Sunday 4 March 2018

Vs Shonan Bellmare (home) 2/3/18 - J League match 2

Kawasaki Frontale 1 - 1 Shonan Bellmare

After the excitement and relative optimism of last weekend away at Jubilo, it didn’t take too long for us to come crashing back to earth. Our first home game of the season, against a local rival and a team who have just been promoted back to J1. What could possibly go wrong? Actually, this is probably all a little bit of an exaggeration, as this game was very far from being a disaster. But it was another slightly limp performance. Last week’s result against Jubilo certainly looked like we’d got going, but the performance wasn’t exactly great. This game was kind of the reverse. The performance seems to be getting better, but this time we didn’t get the result we were hoping for. Hopefully soon we can combine the two.

The team selection had one major change from last weekend. Arai started in goal and Popp made it on to the bench for the first time. Hopefully Sung-Ryong’s injury isn’t too serious. The inclusion of Popp was a bit of a surprise. I don’t know if Ando is also injured or whether Popp is challenging him for the third keeper spot. Other than this, the team and the bench were the same as last week, so once again we had the chance to see Chinen leading the line. Perhaps in recognition that he will be playing a more important role this year, Chinen now has his own song. And Oshima has a new one too. Apparently he felt that the whole cute thing in the lyrics of his old song weren’t really appropriate anymore so asked for it to be changed. Chinen’s song is fairly straightforward, Oshima’s seems like it will take me a while to get the hang of, with a lot of words and something approaching a key change. We also got to enjoy the new video introducing the players. The bit where they show a picture of each season is still intact and now obviously includes some pictures of us winning the title last year. It was actually quite moving, but I imagine will be a little irritating for visiting fans. The best part though were the strange negative photo type images of the players faces before their picture appears. They were fantastically weird and quite amusing. Particular highlights for me being Neto, whose negative photo reminded me of Santa Claus, Nara’s weird negative smile and Okubo's, which was just plain strange. Must remember to take a video of them next time. Oh right, yeah, better talk about the game.

The first half started not so well for us with Shonan having some early chances. They were apparently playing three at the back, but I’d argue that the wingers were also part of the defence. With a couple of deep sitting midfielders in front of them, this meant that we were dealing with seven players forming a wall in front of their goal. They were leaving one guy up front and waiting for counter attacking opportunities it seemed. Their other early tactic seemed to be to try and rile Neto who they were giving some rough treatment to in the middle of the pitch. This didn’t work though, as he wasn’t booked, (!), and I think played his best game so far this year. He and Oshima were much improved, not giving the ball away nearly as much as in the last few matches, and passing like we know they can. We were making some good chances, and there was a feeling that it was just a matter of making the initial breakthrough and then the goals would flow. We were forced into an early change when Edu had to leave the pitch and was replaced by Nara. Apparently he has a muscle injury, but he left the pitch with no apparent sign of distress and sat on the bench, so I guess it’s not too serious. I hope not anyway, as this would reduce us to just three fit central defenders in the squad. We were doing a good job of getting hold of the ball, or maybe Shonan weren’t doing such a good job of holding on to it. At times it almost felt that they were giving it to us so we’d attack and then they’d have an opportunity to counter attack. Weird. But we were doing well. Chinen wasn’t as effective as he had been the previous week, but he was still doing a decent job. It wasn’t the most exciting first half, but it felt like we were building towards something. And we did have some shots on target! Surely it was only a matter of time...

Eleven minutes into the second half, that time arrived. Our goal came from a lovely cross from Ienaga which Kobayashi glanced into the net with his head. Another headed goal! And Kobayashi properly off the mark. Well done to him for the finish, but I’m heaping praise on Ienaga who was really playing well and was a constant threat down the left. So now the floodgates open, right? Well not really. We were starting to really get at them and were piling on the pressure, looking for a second goal. However, ten minutes later Shonan were level from close range after a slightly scrambled corner and all our momentum collapsed. Bit of a shame. Shonan were playing with more purpose, committing more players forward, and were starting to look quite decent. At the same time we were still doing ok, but weren’t quite getting there. Chinen had faded a bit and was replaced by Okubo who almost scored a beauty and missed one that looked much easier than the one he almost scored. I guess our options were slightly hampered by having to make the early sub in the first half. We didn’t have as many chances to change the flow of the game. Our final sub was Abe on for Kengo. Ienaga moved into the middle. Not totally sure about that as he’d been doing really well on the left. I wish we would give Abe a chance up front again as he did well there last year. As the minutes ticked away we seemed as likely to concede as we were to score. But, as there wasn’t a great deal of quality on show from either team it’s no surprise it ended 1-1. Another match for us with no goal from a shot, but can’t say I was too disappointed with the performance. We’d done ok, but it wasn’t our day. A draw was a fair result I guess, but we really need to move up a gear if we want to do something this season.

Positives and negatives. Let’s start positive. Kobayashi off the mark, another good game from Ienaga, Neto and Oshima back to their old selves again. Some signs of encouragement from a reasonable performance. But moving into negative territory, we probably should be winning games like this against promoted teams if we want to retain our title. And whilst the performance was decent enough, we didn’t win and we only scored once. Still some work to be done, I reckon.

Next up, a crucial ACL game against Melbourne Victory at home on Wednesday. This is a must win if we want to retain any hope of progressing to the knockout stage. Then, next Saturday, another home game in the league against Gamba. Time to get into gear.


GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro (Yellow card 69')

GK 31. POPP William
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki (on for EDUARDO 19')
FW 4. OKUBO Yoshito (on for CHINEN 69')
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki (on for NAKAMURA 83')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
DF 25. MORITA Hidemasa

My Frontale Man Of The Match

Few stand out performances in a game that was a little lacking in excitement. Kobayashi scored a nice goal but wouldn't have been able to without help from...

IENAGA Akihiro - caused them some real problems done the left hand side. Beautiful cross for the goal. Caught the eye in a game that wasn't really blessed with quality.

KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 56’ 1-0
MATSUDA (Shonan) 66’ 1-1


The Frontale youtube channel usually has longer highlights provided by DAZN, but given that a previous 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. And we have that extra footage video again at the bottom.

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