Recently, I’ve been feeling that I could probably use the same blog posts for most of these recent games with just a few details changed. Wednesday’s game against Guangzhou was very much a case of so far, so familiar, with us putting in a decent performance in the middle of the pitch but not really getting that close to scoring. Going in to the game I guess we probably would have been expecting a 1-1, as this has been the score in every one of our ACL games so far this year. But that was too much to hope for as both teams played out a disappointing 0-0 draw in pretty horrible windy and rainy weather. I think this is the first 0-0 we’ve had since I started writing this blog actually. It was by no means a boring game, but there definitely was a bit of frustration as we did our usual beautiful passing right up until their penalty box when we either gave the ball away or tamely shot at the keeper. We now really need to win our last two ACL group games, away in Korea and at home against Eastern, to have any chance of getting through to the next stage.
There was some positive news before the game as Sung-Ryong was fit to start, his injury from the weekend not being as serious as we thought. When the team line-up was announced, it was really difficult to work out what kind of shape we would be playing in. At times during the game it wasn’t so clear either, but as far as I could see we had a back four of Tasaka, Nara, Taniguchi and Kurumaya, with Neto and Itakura ahead of them. We seemed to be playing with a front three of Kobayashi on the right, Morimoto in the middle and Hasegawa on the left. Rhayner was also playing but was all over the pitch and did a pretty good job. On twitter I described it as a 4-2-3 plus Rhayner wherever he fancied being. The Frontale website has Morimoto up front by himself with Rhayner taking the central midfield attacking position, but it seemed pretty clear to me that Rhayner had a free role to roam wherever he fancied. The subs bench was made up of Arai, Noborizato, Miyoshi, Kengo, Moriya, Kano and Otsuka. Guangzhou had brought a pretty big crowd to Todoroki. Credit to them for that! I guess maybe some of them live in Japan, but whichever you look at it, it was an impressive away attendance. Before the kick off, the teams unusually changed ends. I guess this was due to the strong winds which were clearly blowing much more in one direction. We started the first half kicking into the wind, and whilst it was strong, I guess we don’t really put the ball in the air very often so it wasn’t such a problem for us. The game started with wild attacking from both teams. There was no way this was going to end up as a 0-0… The Frontale line-up seemed to be quite fluid, epsicllay Rhayner of course and he was causing Guangzhou quite a few problems early on. Guangzhou’s trio of Brazilians were performing pretty much as they had in the last game. Alan was constantly diving and whinging, Goulart was just a mystery, (the mystery being how he could be have a probably high-paying career as a professional footballer) and Paulinho hanging around, waiting for a free kick which he could blast either at the wall or straight at the keeper. Alan was once again particularly infuriating, going down like he had been invisibly lassoed by a local Kawasaki cowboy. I can’t recall seeing anyone get booked for diving recently. Has the rule changed? I was pleased to see a Guangzhou defender get booked early on for a nasty hack and thought that finally we might have a ref who does something about the persistent fouling that we always seem to attract. Seems I was wrong though. After this early yellow, the cards were kept firmly in the pocket until the 93rd minute. Of course I’m going to say this, but this was another terrible referee, giving decisions out at random. We benefited from them as much as we had them go against us, but is it too much to ask that the referees actually know how to do their job? The Guangzhou keeper was looking a bit dodgy, he didn’t seem too confident with his kicking. Hasegawa’s pace against a stodgy Guangzhou right back was causing some problems and Morimoto was doing a decent enough job of leading the line. But it was all a bit scrappy in midfield. Constant fouls were destroying the rhythm of the game and there was a bit of a lack of quality from both teams.
The second half, we had the wind with us for what it was worth. Kengo came on at halftime for Itakura who after a shaky start seemed to have settled down and was playing ok. It made sense though to bring on the experience of Kengo to hopefully create some more in the middle. Rhayner was still causing problems and was once again getting some rough treatment from the opposition. I guess it’s because he’s good on the ball that he attracts so many fouls, but it does seem that people’s response to him beating them once is to just knock him over repeatedly afterwards. I’m sure there could have been a few cards given for persistent fouling, but I guess that was a bit too much to be expected from this ref. One thing that was particularly annoying about the second half was the fact that every free kick we got, we played short with the opposition standing in very close proximity. I know they shouldn’t be there, but them standing there reduced the effectiveness of us taking our quick free kicks. I don’t blame them. They stand close and either have a good chance of winning the ball back immediately or if the ref is paying attention, prevent the free kick from being taking quickly. I’m not sure why we didn’t recognise that this was their tactic and change things up a little. Instead, we just kept doing the same thing and turning attack into defence. We were having a few more shots in the second half but they were mostly from long range and going straight at the keeper. In fact I’d say that we didn’t really put any of the seven (yes, only seven…) shots we had in the entire game anywhere that wasn’t wide of the post, over the bar or straight at the keeper. On 58 minutes Morimoto was replaced by Nobori. I thought Morimoto had an ok game. Hope this is the first step in his recovery of form. He’s been really off recently. This meant Kobayashi moved into the front man position. But still we were lacking the final ball. We dominated possession and caused them some problems, but the final pass or the shot was always not up to scratch. Guangzhou seemed to have decided to settle for the draw and were wasting a fair bit of time. On 88 minutes Moriya came on for Hasegawa. Felt a bit like too little too late to be honest, unless we too were trying to run the clock down. And maybe both teams got what they wished for as the game finished 0-0. Whilst preferable to losing the game, another draw, especially after dominating the possession felt a bit disappointing. But at the same time, with our apparently toothless attack, perhaps a 0-0 was the best we could have hoped for.
Looking back at the stats after the game, I think maybe the draw was a fair result. At the time it felt hugely frustrating. For most of the game Guangzhou’s whole game plan seemed to be to try to score from a free kick. Apparently they had eleven shots in the game, but I don’t remember it being that many. For a team with plenty of money, they really don’t seem to be as good as people think they are. But, we didn’t beat them… As I said at the start of this post, plenty of our recent games are playing out the same way at the moment. Decent amount of possession, making a few chances but not taking many of them. It’s pleasing to have a bit of stability at the back recently, although I guess there’s no guarantee that will last, but we are really lacking a cutting edge up front. I’m not sure it’s the players, as we have people throughout the team who can score goals. Perhaps it’s the system. Or perhaps it’s just a matter of a lack of confidence. I don’t think things are going so badly this year, but they really aren’t clicking yet. Not sure how long we can still be a work in progress without losing touch in all of the competitions we are in. Positives and negatives. Positives first, we didn’t lose. And Rhayner. That’s probably about it. He was all over the pitch and created and tried to take quite a few chances. The free role seems to suit him quite well and he’s getting closer to scoring but, and this brings us on to the negatives, we didn’t score and didn’t make enough chances. We can pass the ball all day, and our passing looked pretty good in this game, but you don’t get awarded goals for nice passes. We now have to win the last two games to probably have any chance of progressing and one of those is a tough away tie against a Suwon team who put five past Eastern. If we don’t win that, it probably won’t matter how many we can score against Eastern in our last game. And who says we actually will score against Eastern! I know we are still blighted by injuries (and actually, when are some of those players coming back?) but the players we have available probably shouldn’t be stumbling so much at the moment. I think Kobayashi up front by himself doesn’t work, so I’m not sure why we keep resorting to it. We need to get some confidence back after the FC Tokyo game, which I think is still playing on our minds, and I hope we can do so soon.
Next up, Consadole Sapporo away on Sunday, Nara returning to visit the team he started his career with. Another plane away-day and I’m quite looking forward to it. Hopefully the game will live up to my expectations. They did us a favour and beat FC Tokyo last weekend (Okubo still with just the one goal this season, presumably waiting till he plays us again…). Hopefully we can do a bit better than FC Tokyo did and come away with a result. After that, we’re back at home hosting Shimizu S Pulse next Friday. How good would it be if by next Saturday we had six more points and a few more goals scored. We can always hope I suppose! Go Frontale!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 6. TASAKA YusukeDF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 28. ITAKURA Ko
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO
MF 22. RHAYNER
FW 11. KOBAYASHI YuFW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki
FW 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
GK 30. ARAI Shota
MF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for MORIMOTO 58')
MF 13. MIYOSHI KojiMF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo (on for ITAKURA 46')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro (on for HASEGAWA 88')
MF 25. KANO Kenta
FW 27. OTSUKA Shohei
My Frontale Man Of The Match
(This is going to be a great new pictorial feature on here as long as I have the player in question in my growing collection of these things. Please understand that my choice of player will be in no way swayed by who I have and who I don't. Probably)
RHAYNER - spicy attacking performance