Saturday 22 April 2017

Vs Shimizu S Pulse (home) 21/4/17, J-League match 8

Kawasaki Frontale 2 - 2 Shimizu S Pulse

This was a game where we found a new way to finish the game with just one point. Previously we’ve tried the 'go ahead and throw it away almost directly from the kick off', the 'play well, concede and grab a goal back' and a few other variations. But to totally dominate the first half but go in a goal down, then rally a little and take a 2-1 lead only to concede weakly with the last kick of the game was in some ways more painful than to have lost. I guess we now know how Yokohama felt with our 100th minute winner against them last season. I think the most concerning thing about today's game was the fact that it is a fine line between coming back from a goal down to win and gain some much needed confidence, and to give up that lead so late on, smashing what little confidence we had. I really hope that we can move on from this game quickly, and we have a chance to do so in Korea on Tuesday. We don’t need to linger on this and I don’t particularly want to write much about it. I imagine Frontale fans’ grumbles will seem particularly ridiculous to Omiya fans, who got hammered by Gamba the same night and are sitting right at the bottom of the table with one point from eight games. But I think the thing that irks so much is that we aren’t playing too badly, we just can’t put the ball in the net and are making crucial occasional stupid mistakes. I’m getting sick of draws but I’m sure Omiya would take a draw or two at the moment.

Talking of mistakes, it seems that Tasaka was being punished for his gaffe that gave Consadole their goal last week. He dropped to the bench and was replaced at right back by Nobori, a left-footed left back… The rest of the back four was the same as the last game, Nara and Taniguchi in the middle and Kurumaya at left back, all in front on Sung-Ryong. Seems a bit tough on Tasaka as you could easily say Kurumaya (easily out-jumped) and Sung-Ryong (saved the shot but about a foot behind the line) were equally at fault. The defensive midfielders were again Neto and Kengo, but the three in front of them were shuffled once more. Abe was on the left, Otsuka in the middle and Miyoshi on the right. Kobayashi was the lone striker (hasn’t really worked so far, still hasn’t I don’t think). Whilst Otsuka was announced as playing up front with Kobayashi he was in reality behind him at the front of the attacking midfield part of our team. I wonder if it might make more sense to switch those two round in the future as Otsuka is a bit taller than Kobayashi and the Kobayashi up front thing isn’t working (maybe I mentioned that a few times...). The bench was changed a little too. Rhayner was suspended so was absent. Arai was the reserve keeper and the others on there were Tasaka, Morimoto, Hasegawa, Moriya, a fit again Edu (who looked so chuffed coming on to the pitch to warm up before the game!) and Kano.

The first half started with loads of possession for us. I don’t think Shimizu touched the ball for about three minutes. It was a very familiar story though. Lots of possession and not many good chances, at least not on target. The Shimizu fans were in good voice which was surprising given the extremely negative stuff their team was playing. I particularly enjoyed one of their songs which had almost an afrobeat feel to it. Very shuffly. Shimizu apparently had come for the draw. They pretty much had 11 men behind the ball at all times and were shutting down our attacks with some meaty challenges. Neto put one in himself and was booked. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it feels that Neto and Rhayner get booked for pretty much anything they do whereas others get off. It was clear Shimizu were going to sit back, absorb our sideways passing and hit us on the break when we gave the ball away. And this is pretty much what they did. We had plenty of players back as they counter attacked but a cross from former Frontale player Chong Tese went through the legs of Taniguchi and our defence just watched as one Shimizu player slid and missed the ball and it ran to another who tapped in easily at the far post. I’ve no idea what any of the defenders were doing. No-one was anywhere near the ball or the Shimizu attackers who were lining up to put the ball in. Sung-Ryong wasn’t really to blame as he was ready for the shot from the sliding Shimizu player who didn’t connect and then had to scramble back across goal, but as for the rest of the defence, I have no idea what they were thinking. Our defence has looked much better recently, but looked absolutely terrible here. It was far too easy for Shimizu. This gave them a goal to hang on to, so they retreated even further behind the ball. It was clear it was going to be a long night for us of trying to break them down with our deadly sideways and backwards passes. Neto was lucky not to get sent off later in the half. He was looking a bit disheartened after the early booking and got a lucky escape when he clattered into a challenge on the edge of our box. Unbelievably, the usually useless Nishimura didn’t get out his card. Maybe I need to reassess my opinion on him. Probably not… So, we finished the first half with 79% possession, 422 passes with a 92% pass completion rate. And trailing 1-0. Classic Frontale really… We had been careless at crucial times and no-one looked like they were playing particularly well. Kengo looks tired recently. Neto looked sad.

The second half brought Moriya, who replaced Neto. An understandable substitution, but one which left our defensive midfield being made up of two attacking midfielders. The bench was maybe not the best. Plenty of attacking options and one centre back. There was no natural replacement for Neto. Got to go down as a mistake by Oniki. But I do think he was right to make the change. There was a feeling of hopelessness around the ground I think. At least there was in my seat anyway. I commented that it felt like we might never score again. Nice reverse psychology from me, eh? But it didn’t come that soon so I had to wallow in despondency for a while before my spirits could be lifted a little. We were attacking a lot more but the end product wasn’t there as usual. On 62 minutes our first goal came. Miyoshi cut inside and put in a lovely cross to Abe who was running in at the far post. He volleyed the ball home off the keeper and then the post. Not the cleanest of finishes, but it went in and the mood lifted a little. With this attacking though, Shimizu were starting to come into the game a little more and it definitely felt, at least in my pessimistic eyes, that we would need another goal to avoid defeat. It seemed clear that we would keep attacking and that they would nick a goal. I don't know why they came with such a negative game plan as it seemed they were able to play some decent football. Any preconceived notions of a formation were gone and we were doing that thing we normally do when we are chasing a game, where everybody plays everywhere. I know we had a few players playing out of position, but it didn’t feel like it because it seemed like we had done away with those old-fashioned concepts of shape and formation. Our all out attack was really lifting the crowd and we were making some decent noise. We got our second goal on 73 minutes, after some great work from Kobayashi in the box, who collected the ball on the penalty spot and as is the Frontale way, dribbled it away from goal, held off and beat a few defenders and passed to Kengo who was running into the box. He finished expertly and all was good again. This would be a great morale boost for our low on confidence team. A comeback from a goal down. Just what we needed to kick on this season, and especially before a crucial ACL game on Tuesday. Oh confidence! The one thing we can’t work on in training, the ephemeral but crucial ingredient to success. The tide was turning. No more bore draws. From now on it would be a goal fest with sturdy defending for the rest of the season. Now we were in front, better make some substitutions, eh? Hasegawa came on for Otsuka and shortly afterwards Tasaka came on for Miyoshi. Like I said, we had abandoned such outdated concepts such as formation by this stage, but it seemed that Tasaka was playing left wing and Abe moved to the right. Hasegawa also seemed to be playing right wing… Approaching the 90th minute, the fourth official signaled 4 minutes of injury time. Just four minutes to hang on and we’d be back again. On the 95th minute they scored with the last kick of the game. Alves cut in from the wing, shot and the ball rolled past three Frontale players who didn’t get anything in the way of it and dribbled past Sung-Ryong at his near post. This one was 100% Sung-Ryong’s fault I reckon. It was a horribly weak goal to concede. And there goes that confidence and any hopeful thoughts. This season is going to be a long and stinky one it seems.

Positives and negatives. Positives first. Abe scored. Maybe it will give him some confidence. No fresh injuries maybe. I’m clutching at straws. Negatives. Loads. Our big confidence boost created by the second goal was smashed into a million pieces and booted down the toilet. Strange image I know, but kind of how it felt. Woeful keeping from Sung-Ryong for the second goal. Completely incompetent defending for the first goal. Plenty of average or below performances. Players played out of position and a very lop-sided bench. Neto now banned for the next game in Osaka next weekend. I don’t particularly want to list any more as I’m trying to forget about football for the rest of the weekend. Oh, I thought of another positive! We don’t have another home game for a couple of weeks, so the next time we get a draw or a loss we will at least have the distraction of visiting a different city and therefore attending the game won’t feel quite so much like self-flagellation. Boos rang out at the final whistle which is pretty unusual for Frontale. I don’t think I agree with booing the players. I think they are suffering as much as we are. I’m not sure we should really be cheering them after the whistle though. It definitely felt like there was a difference of opinion within the fans at the end of this game. Tediously, I think I’m probably somewhere in the middle.

Next up is the away ACL fixture against Suwon Bluewings. We’re going to the game. Right now I feel like I would rather use my day off to have a nice sleep or maybe bang my head against a wall. But at least it will be a new city and a new country for me. Possibly not the best time to visit Korea given the current political situation... Maybe this game will be the one where we turn things around. It’s probably the case that if we don’t win it, our ACL campaign is almost certainly over. Too many draws so far. Very reminiscent of our league campaign! After that, we’re away again at Cerezo next Sunday. It’s too early to even think anything about that game. Let’s get the ACL one out of the way first. Go Frontale!… I guess.


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO (Yellow card 16')
FW 27. OTSUKA Shohei
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki

GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 6. TASAKA Yusuke (on for MIYOSHI 83')
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for OTSUKA 79')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro (on for NETO 46')
MF 25. KANO Kenta

My Frontale Man Of The Match

Do I have to do this? What a stupid idea for a new feature this was. Guess there's one person who I could just about consider giving it to, but I don't have the appropriate gacha gacha thing so no picture this time.

ABE - hopefully, confidence inspiring goal


KANEKO (Shimizu) 14' 0-1
ABE (Frontale) 62' 1-1
NAKAMURA (Frontale) 73' 2-1
ALVES (Shimizu) 90+5' 2-2


The Frontale youtube channel has longer highlights provided by DAZN, but given that last year's highlights got wiped when the broadcaster got changed, I'm going to stick with the official J League ones. But you can watch the longer highlights here if you want.

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