Wednesday 16 November 2016

Vs Urawa Reds (home) 12/11/16 - Emperor's Cup 4th round

Kawasaki Frontale 3 - 3 Urawa Reds (AET) (4-1 on penalties)

The end of the season this year is a bit of a weird one. This game saw us take on my least favourite team Urawa in the Emperor’s Cup. If we manage to get to the Championship final, we’ll be meeting them again quite soon. In order to do that, we have to beat Kashima, who we played a couple of weeks ago. Things are definitely getting quite familiar. I think we’ll all know each other’s game in quite a lot of detail now, so there are going to be some interesting results. I’d say after we snatched three points from Kashima in the league, they will be quite keen to get some revenge. They pretty much dominated that match and got nothing from it. Urawa might be equally keen for revenge if we end up meeting them in the final. However, I wouldn’t say they dominated us like Kashima did. In fact this game was one of the most open games I’ve seen for a while. Our usual tactics of attacking and hoping we score one more than we concede were in full effect. And Urawa seemed to have come with a similar game plan. It was a very exciting and entertaining match. Not sure I would be so excited and entertained though if we hadn’t won in the end.

There were a couple of big pieces of news coming in to the game. Firstly, Kazama’s heir has been announced and it is very much keeping things in the family, with his assistant Toru Oniki, former Frontale and Kashima midfielder, being handed the reins. I’m cautiously optimistic about this. I think it means we will be playing the same kind of football, which I’m very happy about. Maybe he is not the most experienced candidate, but he certainly will know the club and the squad well which has to be a good thing. The second big piece of news is the departure of Okubo, who will leave us at the end of the season for FC Tokyo. Whilst I am not particularly upset about this, (he’s not been contributing much recently), the timing of the announcement is a bit weird. I have no idea why, even if the deal had been done, the announcement wasn’t saved for after the end of the season. After this victory in the Emperor’s Cup, we will now face FC Tokyo in the next round, which is going to be a bit weird for him and for us and for them. If he doesn’t play well for us, we’ll definitely have something to moan about. If he does, it’s going to be a strange start to his FC Tokyo career. I wonder what kind of reception he’ll get. Just weird timing all round. I don’t get it at all. I wish him the best of luck in the future (apart from when he plays us…). He’s given a lot to Frontale in his time with us, but I think realistically we all know it’s probably time for a change.

Getting round to the game, there were a couple of notable pieces of team news. Sung-Ryong was back in goal after his injury. And as one player comes back from injury, another gets crocked (Kengo). I don’t think it’s very serious, but he wasn’t able to play against Urawa. Itakura started, which is a good thing for us looking towards the future. Hasegawa and Miyoshi featured up front again and Okubo seemed to be playing a much deeper role. He was announced as a midfielder. But then again, Tasaka was announced as a striker and he seemed to be taking his usual position at the back. Itakura and Neto were playing in central midfield and Itakura was getting forward a lot. I didn’t realise that he could play there. I guess it says a lot that I can’t really say the exact formation after watching 120 minutes of the game. Positions seemed pretty fluid, and it was a very strange game. Very, very open with plenty of chances for both teams. Once again we were treated to a wildly inconsistent referee, a new one for my list, Ueda. Some of his decisions were extremely dodgy, but pleasingly the dodgy ref seemed to be handing out bad deals to both teams fairly equally. Some pretty meaty challenges were ignored and some pretty innocuous ones punished. I reckon both teams were denied what were probably penalties. Us when Itakura was knocked down in the box, and them when a ball definitely seemed to hit a Frontale hand. But the most baffling thing was when one of our players was flagged offside and he let Urawa take the free kick from well inside our half. Thankfully it didn’t come to anything. So much happened in this game that it’s difficult to remember everything, but the notes I made on the first half remind me of a truly horrible miss from Yoshito right in front of the goal and a strong first half performance from Neto. Also it would be a shame for me to not mention the rotten Urawa fans. When they really get going the noise they make is very impressive. But this happens so rarely. They spend most of the time fairly silent and only made noise when we have the ball, booing and whistling. Maybe they believe that this is what the English hooligans they model themselves on do. I just don’t get it.

The second half started with some singing from Urawa. Amusingly it was to the tune of ‘Go West’, that football hard man tune recorded by tough guys the Village People and covered by the Pet Shop Boys. I wonder if they are aware of the connotations that come with the song. Given the general bigotry (for example, the famous JAPANESE ONLY!! banner) of some of their fans, I suspect this has gone over their heads. Kind of amusing anyway. By the way, I should have mentioned that our fans singing was in a bit better order this week with the return of the banned ‘Kazoku’ member who leads the singing. Also we seem to have introduced a snare to our drumming arsenal which gave things a jaunty feel. It sounded pretty good to be honest. On the pitch, loads of chances were being made again. Yoshito seemed to be getting involved quite a lot which was nice and his criticism of the other players wasn’t as intense as it has been previously. Neto began to give the ball away a little but was still doing a decent enough job. Just not as perfectly as he was in the first half. There was a heartbreaking moment when Miyoshi managed to dribble into the box but couldn’t quite get the shot away and stumbled instead. Elsinho, (who was playing well, got stretchered off the pitch but thankfully managed to come back on after a bit of treatment), was replaced by Moriya, who played in a kind of right wing back position, not exactly his favoured position. Hasegawa, who had also done a pretty good job and run himself into the ground was taken off and Noborizato brought on. Our formation got a little more confusing, but it seemed that Okubo moved forward a little and Itakura was still all over the pitch doing a great job. This is where my notes start to run out. The game got a bit too intense and as the highlights for the Emperor’s Cup take ages to come online I can’t use them to refresh my memory. I remember the way Urawa took the lead though. A long ball hoof caught us flat-footed and Koroki was able to take the ball round Sung-Ryong and slot home. It’s a shame that we conceded in such a way, but we were still in the game as we were making a lot of chances. We rolled up our socks and kept on pressing and making chances and we were equal on 86 minutes. It looked like we had missed another chance as the shot was saved (if I remember correctly), but the ref pointed to the penalty spot, Moriwaki having handled in the box. Yoshito and Morimoto (who had come on for Kurumaya by this stage), did a weird thing in that they had a conversation at the side of the goal whilst having a drink, presumably well within earshot of the Urawa keeper, I guess discussing how the penalty would be taken. I can’t say if the mind games worked or not, but Yoshito was able to put the penalty away, even though the keeper got a hand on it (see photos below. The first time photo burst has been any use for anything for me). Given that this was on 86 minutes, it looked like we were heading for extra time. And we were, but not before a couple more goals were scored. Urawa once again took the lead through a not so dangerous shot, as far as I can remember, which Sung-Ryong decided to punch instead of catch and straight at a prone Noborizato’s foot and the ball bounced into the net. Pretty ridiculous. This was on 88 minutes, so once again, we had scored and then conceded pretty much straight after. This is when we seem to be most vulnerable recently. So, it looked like we were going out of the cup. But in the five minutes injury time we managed to equalise again. Nobori crossed the ball into the box. Edu who was pretty much playing up front now, swung and totally missed the ball and it dropped for Morimoto who lifted a volley over the keeper into the corner of the net. Extra time!

In extra time, Urawa again took the lead. Things were really stretched at this stage, but you have to blame our defending again. On a quick counter attack, Urawa crossed the ball along the floor and a completely unmarked Aoki was able to sweep it home. Looking at a replay it does look a bit like Edu is tugged back when he tries to get towards him though, but it would have been a tough call to give it. On 117 minutes we were level again. Miyoshi crossed a lovely ball over, Itakura headed the ball back into the centre of the box and Edu was able to head it into the corner. Lovely finish! So on to penalties it was. I can’t remember ever watching one of my teams win on penalties. I’m sure it has happened sometime in the last 25 years, but if it has, the memory has long faded. They are undeniably exciting, but I think I probably could have done without the extra stress at this stage. Although as it turned out, maybe I needn’t have worried so much as we coped with them pretty comfortably. Yoshito put our first one away fairly easily. Their first penalty hit the post but was then retaken and scored as Sung-Ryong was a little off the line the first time (and got booked for being so. Not sure what the ref would have done if he did it again…). Our second was gutsily taken by Miyoshi and bent right into the corner. Perfect! Their second was saved by Sung-Ryong diving to his left. Our third was scored by Edu, again very gutsily chipping the ball down the centre of the goal. He must have some nerve to do a Panenka in this situation! Then Koroki hit the post after doing one of those annoying run ups where he pretty much stops half way. Not sure why he’s allowed to get away with that to be honest. Justice! Our fourth to seal the win was smashed home by Neto, the keeper getting a hand on it, but it probably was a bit too powerful. And then everything went nuts. It was particularly satisfying to win for a few reasons. Firstly, it was against Urawa. We had been behind three times in the game but had really dominated on chances and we had managed to do it with three big players missing through injury. I would say this is a great morale booster going into the Championship, but given how these things tend to work out, we’ll probably just have made Urawa angry and that is if we even get to the final, having to defeat Kashima first, who we also pissed off recently. So, still plenty to do. But it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Which is a big contrast to the last time we were at the Todoroki!

Positives and negatives. Let’s start negative this time. Injuries (but not from this game). Hope Kengo and Oshima are back soon. Poor defending for all three goals we conceded. Positives, plenty. Good performances again from Hasegawa and Miyoshi up front with plenty of energy and threat. Long may that continue. Itakura was something of a revelation, doing a great job all over the pitch. Neto was great in the first half. Yoshito seemed to care a bit more. Let’s hope he can continue that and leave us on a high. Crucial goals from Morimoto and Edu. Winning on penalties, with some young players having the nerve to step up and managing to score. And also credit to Sung-Ryong, who did a great job in the shoot out. If you save one you’ve done well and I’ll give him credit for the miss too as the mind games is all part of it. And finally, we’re in the next round, but sadly (for me) it’s on Christmas eve, so I won’t be able to watch it as I’ll be in the UK. An interesting match against FC Tokyo (hello Yoshito!).

Now, we have a week and a half off until the first Championship game on the 23rd against Kashima. This should hopefully give my voice a bit of time to recover. I got a little excited in that last game. Let’s hope we are not swinging from good to bad performances and we can keep things going in a positive way. Kashima didn’t have a very good second stage, but then neither did we really, and like I said above, they’ll probably be looking for revenge but let’s hope we can stay strong and keep the momentum going!


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG (Yellow card 120')
DF 6. TASAKA Yusuke
MF 28. ITAKURA Ko (Yellow card 63')
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO (Yellow card 76')
MF 13. OKUBO Yoshito
MF 20. KURUMAYA Shintaro
FW 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya


GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for HASEGAWA 68')
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki (on for KURUMAYA 75')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro (on for ELSINHO 53')
MF 25. KANO Kenta

KOROKI (Urawa) 71' 0-1 
OKUBO (Frontale) 86'  1-1
NOBORIZATO (Frontale) OWN GOAL 88'  1-2
MORIMOTO (Frontale) 90+1' 2-2
AOKI (Urawa) 97' 2-3
EDU (Frontale) 117'  3-3

OKUBO (Frontale) 1-0
ABE (Urawa) 1-1
MIYOSHI (Frontale) 2-1
ZLATAN (Urawa) 2-1 (saved)
EDUARDO (Frontale) 3-1
KOROKI (Urawa) 3-1 (hit post)
EDUARDO NETO (Frontale) 4-1

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