Friday 4 November 2016

Vs Gamba Osaka (home) 3/11/16 - 2nd Stage match 17

Kawasaki Frontale 2 - 3 Gamba Osaka

So, the second stage is finished and as far as I’m concerned, good riddance to it. It’s been a topsy-turvy few months with us veering between half decent performances and displays that are so abject that is was a miracle we managed to finish third in the second stage and second overall. We finished up with the visit of Gamba and it was somehow appropriate that we played a game that perfectly encapsulated our season as a whole. It was a true game of two halves with us playing some of the best stuff I’ve seen us manage for a long time in the first half before shooting ourselves in the foot in the second. Our chances in the Championship don’t look great judging on how we finished the second stage to be honest. Sorry the photos are terrible again, but I guess that's kind of appropriate for this game to be honest.

Once again we had been hit with the injury stick so had to juggle the team. Edu was absent, still no Oshima, Kobayashi out for 6 weeks and therefore missing the rest of the season pretty much. Kazama shuffled things up considerably with a front four of Okubo, Miyoshi, fresh from his Asian U19 triumph, Elsinho and Hasegawa. It was pretty surprising to be honest, especially the fact that it was Hasegawa in the middle and furthest forward. Tasaka played right back and Noborizato left. Kurumaya moved into central defence. Still no sign of Sung-Ryong so Arai continued in goal after his great performance against Kashima. We made an amazing start, wiping away all lingering memories of our last two woeful first halves against Hiroshima and Kashima. We were playing with drive, pace and enthusiasm and they were having real trouble dealing with the running of Miyoshi, Hasegawa and Elsinho. Okubo was sitting back a little in more of a playmaker role, playing pretty well and he seemed to be up for it for a change. Gamba were quite physical (seems everyone is against us recently. Maybe they worked out we don’t deal with that kind of thing very well) and there were loads of little fouls being committed. The ref kept his cards in his pocket though, as they seem to have been doing recently. Instead of being swamped by attacks as we were in the last two games we were winning the ball much further up the pitch and breaking fast. We were totally destroying them down our left hand side, Miyoshi doing a great job. Our first goal was very pleasing. It’s great to see young players scoring, especially when they could be very useful in the near future. On six minutes, Nobori swung a ball across which was nudged on by a sliding Gamba player. Okubo shot from close range, it was blocked by the keeper, but dropped to Hasegawa who smashed it into the roof of the net. His first J League goal. Well done him! Not long later the lead was doubled when Okubo floated a nice ball through for Elsinho who turned and laid it off to Miyoshi who cracked it into the corner. We were playing well and everything was great. A little while after,  Hasegawa played a great ball across for Okubo whose overhead went just wide. We had lots of chances. We really probably should have scored a few more. If only we had.

The second half started fairly well for us with Miyoshi hitting the post and Okubo hitting the bar. Then everything fell apart. Gamba broke and Shota couldn’t quite stop the cross/shot and it dribbled into the net. The defence were caught flat-footed. A minute later they were level. Okubo possibly played the ball a little too far ahead of himself deep in his own half and was flattened by a Gamba player. Gamba grabbed the loose ball, passed it to a rapidly advancing Kurata who ran straight past several defenders and hit a shot at goal. Shota stopped it but basically just laid it off for the Gamba player to pass the ball into the net. Have to say, Shota probably should have done better for both of these goals but don’t want to blame him too much. I would say so, as I am clearly biased towards Frontale, but I’m not sure the challenge on Okubo was anywhere near fair. It was hard and with no intention of winning the ball and I think the ref could easily have given us a free kick. We still should have defended better though. There weren’t any challenges for either of these goals really. Hasegawa was taken off the equaliser for Moriya, who to be honest, didn’t have a great game but didn’t exactly have much to work with. Another substitution followed shortly afterwards with Tasaka being taken off and replaced by Nakano, which could have worked, but didn’t. It gave us a bit more going forward, but we were still shaky at the back. The third goal came ten minutes after the second. Ademilson was given plenty of time on the edge of the box to shoot and he scored. No challenges again. For all three goals, we had plenty of defenders around but there was so much time and space for them to be able to easily shoot and score. Just not good enough. Miyoshi was replaced for Morimoto after we went behind but it was too little too late. The rest of the game was played out with us lumping the ball forward and losing it, repeatedly for about 15 minutes. There was a total lack of ideas and inspiration.

Of course the real punch in the guts came when we found out that Yokohama had done us a favor and held Urawa to a draw. If we had held on to our lead we would have gone straight to the Championship final as overall league winners and had the moral high-ground. As it is, if we are to get anything from this season it will be with a bit of a bad taste in the mouth as it will have to be through the ridiculous Championship play offs. Even if we win this year which judging by recent performances will be extremely unlikely, I’m still glad that next year the whole first and second stage nonsense will be gone. We deserve to finish second and no higher, because we just haven’t been able to do it when it counted. The thing that hurts about this performance is that it was so predictable. We have rarely been able to play two good halves of football in the same game this season, particularly in the second stage. We either get hit early before we get going and then manage to salvage something or start great and end up hanging on desperately. If I have to look for what went wrong in this game, I’d have to say that the substitutions didn’t work, although the score was level by that time anyway. Although if we’re removing Hasegawa, why not put Morimoto on to add a bit of muscle up front? By the time he came on it was a pretty much lost cause. I guess we can complain about injuries this season and it does feel like we get an inordinate amount of them, but most of them are coming from training. How unlucky are we really? Definitely, yesterday’s starting eleven would have been different if everyone was fit, but the fact is we played really well with that eleven for 60 minutes, but just couldn’t shore things up when we needed to. Do any of us really believe that we are going to beat Kashima and then Urawa over two games? It would be great if we did, but I think it’s more likely that we won’t even make it to the final. We were very lucky to beat Kashima last week and I’m sure they are going to want to make a point when they play us in what is now a much more important game.

So positives and negatives. Positives first. A great first half performance (although we should have scored more). Great to see Hasegawa and Miyoshi on the score sheet. Yoshito playing a bit better for periods of the game. Negatives, total capitulation through non-existent defending in the second half. Another two goals conceded in rapid succession, I guess due to total lack of concentration. Having the chance to win the league overall and throwing it away. Confidence and moral taking a beating with another crushingly bad performance, even if we were good for 60 of the 90 minutes. Not taking the chances we had. To be honest, it seems like I’m writing the same things most weeks recently.

So, next we have Urawa at home in the Emperor’s Cup. We beat them last time at their place so they'll be up for revenge and they have just taken advantage of our huge slip-up so I can’t see us having much confidence compared to them. But who knows, if we can play like we did in the first half, we can do them some damage. Gamba and Urawa both looked pretty bad in the Levain cup final and we proved yesterday that we could destroy a team playing like Gamba did. Unfortunately we also proved that we can destroy our own chances with some suicidal play. I have no idea which way it will go, but will be there supporting and hoping for the best as usual.  We really need to sort things out though if the early promise we showed this season and some of the great performances we put in early on are not going to count for nothing. A nice win against Urawa in the cup would certainly help to bring back a bit of sunshine for the team and the supporters into what has recently become a very cloudy sky.


GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 6. TASAKA Yusuke
DF 20. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO (Yellow card 77')
FW 13. OKUBO Yoshito
FW 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya

FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki (on for MIYOSHI 78')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro (on for HASEGAWA 67')
MF 22. NAKANO Yoshihiro (Yellow card 79') (on for TASAKA 71')
MF 25. KANO Kenta


HASEGAWA (Frontale) 6'  1-0
MIYOSHI (Frontale) 18' 2-0
FUJIHARU (Gamba) 65'  2-1
IDEGUCHI (Gamba) 66'  2-2
ADEMILSON (Gamba) 76'  2-3


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