The good run continues, although it looked in danger at half time. This was probably the most exciting Frontale experience I've had. It's always good to stage an improbable comeback, and we really did that in this game. We never seem to have gave much luck in Kyushu and we definitely had a few decisions go against us in this game. But we prevailed! The Stadium was a nice one. Fairly compact but with a nice terrace for us and NO RUNNING TRACK!! This was another place where fans are free to mingle and walk all the way round. I didn't make it the whole way myself, but it's nice that it's an option. They also had an impressive selection of Shochu available for sale. I didn't make it the whole way with these either. It was a pretty hot day so a lot of alcohol was probably unwise. Two final points of note were the magnificently mid-Atlantic accent of the match MC and the very friendly mascot who was happy to pose for photos, high five and even hug. I think I knocked him/her in the beak. Sorry Wintos!
The starting line up was slightly unfamiliar given the recent set-in-stone starting eleven we've come to expect. Nobori and Kengo dropped to the bench. I guess the schedule is taking its toll on Kengo a bit given his age. And maybe the same for Nobori, although I'm always surprised that he is younger than I imagine. Guess it just feels like he's been at the club a long time. Their places were taken by Miyoshi (on the left), and Ienaga (on the right). For some reason Oniki decided to put Kobayashi up front and Abe behind him, contrary to recent evidence suggesting that the other way round would work better. There was little, if none, of the front players switching thing going on. Hasegawa had been rumoured to be starting but he didn't appear even on the bench. Hope his absence is not due to anything serious. The bench was made up of Arai, Noborizato, Nara, Tasaka, Morimoto, Kengo and Moriya. The game started with a burst of action with both teams apparently going for it. Harakawa, who we have loaned to Tosu for the season seemed up for it. Miyoshi and Ienaga were also having a go early on. I guess they realised that this was an important opportunity for them. The game was pretty frantic with lots of pressing from both teams. There was not a lot of time on the ball for anyone and the action was swinging from end to end. Not exactly how we've come to expect our games to be recently. In the absence of Kengo, Neto was taking our corners. It just wouldn't be a Frontale Rabbit match report if I didn't moan about the ref somewhere, so here we go! Judging by twitter it seemed to be a weekend of terrible referees with plenty of people moaning about the various referees blundering all over Japan. My first whinge about him was the fact that he didn't seem to want to let the players stop for a quick drink break, standing near the centre circle blowing his whistle and almost windmilling his arms frantically. It was a hot day, and the game was being played at a high pace, so his insistence on a free kick being taken quickly seemed a little stupid and dangerous. I was certainly melting on terrace and all I was doing was waving my arms, shouting, singing and occasionally pretending to jump or bounce but not really doing it properly. He didn't seem too pleased that the players were pretty much ignoring him. As the half wore on, the ref looked for another way to irritate, and around 38 minutes he found a excellent opportunity. The Sagan Tosu captain Yoshida was cruelly knocked to the ground by Elsinho's aura. The imaginary assault took place well outside the box but thankfully Yoshida was able to propel himself forward a couple of metres to a spot in the box where he could lay prone, struck down by a nasty injury that existed only in his own head. At the time I was pretty sure it wasn't a penalty as it looked like a dive from where we were behind the goal. When I saw the replay I was furious with him. There was at most only the smallest hint of contact. Personally I don't think there was any but it's hard to tell. Even if there was an offence it was clearly outside the box. The fact that he had the cheek to try to get Elsinho sent off particularly irked me. And it set off a little bit of argy-bargy. The ref had lost control. He was fine though with letting the Korean Tosu forward have a word with Sung-Ryong and then give the penalty taker some advice. On loan Harakawa took the penalty which shows some guts in front of the away fans of the team you're on loan from. Sung-Ryong was close to getting it. It seemed to just go under his hand. A shame, and an injustice, but I felt we could get back into the game! Sadly a couple of minutes later we were two behind. They always say that the most dangerous time is just after you've scored. For us it seems that it's after we've conceded. We were still sleeping as we tried to pass the ball out of defence. Kurumaya gave the ball away and they whipped a cross in and were two up from a powerful header. Maybe Elsinho and Sung-Ryong could have done a little better but neither were probably expecting the ball to be lost and then delivered into the box so quickly. 2-0 down, and Tosu started time wasting. The ref baffled with a few more strange decisions. I can't remember the details but the note I made said that he had clearly lost his mind. We had a mountain to climb, but I still had confidence. We hadn't played so well, but we didn't deserve to be in the position we were. I think we were all curious as to what Oniki would do at half time.
The second half started with Kengo and Nobori replacing Ienaga and Miyoshi. At the time I thought it was a bit risky to use two subs so early on given the weather conditions. I also didn't think Miyoshi or Ienaga had been so bad. The first half had been pretty even apart from the score. The change in our play though proved why I am in no way qualified to be a football manager, and possibly even someone who writes a blog about football. We were pretty much transformed. I don't know if it was the change of players or the half time team talk but we came out firing. Tosu came out fouling. They were definitely getting stuck into us as we started cutting through them. As usual though we were over-playing it a bit, with people reluctant to shoot. But the tempo was increasing and we were starting to bombard them. Abe had switched to the right with Kobayashi still up front, but they did seem to be exchanging positions a little. I wonder if Abe should have been up front from the start, but again, what do I know? On 56 minutes the comeback started and everything starts to get a bit blurry. The first goal came from Taniguchi. Kengo took a short corner, the ball was returned to him and he whipped it into he box. It looked like Neto headed it, but it wasn't exactly on target, but fell nicely for Taniguchi who smashed the ball into the top of the net. Tosu were wobbling. I was also wobbling as my goal celebrations seem to have got a bit more energetic recently. Two minutes later we were level. This time it was Elsinho with his first of the season from a ball across the box from Kurumaya. There was a hint of offside about it and from different angles I have been convinced of the case both ways. In any case, the goal was given and any Tosu fans moaning about the offside should have a look at their penalty. Four minutes later and the amazing comeback was complete. Our third came from the head of in form Kobayashi and a cross from Kurumaya. Also nice to see first half diver Yoshida on his backside whilst a couple of our goals went in. It's nice that our two Kyushu players did well close to home. A goal from Taniguchi and two assists from Kurumaya. The celebrations were pretty crazy on the terrace. With each goal, more and more people seemed to be getting involved in mass high-fiving. I think I reached double figures on the third goal, accidentally yanked my ticket holder off my neck and sang so loud that I couldn't finish the admittedly slightly over long goal song. We were playing some amazing stuff and looked unstoppable. But of course had also expended a lot of energy on a pretty hot day. Consequently we took our foot off the gas a little and Tosu started to make a few chances. Thankfully Sung-Ryong was there to save us. The game reverted to the first half end-to-end craziness as we tried to recover a little from our exertions. On 81 minutes Oniki brought on Nara for Kurumaya who had run himself into the ground. We reverted to three at the back with Elsinho and Nobori being the wide players. Things got a little scrappy and stretched and we looked to hang on and Tosu struggled to get back in the game. We weren't keeping the ball very well and often ended up hoofing it long, conceding possession and having to quickly regroup to face the next attack. We did hang on though and at the final whistle we celebrated like crazy as most of our players dropped to the pitch exhausted. It had been a crazy game and a very exciting game. The comeback has probably done more for our confidence than a 2-0 victory would have. We're on a nice little run now, so it's almost a shame that we're going to have a bit of a break. But I also think we need a rest as the same players are playing all the games. In any case, it's a pretty exciting time to be a Frontale fan.
Positives and negatives. Let's start negative. I think I said last time that this game would give players a chance to step up and show what they could do. Whilst Ienaga and Miyoshi started and did an ok job, I think this game has shown more that we are still relying on pretty much the same starting 11. The rest of the squad really need to get some form going soon. A couple of injuries could destroy our whole team at the moment as our cover looks to not be up to the job right now. The next Emperor's Cup game will be crucial to try and get something going. But I think I've said that about a few other games already. Also, we were pretty scrappy for long periods of the game. Admittedly it wasn't a penalty, but our defending probably needs to be more consistent, as sometimes we look rock solid and at other times we flap around. Positives. Our run is still going and coming back from a very dodgy position should give us a real confidence boost and shows that we have some steel in the team. Kobayashi is still scoring, Elsinho is off the mark and it was nice to see Taniguchi get one. During our bright period in the second half when we got the goals I’d say we were close to unplayable. I’ve never seen us looking more dangerous. At least not recently anyway. We’ve also negotiated what is usually a tricky away game for us and brought back all three points. And, some results went our way at the top of the table and we’ve moved up to third, only three points off the top. But all this could count for nothing if we lose some of our easier games. There was some talk about us being title contenders, and whilst I think we are in with a shot, we shouldn’t let this good run make us forget some of the rotten results we’ve had earlier in the season when we were on other good runs. So, let’s not get carried away yet as who knows what will happen over the course of the next few months. But at the same time, let’s enjoy our good form and exciting performances whilst they're happening. I can’t imagine in the near future that I’ll go to a game I enjoyed as much as I did this one, but as long as we’re picking up three points each time, I’ll be pretty happy. So, long may the run continue!
Next up, we are visiting Thespakusatsu Gunma in the Emperor’s Cup. This is another one of those games where the squad members have to do something. Thespakusatsu are in pretty bad form at the moment (6 losses out of the last seven), and are rock bottom of J2. I’m sure that Oniki will use plenty of squad players and I hope that we don’t need to bring on the first-teamers to try to secure a victory. Once again, I’d love to see some fringe players and outsiders getting a chance. I hope they can take that chance too. After that, we’ve got no game till the 29th, when we’re at home against Jubilo Iwata. The players are off on a training camp, although I hope there will be a bit of resting along with the training. And we have the supporters event on the 23rd. I’ll try to use the break between games to get some kind of post about the first half of the season up. Personally, I’m pretty satisfied with how things have gone so far, so hope we can head into the break with a good result and performance on Wednesday. Go Frontale!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 18. ELSINHO (Yellow card 39')
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki
MF 13. MIYOSHI Koji
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
GK 30. ARAI Shota
MF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for MIYOSHI 46')
DF 6. TASAKA Yusuke
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo (on for IENAGA 46')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
A few candidates today. Sung-Ryong made a few crucial saves in the second half, Kobayashi had a decent game and kept his streak going. But for the sake of the impact he made, I'll give it to...
NAKAMURA Kengo - we really stepped up a gear when he came on and I'll give him the credit for that. I know he only played 45 minutes but he was full of running the whole time he was on the pitch and he played a big part in the first goal.
HARAKAWA (Tosu) 39' 1-0
CHO (Tosu) 42' 2-0TANIGUCHI (Frontale) 56' 2-1
ELSINHO (Frontale) 58' 2-2
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 62' 2-3
The Frontale youtube channel usually 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.