when he fired his shots wide or high or dribbled them towards the keeper.

The start of the game could have been perfect for us. Almost straight from kick off we broke through the middle of the Kobe team and Kobayashi’s shot was well saved by the keeper. Maybe this was the game changing moment, 30 seconds in. Shockingly, this first shot on target was pretty much our only shot on target until a late second half flurry where we ‘hit’ the target with a series of back-passes to the Kobe keeper, taking our match total up to five shots on target. Not championship winning performance levels. Not long afterwards, Kobe hit the post after cutting through our defence with ease. We had plenty of players back but somehow they still managed to find a totally unmarked player at the far post. A let-off, certainly, but only postponing the inevitable. Kobe were playing very tight on us, always pressuring our players on the ball and we weren’t coping with it. Presumably aware of his inexperience, they were really targeting Takagi and giving him a quite a few bumps and shoves. Not sure if this is what lead to what happened with their first goal, but a huge hoofed long ball from their defence caught our static defence out, meaning Takagi had to come out and clear the ball way outside his box. Instead of just hammering it back to them with his right foot he switched it on to what is presumably his stronger left, but due to pressure from the Kobe forward his pass to Kurumaya didn’t make it, possibly Kurumaya’s fault too as he seemed to be just waiting for it to arrive. An advancing Kobe player stole the ball and they easily cut through our immobile defenders and beat Takagi at his near post. We made a few chances in the first half but they were all off target. We seemed to be suffering from a lack of communication and struggling with controlling the ball and passing the ball. So, nothing too serious… Oshima was having a bit of a bad game, losing the ball a lot. Kobe started time wasting, pretty unbelievable in the first half, but their game plan was working. They were getting in our face, forcing errors and then breaking fast. They were also pretty physical, which I guess is something we sometimes struggle to deal with. They picked up four yellow cards and were certainly fouling a lot (18 free kicks for us in the game compared to four for them). We were not doing much right, but were still in the game.

The second half saw us push Tasaka up into the midfield and revert to a back four. Although Elsinho and Kurumaya were still pushing forward so I guess the thinking was that it was a change to give us a bit more bite in the midfield. It didn’t work though. We were blighted by the same problems we had in the first half, mainly that we couldn’t play football, which is a bit of a bummer when you are playing a football match. Our usual slow build ups were curtailed by us giving the ball away. Oshima was having a bit of a nightmare still, the ball seemed to be bouncing off Yoshito, who always needed a touch too many and all of our attacks and shots were getting blocked by Kobe players getting in the way and putting their bodies on the line. Quite why we weren’t doing the same thing is beyond me as we really had something to play for. Their second goal came from us having all our defenders clustered together in the middle and them simply passing the ball out wide. Neto, appealing for offside from the pass, missed the opportunity to get tight on Leandro and he curled the ball quite nicely into the corner of the goal past Takagi. We made our first sub, replacing Tasaka with Miyoshi who normally can help us out in situations like this. But it was more of the same really. They kept nicking the ball off us and hitting us on the break. We were the architects of our own demise really. On 74 minutes we made our second change, Neto off and Morimoto on. Given how he was playing, I thought Oshima would have been more likely to be replaced, but it was Neto who gave way. It didn’t change much though. We kept huffing and puffing and getting nowhere. Shot after shot drifted wide. They scored their third on 76 minutes. We had four players surrounding Leandro but none were able to put a challenge in and he was able to lift the ball over Takagi who didn’t do so well this time. Quite how they were able to make the chance though has much more to do with our defence than our keeper. We were hopeless and they were ruthless. Kobe kept time wasting and fouling, perhaps worried that we would stage another Yokohama game style come back but I think we all knew we were going to get nothing from the game. Our final substitution was another slightly strange one. Itakura came on for Taniguchi. Not sure if it was an injury or tactical. Certainly we had been terrible at the back, but I think it was a little late to shore things up if that was the thinking behind it. The rest of the game was played out with successive substitutions from Kobe, running the clock down, Morimoto passing the ball to the Kobe keeper and me wishing the ref would just blow up and put us out of our misery.

It’s impossible to single out one thing that went wrong in this game, because pretty much everything did. We looked tired, out of form and not really interested. We made chances but seemed to have no power or accuracy behind our shots. None of players played well really. Some of our players played terribly. Our substitutions were perhaps a bit confusing. The statistics for the game (and bear in mind that I have no idea how accurate these are, but they seem to correspond with how I perceived things being), speak volumes. We had 58% possession! 18 shots, but only five on target (three of which were in the last ten minutes I think). Kobe did a job on us, but we made a total mess of putting up any kind of opposition. This was a season killing performance. Thankfully we have a couple of weeks off now as we need to sort a few things out very soon. I’m not going to talk about positives and negatives as I don’t think there was a single positive to come out of this game. Three games left and none of them look easy, home to Hiroshima, away to Kashima and then home to Gamba. Urawa have Albirex, Jubilo and Yokohama. We’re down to third and six points behind Urawa in the second stage, so that’s pretty much gone. Overall, down to second and one point behind Urawa, so that’s still possible, but I have less confidence in us winning our final three games than I have in Urawa dropping any points. Still possible though I guess. Barring something dramatic happening it looks like the final play offs/championship/whatever you want to call it, will be a three way contest with us playing Kashima at Todoroki in a one off game to decide who meets Urawa over two legs home and away. All season I’ve been moaning about this play off system, but now it seems that it’s our only chance of getting something, even if that chance is pretty slim. That would be a strange turn around as we were griping previously about it being unfair, imagining that we might top the table overall but lose in the playoffs. There would be a certain irony about the situation being reversed, but it would now be quite welcome!

Now, a couple of weeks off to regroup and a chance for some players to get fit again. We need some monumental performances to get anything from this season now, so let’s be hopeful and imagine that we can do it. It would be a shame to continue our run of being ‘silver collectors’, although there’s also the chance that we’ll be taking bronze of course. Given how we were playing at the start of the season, anything less than the title would be a disappointment, but one which is probably deserved judging by our recent collapse and our inability to get results against bad teams when it really matters. After today’s Emperor’s Cup draw [we got Urawa, probably the worst possible draw…], I’m going to try to not think about football for a bit. It’s become a bit painful to be a Frontale fan recently! Let’s hope that all of us, players and fans alike, are back with plenty of enthusiasm when we resume on the 22nd against Hiroshima.  


GK 29. TAKAGI Shun
DF 6. TASAKA Yusuke
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 20. KURUMAYA Shintaro
FW 13. OKUBO Yoshito

DF 8. KOMIYAMA Takanobu
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki (on for EDUARDO NETO 74')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
MF 25. KANO Kenta
MF 26. MIYOSHI Koji (on for TASAKA 59')
DF 28. ITAKURA Ko (on for TANIGUCHI 79')

WATANABE (Kobe) 27'  1-0
LEANDRO (Kobe) 59'  2-0
LEANDRO (Kobe) 76'  3-0

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