Tuesday 16 April 2019

Vs Sagan Tosu (away) 16/4/19 - J League match 7

Sagan Tosu 0 - 1 Kawasaki Frontale

I have to say that I approached this game with a bit more enthusiasm than I have for most of our recent games. This had much more to do with the away experience of a Sagan Tosu game than any kind of optimism about our performance. This is one of our longest away days, but over the course of the last few years, I’d have to say it’s one of the ones I enjoy the most. The stadium is a good one, the away fans seem nice and it’s another ground where the fans are free to mingle, being able to walk right round the stadium and enjoy the food and drink opportunities to the max. Last year, I overindulged a bit, enjoying the local Shochu, Nihonshu and a couple of beers and consequently have only faint memories of us winning. This year, my Nihonshu option had been removed, so I was left with only the Shochu, which it is fair to say, is not my preferred tipple. Still, beggars can’t be choosers, so I soldiered on through what seemed to be a massive pour of pure Saga rocket fuel, obliterating any worries about the slightly dodgy weather and any comprehension of the game of football. I topped this Shochu up with some ‘local’ beers made by Sagan Tosu sponsor DHC, (made in Gotemba, a few hundred kilometres away I think). They tasted surprisingly good given that I know DHC mainly for their cosmetics and their DHC Protein Diet. Guess that means that these beers were good for my skin, right? I presume the protein diet is a positive thing anyway. Not sure why the staff serving were dressed up like space age cheerleaders though. Perhaps the guy who chose their uniform had also enjoyed the Shochu. Recently, these posts have got increasingly moany, decreasingly detailed yet have remained at the same low quality level. Not sure the detail people might have been asking for was in the outfits of the people serving the beers, but you know, that Shochu was pretty powerful stuff. Oh, and finally, it was nice to finally talk to the other Frontale away game gaijin after seeing him so often in various grounds. Nice to meet you, if you’re reading this. I was a little disappointed to hear that he’d been asked a few times if he was the person writing this blog. No one has ever asked me if it is me who writes it.  But I guess at the same time I should be pleased that some people have actually noticed it exists. Please say hello to me if you’re reading this. I’m not as grumpy in real life as I might seem to be from reading this. Anyway, here’s what we might have learned from this game.

Early season injury crisis -

It seems that I might have been a little tough on Oniki of late. I probably stand by the assertion that he can’t rotate and that he doesn’t really know who to pick in his best eleven. But it seems clear that injuries have been forcing his hand a bit recently. We had quite a few missing for this game, Kengo, Kurumaya, Manabu, Morita, Taniguchi. So this was a bit of a cobbled together side. Presumably the absence of both Taniguchi and Kurumaya forced Oniki into picking Michael James to start and Jesiel for a debut bench appearance. It was good to see some defensive options available for once through. The big injury news was perhaps the return of Oshima, and boy how we’ve missed him. Ao has done alright and Morita is a great player, even if he hasn’t shown it much this season, but the two of them alongside each other didn’t really seem to be working very well. The fact that Shimoda started this game alongside Oshima suggests that Oniki thought Ao might need a rest. But once again it was quite weird to see someone go from not even being on the bench to being in the starting line up. Caio Cesar and Maguinho disappeared again, with Mawatari back from injury to replace the latter. I still think Oniki has a problem with our Brazilians, but I’ll possibly go into this in more detail in another post. Chinen deserved to retain his place up front as he is scoring, but actually, if he’s first choice, why was he only on the bench in the ACL game? Still not sure of our priorities, or which version is supposed to be our best team, which is a bit of a weird situation after 10 games.

Three points much more important than an enjoyable game -

We won a game! Let’s gloss over the performance though, eh? Not saying it was bad, but Sagan Tosu had scored one goal in six games before this match. Thankfully, we managed to stop them scoring, but we only managed to breach their super leaky defence once. However, on this occasion, the three points and confidence boost are worth a lot more than the short term excitement of playing well for once. The details of the game are slightly obscured behind a haze of Shochu and DHC beer, but it didn’t feel like a particularly comfortable win, in spite of Sagan Tosu not being able to offer much. Three points are three points though, and now we’re only two points behind the team who everyone thinks are the most amazing thing to ever happen to Japanese football, Yokohama F Marinos. This is a pretty weird season so far. aside from Sanfrecce and FC Tokyo making their traditional strong starts, (hopefully, a traditional mid season collapse is on the way for both of them too), plenty of teams have been getting mixed results. Urawa are pretty awful this year, but sit one spot ahead of us in the table in 7th. Injury ravaged Kashima are not doing much better in 6th. Moneybags Kobe seem to be getting distracted from winning consecutive games by the stress of producing souvenir debut T-shirt’s for their latest big money foreigner and are two spots below us, albeit equal on points. I said before the season that I thought it would be a lot tighter this year, but I thought that would be because more teams were doing well. Perhaps it will be because more teams are doing badly. I know we’re still some way off the pace and one swallow doesn’t make a summer, but this win, despite the current weakness of the opposition is a small step in the right direction

But we're still not really up to speed -

But yeah, it wasn’t exactly a footballing masterclass from us and we’ve still got some way to go to get back to the heights of the last couple of seasons. So don’t get too optimistic, eh?

Lovely Saga fixture/poor Saga fans -

I think I have addressed part of this above, but once again I find myself coming from an away fixture saying how great the opposition fans and the experience is. The stadium isn’t the newest, but I like it a lot. No running track, a nice terrace behind the goal, plenty of food and drink options, fans free to mix and walk all the way round, and the stadium is helpfully close to the station. It’s just a shame that they don’t have a station entrance on the same side of the tracks. But I guess this would only be of any use for a few hours once every two weeks as I imagine there’s not a huge amount of traffic in and out of the station on a regular day. All of these positives make me feel bad for the fans. Sagan Tosu look like they could be in a bit of trouble this year unless something changes soon. Sure, Torres wasn’t fit and only appeared as a sub in this game. But let’s be honest, he hasn’t exactly set the league alight since his arrival in Japan. In a way, this was the ideal game for us to play at the moment as it was against a team in worse form than us. I know it’s a new coach and plenty of new players but you’ve got to worry for them. Of course it’s still very early in the season, but if you look at the bottom half of the table we could be in danger of losing some very good away days next season. The current bottom three are Sagan Tosu, Vegalta Sendai and Shimizu S Pulse which are all cracking away days. It’s a shame that some of the more miserable away trip teams couldn’t get themselves relegated instead. Please step up, or rather step down, Kashima Antlers! Suppose there’s no running track there though and the stadiums pretty good. But that journey, and that so unlikeable team…

So on we go, and it’s another local derby next with us hosting Shonan Bellmare next Friday. They are one of those teams who we always have a stinker against, but we’ve really got to try to pick up another win and get a little run going. It would be nice if we could start scoring a bit more often too. Whether any of the injured players will have recovered, I’m not sure. I thought Michael James and Shimoda did pretty well so it would be harsh, but perhaps not so surprising if Oniki dropped them. Perhaps the worry is a bit further up the pitch though, as we still don’t seem to be clicking up front. Chinen’s finish was nice and as long as he keeps scoring he should keep his place in the team, but it’s not as if we particularly threatened against a very weak defence. But let me steer away from my usual negativity and just enjoy the fact that we won. A win against Shonan would perhaps see me reach new heights of positivity and optimism. That would make a change, wouldn’t it? Fingers crossed! Go Frontale!


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 17. MAWATARI Kazuaki (Yellow card 64')
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 29. MICHAEL JAMES (Yellow card 26')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro (Yellow card 90+3')
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki

GK 21. ARAI Shota
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
MF 25. TANAKA Ao (on for SHIMODA 73')
DF 27. SUZUKI Yuto (on for MAWATARI 71')
MF 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya (on for CHINEN 88')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

Like I said above, several times, this wasn’t a vintage performance and apparently some Sagan Tosu fans thought we were a bit rubbish (difficult to argue with them too strongly…). But we had some decent showings. For the fact that I’m hoping his return results in a morale boosting super run of victories, I’m going to give it to….

OSHIMA Ryota - we’ve definitely missed his experience and skills in the middle. I think all of Shimoda, Ao and Morita play significantly better when they play alongside him. Let’s hope he can keep clear of any more injuries…


CHINEN (Frontale) 51' 0-1



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