Friday 7 September 2018

Vs Kashima Antlers (away) 5/9/18 - Levain Cup, quarter final 1st leg

Kashima Antlers 1 - 1 Kawasaki Frontale


It’s fair to say I’ve been a bit disillusioned with most things Frontale recently. Even when we’ve won I’ve found ways to get upset about it. I’ve had plenty of issues with team selection and transfers, (us getting rid of one of our best players and not really signing anyone when the rest of the league strengthened around us). It’s also true that I’ve had a few issues with Oniki, which I’ve bored on about in writing on this blog and orally on the recent episode of the J Talk podcast (listen here if you dare). There has also been a distinct lack of enthusiasm from me for going to games, which I feel seemed to also be present in some of our players. For some reason though, an away Levain Cup game in the notoriously pain in the backside to get to Kashima (at least as far as I’m concerned. I’d much rather travel much further on a train than that distance on a bus), seems to have rejuvenated me somewhat. I had a surprisingly good time at this game, having a good old pantomime moan at the officials and the opposition and not being made despondent by what was going on on the pitch.

This was a weird game with a real hybrid line up. Our starting eleven, which has been set in stone recently was distinctly disrupted by the absence of Kobayashi, Kurumaya and Morita on international duty and Oshima who is injured again. With this kind of hole ripped out of our team it was clear that there was going to be some shuffling done. Thankfully, we reverted to playing two centre backs in central defence. Although the combination of Nara and Michael James looked a bit shaky at times, aside from the goal they committed themselves satisfyingly well for a pairing that has had very little pitch time recently. The goal was a bit of a clanger though, but I’ll let you examine that yourselves on the highlights video. Ahead of them in the defensive midfield spots, we had the potentially disastrous pairing of Kengo and Taniguchi. When Kengo had to move back to this position in the Gamba game he didn’t do particularly well. And although Taniguchi wants to play in this position, I always feel he’s better as a centre back. It did seem a little strange to start with this pairing given that we had Shimoda on the bench, a player who naturally plays there. But I was forced to eat my words as, all credit to Oniki, they were pretty damn good there. Perhaps the balance was a bit clearer than against Gamba, with Kengo attacking more and Taniguchi doing more defensive work, rather than both Kengo and Morita not really knowing what they should be doing. Completing the new guts of the team, we had Chinen and Akasaki up front. Oniki really loves to play players against their former teams it seems. It also seems that either Akasaki wasn’t very popular when he was at Kashima, or they didn’t take too kindly to him leaving as his pre-match announcement was greeted by fairly loud boos from the Kashima fans. Spirit of Zico, eh? (spitting on the ball after giving away a penalty etc...) Their usual 'Spirit of Zico' flag was less prominent than usual, hidden off to the side. I always like to make a joke about this flag but on this occasion, was completely outdone in this respect by my wife, who suggested it was less prominent as after his return to the club in some kind of chief interferer position, they were embarrassed to discover that he was still alive. I should probably take some time to moan about their fans actually, as they seem to be as unsporting as Urawa’s, booing nearly all of our possession and in equal amounts clueless to the rules of the game. Quite how they had the nerve to boo off the officials at the end of the game I don’t know, as I thought Iida had given pretty much everything aside from our clear cut penalty, (right in front of them), the way of Kashima, particularly in the second half. Quite how we came away with five yellows to their two is a mystery. Quite how Leo Silva didn’t get booked when I was pretty sure he’d done enough to get sent off twice was also a mystery. In any case, I know football is all about opinions, and the fact that I came away from the game thinking that it was fairly even but we’d had a bit of an upper hand means that taking aside my natural bias, it was probably an even game and a fair result.

As I’m now skirting round these match blog posts in a fairly random and slightly less verbose way, I should probably circle back on a couple of other notable aspects of the match. Chinen and Akasaki again showed hints of something interesting. I think they could make a good front pairing. It would be interesting to see one of them up front with Kobayashi at some stage, but that probably isn’t going to happen any time soon. Akasaki was unlucky not to score when he belted the ball in from a tight angle but was given offside. To be fair, it looked offside even from where we were, directly behind the goal, but i still enjoyed robustly questioning the linesman’s decision. Chinen caused them quite a few problems. It looks like he’s picking up Kobayashi’s nice sharp turns and he won the penalty doing one of these, completely wrong-footing the defender. He also put the penalty away pretty calmly. A good game from him I think. In spite of us coming agonisingly close to finding a winner when we hit the post, shot from the rebound, only to be denied by a goal line clearance, and then hit the post again from that clearance, we had to defend at times and Arai, a somewhat surprising selection in goal, claimed quite a lot of balls that I would normally expect our keepers to punch. That was pretty pleasing to see to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a vintage Frontale performance. Five shots in each half tells you it wasn’t exhilarating, but there seemed to be a spirit there that has been in short supply recently. Although this could entirely be all in my head. Perhaps it was because we were up against a ‘big team’ whose pre-game animation of their title stars bursting onto their crest was tacky at best, and presumably designed almost entirely to irritate opposition fans. Perhaps the cup gave us a welcome break from what is looking like an ultimately unsuccessful league campaign. Perhaps some of the players missing haven’t exactly been shining recently. Whatever it is, and I’m by no means saying all or any of these are true, I came away from this game feeling pretty happy with the performance and experience. Let’s just hope we can play with similar spirit in the ‘home’ leg on Sunday and send Kashima packing. Last year’s Levain game at the Ajinomoto stadium was pretty fun, and even though we were the away team on that occasion, and the opposition are different, a similar result this weekend would be most welcome! Go Frontale!


GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 18. ELSINHO (Yellow card 41')
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki (Yellow card 72')
MF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo (Yellow card 75')
MF 27. SUZUKI Yuto
MF 37. SAITO Manabu
FW 9. AKASAKI Shuhei (Yellow card 27')

GK 30. ANDO Shunsuke
MF 6. TASAKA Yusuke
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki (on for CHINEN 76')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for SAITO 59')
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro (Yellow card 90') (on for AKASAKI 72')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

Like I said above, there were a decent amount of decent performances. Given the shuffle of personnel though, I’m giving it to...

TANIGUCHI Shogo - won tackle after tackle in the middle and distributed the ball well. I’ve had my doubts about him playing in this position, but it seems that every time he’s asked to, he does a great job. Bravo!


NISHI (Kashima) 19' 1-0
CHINEN (Frontale) 32' (PEN) 1-1


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