Monday 14 May 2018

Vs Kashiwa Reysol (away) 12/5/18 - J League match 14

Kashiwa Reysol 1 - 2 Kawasaki Frontale

And everything is fine again! After a disastrous couple of games where it was all doom and gloom from me, we’re back to optimism. Although it nearly could have been more of the same, and the first half saw us toiling away with no success as we have been a little too often recently. This was a very hot day and it was a hard match for both teams and all the supporters too. Last year the complete lack of shelter in the away end meant that we got absolutely soaked as the game unbelievably went ahead despite typhoon conditions. This year we were instead slowly roasted, but unlike last year when the draw saw me moan about the conditions, the win this year made everything worthwhile. This was a game of two halves, particularly from a Frontale point of view. We continued where we’d left off against Tokyo in the first half, struggling to create, let alone take chances. The second saw us grasp the game by the scruff of the neck and play some exciting football, the likes of which we have rarely seen this year. Long may it continue!

There were a couple of changes from the usual starting line-up. Thankfully Oniki has dispensed with the ‘rotation' he tried against Tokyo and was back with the usual starters, apart from Neto who is injured. Morita took his place. Sung-Ryong was back in goal after serving his ban. Apparently he got a bit emotional when we sang his song when he came out to warm up. Perhaps his previous clubs’ fans haven’t been quite so forgiving after red cards. We also had a new ref, or at least a new one for this season. It was Ueda and he was alright, I reckon. Of course I disagreed with plenty of his decisions, but he didn’t seem to make any clangers and compared to some of the other refs we’ve had recently, that’s a big plus point.

I won’t dwell too much on the first half as it was the all too familiar recent story. We dominated possession, built up attacks slowly and then came to a standstill when we reached their box. Once again we were playing a team who were putting plenty of players behind the ball and hoofing it long when they got the ball off us. Sadly for us, their two front players were both pretty handy. Ito made a great turn to bamboozle a couple of our defenders for his goal and Cristiano was the usual troublesome attacker that he is. He’s strong and good on the ball and made a few chances for them in the first period. Aside from their well taken goal, they hit the bar and gave us a few worries. At the other end of the pitch, we had a couple of chances, but didn’t force a save from their keeper. Plenty of time on the ball, lovely intricate build-ups and then nothing. They were a couple of shots, one from Abe and one from Morita and both were close, but not close enough. There were a few positives. Morita was doing great in the Neto position. His tackling was spot on and him and Oshima were bossing the midfield. The chances Kashiwa made came from long balls over the top or down the flanks as there was no way through the middle. Admittedly, Morita messed up a few passes, but defensively was playing the best I think I've ever seen him. Ienaga was also doing well again. He was all over the pitch and at times we were doubling up down the left. But still not really getting into the box.

The second half started better. We were something of a transformed team. I don’t know what Oniki said at half time or if he altered our tactics but we were suddenly looking a lot more dangerous and Kashiwa looked worried. We were making chances and they were even on target! When the goal came, it came from another great tackle from Morita in midfield, winning the ball near the centre circle as they started an attack and passing it through for Kobayashi who smacked it in from quite a way out. A lovely finish, and pleased to see that we can go a bit more direct when a chance is available. I’m really glad we’re not one of the many long ball hoofing counter attack teams that there are in the J League this year, but it has felt recently that we've had a moral objection to attacking directly. Of course it’s an exaggeration, but at times it has felt that if we were one-on-one with the keeper, we would probably play it backwards in order to get a few more passes in before the shot. With the score tied at 1-1, Kashiwa had a bit of a problem. The momentum had clearly shifted in our favour and we were all over them. What a difference a bit of confidence makes! Still they persisted with the long ball hoofing, but weren’t getting as many chances to do it. We made a few subs,: Hasegawa in for Abe to give them something else to think about about down the left, and then Moriya on for Morita, a change which was forced on us by what looked like cramp for Morita. He came out at the end of the game though, so I guess he wasn’t injured. We made more chances, but I should stress that despite us dominating the second half, we still had to put in some last ditch blocks and tackles when they did hoof it forward. Nara was immense and Taniguchi was also doing a great job, but Nara edged it by throwing himself at the ball on more than a few occasions. Our final change was a little surprising; Suzuki on for Elsinho. In recent weeks I think Oniki would have brought on Takeoka, but I guess as we were looking for a winner Suzuki was a more attacking option. He’d scored in his only other previous appearance (in the ACL dead rubber against Ulsan), and he did the same again in this game. We left it late though, halfway through the four minutes of injury time. It was a great cross from Hasegawa on his weaker foot and an equally great headed finish from Suzuki, back across the goal and into the corner. The celebrations were pretty crazy on the pitch and in the stand. We managed to see out the final two minutes with a bit more resolute defending and then we could celebrate. A nice comeback, a second half where we had three times more shots than them and 20% more possession. Also 90% of our shots were on target. Unbelievable! Hope we can hang on to this confidence and get back to regularly playing as we know we can. A good day!

It’s probably an obvious thing to say, but a win really feels so much better when there’s some kind of narrative behind it. After failing against the hoof ball football of FC Tokyo last week and Kashiwa in the first half of this game it really felt like justice had been done when we came back and took all three points. Of course, I would have settled for a win with goals from a couple of dubious penalties, but this felt all the sweeter for feeling like a battle of good against evil. Of course this is all from a highly biased point of view. Perhaps our opponents would view the game in a whole different light, but I’m not going to pretend that I’m in any way impartial on here and just enjoy this win and the accompanying good feelings. These have to be the big positives from this match; three points and a decent confidence boost ahead of our final game before the World Cup break. There were plenty of good performances in our team, a couple of nice goals and for once a view of the game that didn’t start 30 metres from the stand due to a running track. On the negative side, you’ve got to ask questions about the disappointing first half which was a perfect continuation of our previous two limp performances. Hopefully we can start our next game in the more dynamic way we finished this one, rather than the ponderous way we’ve played recently. Certainly it’s easier for us to play away from home, as teams have to do something more when they’re at home, rather than just park the bus as people seem to do when they visit us at Todoroki. We just need to replicate this away game drive in our home matches. I guess one more negative, in order not to get too carried away. Hiroshima are still winning pretty much every game. They are quite a way ahead of us and we’ve got to hope for a post World Cup break collapse in their form. Hopefully people will suss them out and we can try and catch them up. Their lead looks pretty worrying already though.

Next up, we have Shimizu at home next Sunday in our final league game before the World Cup break. Another win would be crucial in keeping our confidence up. We’d then be able to rest up and recover from the busy schedule we’ve had so far. There will also be an Emperors Cup game before we resume in the league, but this won’t be until the 6th of June and will presumably not feature many of the players who’ve played plenty of minutes so far this season. So fingers crossed we can get the win and start the break in a good frame of mind!


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo (Yellow card 14')
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki 
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 25. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki

GK 30. ARAI Shota
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for ABE 66')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro (on for MORITA 74')
MF 27. SUZUKI Yuto (on for ELSINHO 86')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

A tricky one this time. The only highlights from the first half were probably Morita’s tackling and Ienaga getting involved all over the pitch. The second half featured a great goal from Kobayashi and some solid defending from Nara in particular. Suzuki got MOTM on one website I saw, and although the goal was crucial, it seems a bit silly to give it to someone who spent only 10 minutes playing. Elsinho should also be mentioned for his relentless switching between attack and defence. So, I guess I'll give it to...

MORITA Hidemasa - really stepped up when called on and we didn’t even really notice Neto’s absence. Great tackling all through the match and even set up Kobayashi for the first goal. Big performance from a young player.

ITO (Kashiwa) 32' 1-0
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 58' 1-1
SUZUKI (Frontale) 90+2' 1-2


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.

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