Wednesday 2 November 2016

Vs Kashima Antlers (away) 29/10/16 - 2nd Stage match 16

Kashima Antlers 0 - 1 Kawasaki Frontale

Firstly, apologies it has taken me so long to write this post. Saturday saw us make the relatively short but particularly arduous journey to Kashima. On the map it doesn’t look so far but the transport connections to Kashima and in particular their stadium make the journey a bit of a pain. The game was a 14:00 kick off but the gates opened three hours before so we aimed to get there around that time. On arriving at Tokyo station to get the bus (pretty much the only way to get there unless you drive yourself) we found that there were a huge amount of people doing the same thing. This big crowd was mainly made up of football fans, but there was also a contingent of people traveling to Kashima for other reasons who probably were wishing that they were going on a different day. After queuing for an hour we managed to get on a bus, but there was still a huge amount of people behind us. Maybe this congestion was the reason they open the stadium so early, to give people a chance to arrive late, but still on time, if you know what I mean. One thing that really surprised me was the large number of Kashima fans, who presumably make this horrible journey every home game. The bus arrived promptly in Kashima city after about 1h40m, but then we had to weave round the city stopping at various places before finally arriving at the stadium about two and a half hours after we left. The journey back was worse. We didn’t have to stop anywhere as we were on a direct bus, but due to everyone leaving the stadium at the same time the heavy traffic made the journey take around three and a half hours. Bit of an ordeal all in all, and I think if we had lost and I had to make that journey back I would probably have never watched another football game or ridden on another bus. But anyway, this blog isn’t supposed to be about traffic and transport so I guess I’d better talk about the game a bit. 

This game was kind of a must win, but at the same time, one which we didn’t actually have to win. This post is full of contradictory statements, isn’t it? If we wanted to go into the last game with any hope of being top of the table overall, we had to win it. But given that we need Urawa to slip up and that we are already qualified for the championship, it didn’t actually matter. It was nice again to be in a stadium with no running track and the view was pretty good. It was unfortunate that I had to remove all the caps of my water bottles before entering, meaning that I had to rapidly drink a liter of water as I was worried I was going to spill it otherwise. I’m used to this kind of thing in the UK but I think this is the first time I’ve seen it in Japan. Maybe they thought I looked a bit dodgy. There was one change to the team from the last game, the injured Oshima being replaced by Moriya. Hashimoto was back on the bench. The team lined up in pretty much the same way as Hiroshima. This time Tasaka was announced as a striker instead of a midfielder but took his usual position as one of three centre backs. Glad we are still doing that bluff though. We took a lot of fans, I think around 3000 and we were in good voice and competently waving our big flag. The same can’t be said for Kashima who were having an upper-tier nightmare, wrestling with two huge twisted and backwards flags whilst singing a pre-game song that had about five verses and definitely went on too long. Apparently the Kashima fans' main gripe after the game was this song and flag display and they were very complimentary about our abilities in both respects. Thanks!

Their team though weren’t having the same problems. The first half was very similar to the Hiroshima game with us not being able to do much and losing the ball a lot and spending a lot of time penned into our own half. Kashima were a bit better than Sanfrecce though and they hit the bar a couple times. We were definitely living dangerously. Their front two of Kanazaki and Suzuki were causing us problems. Suzuki was a particularly unpleasant individual, tripping, kicking, shirt pulling and constantly diving. Definitely a new hate figure for me. The referee once again was the hopeless Nishimura, making completely random decisions, letting lots go and punishing non-existent infringements. How he is still allowed to officiate, I don’t know. Arai was having a very good game in goal. He made several very important saves and one of the times they hit the bar was because he had got just enough on it to stop it going in to the net. I’m really pleased he’s playing and that he’s playing well. He kept us in the game. One big bummer about the first half was Kobayashi being stretchered off. He pulled up when racing through on goal in one of our rare chances. I hope it’s not serious and that he can play soon, if not against Gamba on Thursday, then when the Championship games start.

The second half wasn’t so different. We seemed to switch to something more like a 4-4-2 with Tasaka in the midfield, but he was also at the back too so all in all I was a bit confused. The play wasn’t so different though. Nishimura was still hopeless. He seemed to have forgotten his cards as there were some dubious challenges that warranted cards going unpunished. I have a feeling that we will have to deal with him again this season before it’s finished. We were winning the ball from Kashima quite well but then pretty much immediately giving it back to them. Our passing wasn’t working and Okubo was still playing like he has been recently. Plenty of anger towards his teammates and not much else. On 55 minutes Nakano came on for Moriya and his running started to get us out of our own half and start threatening a little. Our goal though came down the other side of the pitch on 65 minutes. Taniguchi played a lovely pass out to Elsinho who drove into the box and shot towards the far corner of the goal. The keeper saved it but could only parry the ball to Morimoto who tapped it home and celebrated like crazy. Really pleased for him! The goal might not have been completely against the run of play but did feel a bit lucky considering how we had been battered in the first half. 25 minutes to hang on… After the goal Kashima started to commit a few more players forward and we had a few chances on the counter attack. Kashima hit the bar again and things were pretty tense. As you can see from the video below, Kashima pretty much dominated the game and we did a bit of a smash and grab on them. There’s not much in the way of Frontale highlights on there, although we did almost manage to double our lead near the end of the game but Morimoto’s shot was saved well. Noborizato made a late appearance replacing Nakano, which can't felt good for him, but was probably intended to give us a bit more defensively. So, we held on and got the three points but sadly Urawa won too so we’re still in second place overall. One last chance on Thursday as we pay Gamba at home and Urawa go to Yokohama. Can our neighbours do us a big favour I wonder? I hope so.

Positives and negatives. Positives first as we can do those a lot quicker. Great game from Arai, and we managed to get three points we really didn’t deserve. A Morimoto goal has got to be a good thing too as we really need a striker who is scoring. Which brings me on to the negatives. Okubo had no shots in the whole game. He clearly seems to be out of form and all out of enthusiasm. Why people will say nothing bad about him but slag off Nakano for misplacing a pass is baffling to me. At least one of those two players is trying. Okubo has been a great player for Frontale, but he should not be playing at the moment. We are effectively starting every game with ten men when he is one of our eleven. There seem to be a few teams interested in him and I’d say it’s almost certain he’ll be leaving in the summer as he apparently can’t be bothered any more. Good luck to him, but I think we’ll do better without him now, and I mean the end of this season as well as next season. Bet he won’t be dropped though. I hope he proves me wrong and scores a load of goals in the championship. Aside from singling him out, our attacking was not up to scratch in this game. Too much sideways and backwards movement, but more crucially, too much giving the ball away. We need to improve fast. The two players who had the most shots were Elsinho and Morimoto (who only played half the game), but both of them only had three, so not exactly setting the world on fire up front. And our defensive performance was another negative. Apart from Shota, we had a bit of a nightmare. That also needs to be sorted fast. And possibly the final big negative, the injury to Kobayashi. Hope it’s not too serious. [Apparently, it is, six weeks...]

So, next we close off the second stage with Gamba at Todoroki. Another one of these potentially must win/potentially meaningless games. What happens at Yokohama will be more significant. It would be classic Frontale I guess if Yokohama did us a favor and we lost to Gamba. But anyway, we’ll know soon and then we can start thinking about the Emperor’s Cup against Urawa and the championship game(s). Miyoshi and Itakura might be back from the U19 Asian championship (which they won! Congratulations!) but I heard Miyoshi has an injury so probably won’t play. It’s a shame, as it would be nice, if Kobayashi is still injured to see a front two of Miyoshi and Morimoto. But I guess it will probably be Okubo and Morimoto. Come on Yoshito, make me look like an idiot (please! please!) and score a load of goals. I’d be happy to eat my words. So, come on Frontale! And come on Yokohama too!


GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 6. TASAKA Yusuke
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
MF 20. KURUMAYA Shintaro
FW 13. OKUBO Yoshito

DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for NAKANO 90+1')
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki (Yellow card 90+3') (on for KOBAYASHI 37')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
MF 22. NAKANO Yoshihiro (on for MORIYA 55')
MF 25. KANO Kenta


MORIMOTO (Frontale) 65'  0-1

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