Wednesday 28 June 2017

Vs Gamba Osaka (away) 25/6/17, J-League match 16

Gamba Osaka 1 - 1 Kawasaki Frontale

This seems to be the season of inconveniently scheduled away games. A 7pm Sunday night game in Osaka is not exactly the most convenient of trips, with only a slim chance of getting a Shinkansen back afterwards. Consequently, the away end wasn't full, but we took a decent amount of fans to what I still think is probably the best stadium in the J League (at least the best I've been to anyway). Both Gamba and us would probably hope to be up and around the top of the table come the end of the season, and both haven't exactly set the world on fire in the league yet this year. Also, this game marked the first time our new goal scoring hero Abe returned to his former club. I think I said last week that this game would give us a better idea of where we are likely to finish this season. I'm not sure it actually did. We played pretty well but were plagued by our usual problem of not being very good at scoring. I'm sure it's mainly a matter of confidence, but in spite of managing to turn on the goals a bit recently in the ACL, we still haven't really got them going in the league. Judging by the free paper that Gamba were handing out (see picture below), it seems that our major problem is that we don't ever tackle. It is one of the strangest looking diagrams that I've seen. Unsurprisingly though. the passing part of the diagram is maxed out! Approaching the halfway stage of the season, and with Vissel and Urawa up next, let's hope we can sort out that goal scoring thing soon.

The team line up was probably how we would have been expected it to be, returning to normal after a few changes in the emperors cup game. Sung-Ryong was back in goal and the back four included Elsinho on the right for the first time this year. Edu and Taniguchi were in the middle and Kurumaya was on the left. Ahead of them were Neto and Oshima and up front in a variety of positions and combinations were Kobayashi, Kengo, Nobori and Abe. On the bench we're Arai, Nara, Tasaka, Miyoshi, Hasegawa, Moriya and Ienaga. My pre-game enthusiasm was significantly squashed by the news that the ref was Tojo. It's weird that I dread hearing his name as he refereed our great 3-0 victory at Kashima, but he was so incompetent on that occasion and so easily swayed by the crowd and the players that I can never be pleased to see he is officiating one of our games. And once again he had a bit of a dodgy game. He missed a clear handball in the box by a Gamba defender in the second half and gave any number of baffling decisions throughout the game. Not having seen the replay yet and it being at completely the wrong end of the ground, I can say that he definitely got the decision where they appealed for a penalty right though! This game was our first and last opportunity to see Gamba's 'wonder kid' Doan, who is about to join Groningen on loan. After playing an amazing 15 games for them (yes, I know, what a legend!) he was apparently seen off with a big farewell ceremony at the final whistle. I say apparently, as we used the opportunity of plenty of Gamba fans staying behind after the game to make a swift exit, hoping the monorail would be a bit quieter. If Groningen fans were tuning in to see what their new signing will be bringing them, I guess they now know it will be a significant amount of whinging and diving. Before the game I was willing to give him a clap, (good luck etc.), but when he was substituted halfway through the second half my opinion of him had changed. He looked pretty handy on the ball, but I could never get behind a player who goes to ground so easily, sometimes even without an contact. Anyway, this is supposed to be about Frontale! Before the game the stadium PA seemed to be turned up to eleven, possibly to make up for the lack of enthusiasm from the Gamba fans. I guess when they banned all the people with the Nazi flags they lost a significant amount of their vocal support. The remaining  fans did give us a good old boo as we came out and our team were announced. Not sure exactly what we did to them. Abe got a mixed reception. Pretty much a mixture of boos and applause, which is quite a confusing combination to the ear. So, I guess I'd better talk about the actual game...

We started as we have been prone to doing recently, pretty badly. There was a lot of early pressure from them and it took us a while to find our feet. Usually, if I'm not moaning about refs, I'm moaning about the opposition fouling us a lot. Pleasingly for me I can moan about both of these things in this game as we were getting kicked all over the pitch in the early stages and the ref was doing nothing. These officials really do have the ability to make going to games an absolute nightmare. I can't remember the time we last had a ref who was at least half way competent. They always seem to have their own agenda. The pitch seemed to be pretty slippery and early on we were struggling to find our feet both metaphorically and literally. But we did settle down after 10 minutes or so and started to create some decent chances. But as we have come to expect recently, we weren't putting them away. We had eight shots in the first half. Gamba had three. Although if you believe what you read on twitter they were totally dominating and we were lucky to still be in the game. Once again, the opposition's main form of attack seemed to be us sloppily giving them the ball in a dangerous position. They had a few chances but we had dominated. Although not according to twitter...

The second half started the same way as the first did for us. We were a bit hopeless, but managed to survive a shaky first five minutes. This has probably been the case a bit too often for us recently to be honest. But I guess as long as we don't concede during these dodgy moments we shouldn't complain too much. I know it takes me a while to get going in the morning so maybe the same kind of thing is going on with the players at the start of the two halves. Once we'd woken up though we started playing some nice stuff again. And then we scored. It was a weird goal and one which probably sums up our performances this season quite neatly. With options to shoot we seemed to instead be more interested in constantly crossing the ball across the goalmouth from one side to the other. Thankfully we wore down the patience of the Gamba defence and, in an effort to break up the constant crossing, one of them decided to knee the ball into their own net. It was a lovely finish, and whilst the goal was initially credited to Kengo, it was an absolutely nailed on own goal. Cheers! In response to going behind, Gamba seemed to decide to start playing horribly ponderous stuff, apparently trying to run down the clock passing the ball across their back four. I'd expect this from us, but it was a bit of a surprise for them to do it when they really needed a goal. When they finally made it out of their own half they did manage to make a couple of chances but we were hanging on. There was a heart in the mouth moment where they claimed, and were denied, a penalty. It looked like a close thing from the other end and twitter exploded in fury at how we had cheated them, but I've heard it was a dive. On 68 minutes they were equal though. It seemed to be a pretty soft goal to concede and I reckon that maybe Sung-Ryong could have done a bit better, but I guess he was having a kind of quiet game so might have lost concentration a little. Apparently they only had two shots on target in the whole game, so it's a little disappointing that we only stopped half of them. They did cause us a few problems after the goal though, and we responded with a double substitution. Ienaga and Hasegawa came on for Kengo and Nobori. Was it to be the day Ienaga finally got his first goal for the club? Sadly no, but things did get a little crazy from here on. The last 15-20 minutes of the game were insanely open with the game swinging from end to end. We had a cracking chance made from a lovely build up, but Kobayashi failed to slot the ball home. It was a stinker of a miss to be honest and probably summed up our form recently. Nice but not quite there. Our final sub, (Miyoshi on for Abe), came on 90 minutes. A bit too late to make any difference really, unless we were just running down the clock. So it finished 1-1 and I had mixed feelings at the final whistle. We'd dominated on possession, goal attempts and shots on target but there was definitely a feeling that we were living on the edge a little. If we were putting chances away, our defensive wobbles wouldn't be so worrying, but the fact that we're not scoring so many at the moment, means that any slip up could be a crucial one.

Positives and negatives. Let's start positive. A draw at Gamba is a decent result and we didn't lose (although I guess we should maybe be hoping for a bit more if we want to mount a challenge in the league). The midfield played pretty well and it's good to see Neto and Oshima playing a few games together. We are making chances. But to turn to the negatives, were not putting the chances away. Our goal seemed to come in spite of our efforts rather than because of them. Whilst things are ticking along ok, we need to start winning games and we've got some tricky ones coming up. From game to game we go from our front four working great, to not really working. I don't know if it's still a lack of familiarity with the system or if the system is wrong, but we've got to sort it soon. Maybe some shooting practice wouldn't go amiss. Or maybe we still need to find something a bit more effective.

Next up, we're at home to Vissel Kobe on Saturday. They thumped us at their place last season in what was one of my most depressing J League experiences. There weren't even that many good bars to go to afterwards either. Then Urawa visit us to play the game that was postponed earlier in the season due to our ACL commitments. They are in rotten form at the moment, but they do tend to beat us, presumably just to really annoy me. So it's not exactly the easiest of runs for us at the moment, but hopefully big games mean big Frontale performances. Let's hope so anyway! Go Frontale!


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
FW 8. ABE Hiroyuki

GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 6. TASAKA Yusuke
MF 13. MIYOSHI Koji (on for ABE 90')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for NOBORIZATO 72')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro (on for NAKAMURA 72')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

It was a bit of a crazy game, especially in the second half, so this is a bit difficult. Was going to give it to Neto, but recently he has tended to give the ball away a bit when he's doing a flashy pass. I love these when they work, but they are a bit painful when they don't. So, today it goes to...

OSHIMA Ryota - makes a real difference when he plays and did a good job attacking and defending in this match. Long may he stay injury free please!


NAKAMURA (Frontale) 52' 0-1 (a few sites have given this to Kengo but it was clearly an own goal)
NAGASAWA (Gamba) 68' 1-1


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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