Tuesday 12 June 2018

Vs Sony Sendai (home) 6/6/18 - Emperor's Cup 2nd round

Kawasaki Frontale 3 - 2 Sony Sendai

Firstly, apologies for the lateness of this post. I’ve managed to fill the World Cup break with a few too many time-consuming non-football events and last week was a particularly bad but enjoyable cluster of them. The lateness of this post also has contributed a little to its vagueness. Usually I make do with a few notes, replays of the goals and significant events and my memories. Sadly this time due to the extra time between the game and me writing this, the memory part has faded a little. So, this will probably be a bit more general than usual. Oh, and there's a distinct lack of photos. Blame the rain maybe.

So, our first Emperor’s Cup game of 2018 and it was against Sony Sendai who it seemed wouldn’t put up too much of a fight, but actually gave us a bit of a scare, taking a two goal lead before we managed to grab a victory late on in the game. It was a rainy evening in Kawasaki and we named another slightly bizarre team. Given the long break and the apparent quality of the opposition you would have thought we’d go with a second string selection and send the first teamers away on holiday, but once again Oniki surprised, with quite a few first team regulars, whilst at the same time handing the crucial Kengo role to Wakizaka, who’s previously only had a brief appearance as a substitute. Once again, Neto was nowhere to be seen. There are rumours about him going to Nagoya which would be a huge loss for us. He apparently has a good relationship with Kazama and you’ve got to imagine doesn’t get on quite so well with Oniki, who seems to only begrudgingly include him and often leaves him out for the hugely promising but still pretty green Morita. If you’re reading this Neto, (as if...), please don’t leave! I would also have thought this would have been a good chance to give Saito some more pitch time. Perhaps he was rushed back a bit too soon, but you’d have to say that this would have been a decent opportunity for him to get more into the swing of things and perhaps even get his first Frontale goal. It’s good though for Sony Sendai that they were able to line up against some big names, as I’m sure that’s what they would have been hoping for. Looking back it’s easy to say, but I did question Oniki’s thinking at the time. It looked a bit like a hint of continuity with just enough unfamiliarity to make things a bit of a mess. Presumably during regular training, a lot of these players are on opposing teams, as whenever I’ve been to watch it, we usually seem to pretty much play the next game's starting eleven against the rest of the players. This weird selection also looked like it might be a mistake when Taniguchi went down with an early injury. This is exactly the kind of game where we don’t need to be losing an important player to a stupid injury. Especially at centre back where we’ve been short since the start of the season. Oniki always seems to have a grudge against at least one of the four we have, freezing them out for the smallest mistake whilst leaving the bigger names in the squad alone whatever they do.

Anyway enough about the selection and a little about the game. Right from the start it was clear to see that unsurprisingly, we were technically quite a bit better than them. We were moving the ball around nicely and had a couple of decent early chances, one from Wakizaka which went agonisingly just wide. Sony Sendai seemed pretty up for giving us a real game, running all over the pitch and closing us down. They were playing in a way that we’ve rarely seen recently, trying to play attacking football with a lot of energy, rather than sitting back and hitting the ball long for quick counter attacks. And they took the lead. It was pretty sloppy stuff from us with Edu missing a tackle and Kurumaya absolutely nowhere and then the cross missed by Taniguchi. Unsurprisingly, this goal seemed to shake us quite a bit. It was certainly unexpected. Equally unexpected was the fact that they didn’t sit back after scoring and were still coming at us. 15 minutes later they scored again and this threw us into a real mess. This time a long Taniguchi cross-field ball was seized on by a Sony Sendai player who Kurumaya seemed completely unaware of. Arai could have done better with the shot too. We’d been struggling a little at the back, Kurumaya was having a dodgy evening, along with the rest of the back four to be honest. Oniki responded to these defensive problems by subbing Wakizaka. Way to give him some confidence on his first start, Oniki! Not sure why he couldn’t wait till half time, especially to change something up front, given that the problems were mainly at the back. To be honest, it was just baffling and another example of Oniki apparently being completely unaware of any kind of mental effect this kind of substitution might have. Someone who is probably all too aware of that is Chinen, who was the player who came on. He’s really experienced Oniki’s fickle moods recently, going from starting member to dropping out right of the squad on a weekly basis. The change moved Ienaga into the Kengo role and Abe out on to the right, out of position again, (great work again Oniki). I really have started to wonder if he actually thinks these substitutions through or just picks the names he fancies swapping. We were a bit of a mess after the first goal but more of a mess after the weird sub. There was some booing at half time which is pretty unusual for us, and whilst I don’t agree with booing your own team, particularly during the match, I can totally understand why people felt the way they did. I was still fairly confident we’d be ok, but the substitution made me wonder if we were on some kind of self sabotaging mission in the cups this year. Could probably have said the same about our performances in a few of the league games too though.

The second half started much the way the first had finished. Sony Sendai still seemed to have more players than us, being all over the pitch, pressuring us everywhere. Presumably they’d tire at some stage, but we really needed to get back into the game quickly if we wanted to not be on the end of a giant killing. Thankfully Hasegawa put us back on track fairly early in the second half. It was the second decent headed chance he’d had in the game and this one he put away. Another lovely cross from Ienaga. We were on the road back to some kind of respectability. Presumably not wanting to let any momentum build, Oniki made another substitution shortly afterwards. Nobori was the one coming on, which made sense as Kurumaya was really not at the races. Perhaps after his last storming appearance showing Nishino what he was missing, he’d now retreated into disappointment about not going to the World Cup and consequently lethargy. I joked that he’d probably instead remove Edu and put Kurumaya in the middle. I was astounded to see him do exactly that. Clearly Oniki has a big problem with Edu. After the game he commented he was frustrated that all of our attacks were breaking down at Edu and he couldn’t stand watching it anymore. Perhaps he had seen something I had not noticed in the slightest but I’m not even sure our centre back is really supposed to be building attacks. I thought they were supposed to do the defending. We did start to get something going though, but I think this was mainly due to Nobori being on the pitch rather than Edu being off it. Nobori and Hasegawa we’re combining well down the left and we were making good chances. Our second goal was a well placed shot from Elsinho after Ienaga had a shot blocked. We had 25 minutes to try to complete the turnaround. They were reduced to trying long shots but to be honest, they’d scored from one of them in the first half, so we couldn’t be too complacent. Chinen was having a good game. He definitely gives us a bit of clout up front and had a lovely overhead attempt which unfortunately didn’t go in. Abe also slammed a shot off the post. The winner came worryingly close to the end for us and heart-breakingly close to the end for them. It was another well placed finish from Ienaga after some nice work from Suzuki who had replaced Abe in what was the only rational substitution we’d made all evening. While I celebrated it wildly as if we’d just staged a cracking comeback in the cup final, I did feel for Sony Sendai. They’d done a great job against us but just ran out of steam at the end. They’d played much better football than some of our J1 rivals (not necessarily technically, but certainly aesthetically). We were through to the next round where we’ll play Mito Hollyhock away. I’m looking forward to a trip out there to tick off a new ground.

I’ll speed through some brief positives and negatives. Positives, we’re through and scored some nice goals. Negatives, we made really hard work of it. Some of our big name players seemed to have their mind elsewhere and put in limp performances. But the big one has to be Oniki again. The first two substitutions seemed a bit illogical, changing an attacker when the defence was all over the place and a defender when we were trying to push on a bit. Hopefully he hasn’t done any lasting psychological damage to Wakizaka, who by no means deserved to be subbed after 38 minutes. And it doesn’t seem very professional to so directly point the finger at Edu, particularly when it relates to an attacking problem. With substitutions, he seems to get an idea in his head and go ahead with it without any really thought as to how it might affect the team as a whole and seems happy to persist with playing players out of position in order to make some kind of change that only he feels is necessary. I don’t know if it’s just me who feels like this, but he just doesn’t seem like he completely knows what he’s doing and seems keen to point the finger at individuals whilst being oblivious to any of his own mistakes. As I said on twitter after this game, we won this game in spite of our manager, rather than because of him. I think you could say the same about quite a few of our results this year too.

Next up we have the next round of the cup away to Mito Hollyhock on July 11th. After that we’re back in league action, away to Consadole Sapporo the following Wednesday. In between now and then we have the World Cup. I have to admit I’m finding it a bit hard to get as excited as I usually do about it though. Oh, and I’ll put up some mid-season posts soon.


GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
MF 25. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
FW 8. ABE Hiroyuki

GK 24. ANDO Shunsuke
MF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for EDUARDO 59')
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for WAKIZAKA 38')
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 27. SUZUKI Yuto (on for ABE 86')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

Many more average and bad performances than good ones in this game to be honest. Morita did a decent job, Ienaga was his usual excellent self, Chinen is regaining some confidence and Abe toiled away out of position for a large portion of the match. Just feel like it should go to…

HASEGAWA Tatsuya - Nice finish for his goal, and showed what problems he can cause the opposition when he’s involved in a game. Keep up the good work! 

FUJIWARA (Sony) 18' 0-1
MIURA (Sony) 33' 0-2
HASEGAWA (Frontale) 52' 1-2
ELSINHO (Frontale) 66' 2-2
IENAGA (Frontale) 89' 3-2


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