Wednesday 5 April 2017

Vs Vegalta Sendai (away) 1/4/17, J-League match 5

Vegalta Sendai 0 - 2 Kawasaki Frontale

After a two week break, Saturday saw us get things back on track a little with a decent performance away at Sendai. Going in to the game we were (and to some extent, still are) blighted with injuries. Unavailable for selection were Elsinho, Edu, Abe, Ienaga, Tasaka, Igawa, Ao, Michael, Takeoka and Popp. Think that’s all of them but it’s a little difficult to keep up with the injuries recently. Sendai had started pretty well this year, with three wins and one loss, so it looked like we would be in for a decent game. Away at Sendai is one of my favourite away trips, probably mostly due to the atmosphere, which was pretty good, and also the fact that you can walk all the way round the ground with both sets of fans mingling freely. It’s nice that we can have a sensible relationship with the opposition fans. It seems that I enjoyed Sendai so much on Sunday that it has taken me a long time to get round to writing this.

 There was a bit of a shuffle with the starting line-up, in part forced on us by injuries, but also in part, I guess, due to Oniki tinkering a little with the formation. In spite of the way the team was announced before the game we played with three at the back, which I was quite interested to see, as I think our centre backs have been playing pretty well recently (apart from the FC Tokyo game…). I like the fact that we are still trying to play mind games with our team sheet. I suspect it isn’t really very successful though. The formation was a kind of 3-2-3-2, which is a new one for me to be honest. Sung-Ryong was in goal, Nara, Taniguchi and Kurumaya were the back three, and as usual, in front of them were Oshima and Neto. We had a midfield of Rhayner on the right, Kengo in the middle and Nobori on the left and a front two of Kobayashi and Hasegawa. I don’t know what the thinking was behind this change. Maybe Oniki wanted to give us a bit more stability at the back. It meant that Rhayner was going to have to do a bit of defending, which apparently he was up for. The game started quite evenly. Both teams were being pressured when on the ball and the referee was giving a lot of free kicks, pretty much any time there was a tackle. Whilst it’s annoying to have the game stopped so often, it was nice to see some consistency from an official for a change. We were making some good chances early on, our usual bright start I guess, but Sendai had a few too. Rhayner drove a shot across the goal and just outside of the post. Hasegawa had a semi-acrobatic effort on the turn which unfortunately fell straight to the keeper. Our passing was looking a bit better than it has recently, but we were still occasionally giving the ball away cheaply. Hasegawa seemed very lively and up for it. His pace was causing the Sendai defenders some problems. Rhayner and Nobori were covering a lot of ground on the wings and our defence was looking reasonably solid. We scored the opening goal on the 27th minute. Rhayner broke down the right wing, threaded a nice pass through to Kobayashi who was able to wrestle past the defender and square for Hasegawa who was running into the box, timed to perfection! It was a nice team goal and probably well deserved. We had nine shots in the first half and whilst the possession was quite evenly balanced it seemed we were making more of ours. It was a satisfying first half all in all and I enjoyed watching this team playing this formation.

The second half started similarly to the first. We had a few decent chances early on but couldn’t quite get the second goal. Once again, our passing was better than in previous weeks, but still not quite there. On 53 minutes we suffered yet another injury. Oshima went down in our own penalty box. As we were at the other end of the pitch I’m not sure what happened but Rhayner seemed pretty annoyed about it. He was stretchered off and replaced by Moriya. As is usually the case with our injuries, we don’t hear anything about them for ages so we still have no news on it. As he was carried off the pitch he was sitting up and not writhing around in pain, but he was taken striaght down the tunnel and didn’t reappear at the end of the game. Hope it’s not too serious. Moriya slotted straight into the position Oshima had vacated and whilst there wasn’t that much upheaval in the team, we did lose our way a little. Passes started going astray and Sendai had a few more chances. Sung-Ryong was playing really well though, coming out to claim the ball when necessary and making so decent saves. Around 60 minutes Kobayashi had another shot deflect off the post and out across the goal. At the time I thought it was exactly as had happened away at Guangzhou, but looking at the replay, it was actually put onto the post by the keeper. Unfortunately, Kengo could only blast the rebound into the side netting. Not long after that we were piling forward again. Neto floated a lovely ball through to Hasegawa who held on to the ball for a bit and then played it back to Neto who had sprinted towards goal. He tried an audacious rabona finish which unfortunately just went straight across the goalmouth. Not particularly close to a goal, but quite an exhilarating moment. At this stage it seemed like Neto was a man possessed. He was breaking forward at every opportunity, attacking a lot more than we are used to seeing him do. Consequently he seemed to be knackered shortly afterwards and was replaced by Itakura on 74 minutes. Now we were playing the rest of the game with Moriya and Itakura in the defensive midfield positions. And it kind of showed. There were a huge amount of chances being created both ways and lots of action. It did seem that we were going to need another goal though. And on 82 minutes it came. It was in some ways reminiscent of the first goal, just down the other end of the pitch. Rhayner passed to Kobayashi who this time really wrestled past the defender who seemed to be doing his best to foul him and hand a handful of his shirt. This time the willing recipient of the pass was Moriya who calmly slotted the ball home with a twist of the body totally disguising the direction of the shot. The game kind of petered-out from here, but not without another decent chance for Sendai and another good save from Sung-Ryong. Chinen came on for his debut on 92 minutes, presumably just to waste some time, but he got a few touches and we got to sing his name in the ‘young players without a song’ song, if you know the one I mean. And then the final whistle. A pretty satisfying day.

All in all, I felt this was a good result and one that was well deserved. I liked our new formation and it seemed to work. Sendai didn’t have a great season last year, but had started well, so to put in a fairly dominant performance against them away from home was quite pleasing, especially after our last game. It’s clear to see that Oniki Frontale are still a work in progress, but I think he’s doing a decent job given the injuries he is having to deal with at the moment. Positives and negatives. First the negatives. Oshima’s injury, still to be confirmed by the club but which didn’t look good. Let’s hope it was only a cut or something and that he can come back quite quickly. One other tiny negative, and it’s a bit greedy to say so, but we probably should have scored a few more given the chances we had. But realistically, I think we are all just happy with the three points! Positives, considerably more of them. Great performance from Sung-Ryong, maybe the best I can remember seeing him play. Sometimes I’m a little worried about him, particularly him punching all the time, but at Sendai he looked calm, confident and efficient. Long may that continue. Hasegawa looked great, lots of energy, pace and enthusiasm, delighted to see him score. Likewise Moriya, who has never quite managed to cement a place in the starting line-up for any length of time, but always seems to score important goals. I hope he’s happy with his super-sub status. You could see the goal meant a lot to him. Rhayner was great given the unfamiliarity of his position. Reminded me of when Tasaka was converted to a defender. Initially worried about it, but they put in a good shift right from the start. He looks full of energy and I hope he’ll score soon as this will only boost his confidence. And Kobayashi too. A great game from him. Clearly playing up front by himself doesn’t really suit him, but playing alongside a strike partner seems to supercharge him. He was great for both of the goals. It seems unfair not mention everyone else who played as this really was a good team performance. The defence looked fairly solid and no-one had a bad game. Not often you can say that!

Next, we have Kofu at home on Saturday. Let’s hope we can continue with this positivity. They haven’t had a great start, so we should really be looking at taking three points. But you know how things are when we play teams that we should be beating… After that, we are back to the ACL, hosting Guangzhou next Wednesday. It will be a tough game, but our showing against them in China should give us some confidence as I don’t think they looked as good as we had expected. Presumably they’ll come into form next week though... Hopefully we’ll have some players back from injury by then as the treatment room really must be running out of space. Onwards and upwards! Go Frontale!


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo (Yellow card 51')
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 22. RHAYNER (Yellow card 58')
FW 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya

GK 30. ARAI Shota
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro (on for OSHIMA 53')
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for NAKAMURA 90+2')
MF 25. KANO Kenta
FW 27. OTSUKA Shohei
MF 28. ITAKURA Ko (on for NETO 74')


HASEGAWA (Frontale)  76' 0-1
MORIYA (Frontale) 82' 0-2


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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