This will be quite a brief post for a couple of reasons. Firstly, due to work I could only get to the ground for the second half. Secondly, the game was so ungamelike (nice new word there…), that there’s not really a great deal I can say about it. Eastern arrived in Japan already out of the competition with their sole point on the board gained against us at that game in Hong Kong. We needed a win to progress to the knockout stages and it seemed that everyone thought we would get it pretty easily. I suspect we had the same thought going into the away game though. Tellingly, I had a dream the night before that we failed to beat them. I am going to put this one down as another success of my newly found reverse jinxing skills.
The second half I know a bit more about, as I actually watched it. The atmosphere in the ground was a little flat as you would expect from it being not even half full. I wonder if the next round will draw a bigger crowd. I guess the game was pretty much effectively over at this stage anyway. Eastern hadn’t scored more than one goal in any of their games and it seemed at this stage of the competition they weren’t likely to mount a three goal winning comeback. The second half started with Eastern really flapping. They looked in terrible trouble at the back and we were getting behind them with ease. Rhayner looked like he was enjoying himself running at their defenders and it was him who created the third goal, playing the ball across for Hasegawa who was running in at the far post. The cross evaded three Eastern defenders and Hasegawa bundled the ball home. Shortly afterwards it was 4-0 and this time it was Nara who scored from a Kengo corner. I’m not sure if we are suddenly becoming dangerous from set pieces or if it was just the opposition, but it’s very welcome. Ienaga was on shortly after the fourth goal and he had a few great chances to score his first goal for the club. The first he pulled wide and the second was a thundering half-volley that dipped just over the cross bar when he was through on goal. He probably could have taken it a bit further forward but I can understand why he wanted to smack it when it sat up so invitingly. A bit later on in the game Eastern did manage to pull themselves together a little and resort to their one tactic, hoof it to the big guy up front and have the fast guy race up the pitch after it. It made for a bit of variety as the majority of the game that I saw, they were sitting with almost everyone behind the ball in two defensive rows. I wouldn’t say they really caused us any problems though. Apart from the big guy’s insistence on trying to give third sub Takeoka another injury. I have had a bit of a thing against Bleda since the first game when his foul on Nara got Nara sent off and ruined the game. That was about it for the game really. The ref blew the whistle, the match was over and we had progressed to the knockout stage.
All in all it was a pretty strange evening. The game definitely felt like a training match. In a way, it was probably exactly what we needed. After our win against Albirex it’s nice to get a few more goals on the board and another clean sheet. Although we can’t take too much away from the game apart from good feeling as Eastern didn’t provide much opposition. However, it shows what difference a little bit of confidence (and having 11 men on the pitch) can do. Compared to the game in Hong Kong, this was very comfortable, but that may have been due to the opposition’s performance too. Can’t say there were any negatives in this game, but there were a few positives. Ienaga is back. This could be crucial as he’s a good player who hasn’t had a chance to show what he can do yet. I know he played a couple of games at the start of the season, but apparently he was already carrying the injury that kept him out for a couple of months at that stage. Could be a good time to come back depending on how serious the injury to Kobayashi is (oh, there you go, that could be one negative). We’re through too. And bizarrely we managed to win the group in spite of our goal difference being eight goals worse than Guangzhou’s. We finished equal on points but due to us having shared two draws, and us scoring at their place in the 1-1 and them not scoring at the Todoroki we go top on a better head to head record. Seems a little unfair to be honest, but I’ll take it. In the next round we meet either Muangthong United of Thailand who apparently have loads of money, or Kashima Antlers who have loads of money and always seem to beat us. [Between writing this and posting it, we've found out it is Muangthong for us next].
Next up is Jubilo Iwata away. They’ve had a similar start to the season as we have and we struggled a bit there last year so I don’t think it will be an easy game. Miyoshi and Itakura will be off to the U20 World Cup in Korea soon so we’ll be without them. It’s a good thing that a few players are recovering. Would be nice if we can keep this decent run going though and build on the confidence we are picking up. Go Frontale!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 6. TASAKA YusukeDF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO
MF 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo
MF 22. RHAYNER
FW 9. ABE Hiroyuki
GK 30. ARAI Shota
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki
MF 13. MIYOSHI KojiMF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for KOBAYASHI 20')
DF 17. TAKEOKA Yuto (on for NAKAMURA 79')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro (on for ABE 57')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
Seems a bit unfair to single anyone out in such a weird one-sided match and I did only see half of the game so...
THE WHOLE SQUAD - Did what was required and somehow in spite of drawing the first four matches we managed to win the group!
RHAYNER (Frontale) 28' 1-0
TANIGUCHI (Frontale) 45' 2-0
HASEGAWA (Frontale) 49' 3-0
NARA (Frontale) 53' 4-0