Oita Trinita 1 - 0 Kawasaki Frontale
Curse of Kyushu title deciders -
Reflecting on this horror show I was reminded of another day in Kyushu with a player returning to their home town and the wheels coming off. In 2016 with two games to go of the first stage we visited Avispa with Yoshito Okubo’s family in attendance and totally failed to beat the bottom team in the league and effectively throw away a potential (if a bit underwhelming) first stage title. This time round it was captain Taniguchi, born in kind of nearby Kumamoto, who had his family in attendance. The family could have gone home before half time and missed the traffic though as his part in the game was over early on. Kyushu away games are a lot of fun, but it seems like we always make hard work of them. Hopefully this might change in the future. I don’t think we can complain about the red card. I have to admit that I don’t really understand this double jeopardy thing where you can’t get a red card and a penalty at the same time, except sometimes you can, but I’ll defer to people who do know the rules. The Oita striker went down pretty easily but Taniguchi floundering and letting the ball bounce over his head and straight to him meant that he was going to get a chance to make the most of any contact and win a penalty and get a better opportunity to be able to beat Sung-Ryong, who it’s fair to say played a bit of a blinder in this game. If it weren’t for him we could have been really embarrassed. Interesting though that the ref Kasahara has now sent Taniguchi off twice, so if you’re looking for some subtext, let’s fabricate one saying that he doesn’t like ikemen players. Or perhaps he just knows the rules.
Where have all the defenders gone? -
Perhaps when Jesiel picked up his fifth booking of the season and therefore a ban for this game in our last match, the seeds for some defensive trouble were sown. Or perhaps it was when Yamamura picked up a muscle injury away at Kashima. More likely, and this is something that I’ve said before, but thankfully haven’t had reason to trumpet too much this season, the real problem is the fact that we only have three central defenders in our squad. It seems that Kamiya is nowhere near starting so that takes us down to two. Jesiel being banned meant that Kurumaya had to step in, which is never something I want to see as I’d much rather he were playing on the left. No Yamamura to cover on the bench meant that if we had any problems at the back, (like a red card, just picking an example out of the air here), we were really going to have some issues. However, Morita did a pretty good job there in this match, I thought. I recently remembered that Yamane played at centre back for Shonan so I wonder why we haven’t tried him there. Would come as a bit of a shock though given that he spends most of the game in the opposition’s penalty box. It’s pretty bad though that in a potentially title deciding game we played more than half of the match with no recognized centre backs. The same problem is coming on Wednesday against Gamba where Jesiel will be back and Taniguchi will be suspended. Against the team in second place in the league… So no worries there, eh?
I thought we’d put to the bed the accusations of us being chokers but it does look quite like that is exactly what we’re doing at the moment. After scoring boatloads of goals earlier in the season we are now struggling to get more than one a game (except when we play teams with absolutely shambolic defences). It didn’t occur to me that quite a lot of our squad haven’t won the league. Ao, Wakizaka, Mitoma, Hatate, Miyashiro, Damiao, Jesiel and Yamane all weren’t around the last time we won the league and perhaps they are feeling the pressure a bit now we’re so close. I really feel for Ao who looked utterly dejected and bowed for so long and so deeply after the game, in spite of being one of the best players in the game. (For some reason he was on the right wing towards the end and looked pretty damn good!). This pressure is only going to increase as we blow subsequent chances to take the title, so I really hope we can do it soon. Otherwise what was looking like being a wonderful record breaking season could turn into the choke of all chokes. Considering that we’ve already surpassed the final points total of many previous champions it would be pretty shocking if we too were surpassed in the same season. Obviously it would have been ideal for us to win the title by winning the game in Oita. We had a potentially underwhelming but still welcome opportunity to win it on Sunday but Urawa failed to prevent Gamba from beating them. Wednesday is a massive six pointer in which we actually only need one point. If we don’t get at least a point you’ve got to think the momentum will have really swung in Gamba’s favour and we’ll probably spend the rest of the season losing and praying someone can take a point off Gamba and hand us the title. Winning the title by any method would be great, but it would be nice if we could do it by beating our nearest rival but I’m not ultra confident after watching the last few games. No pressure guys. Fingers crossed.
Big names back but not really doing anything -
We are now relatively injury free so it should be plain sailing shouldn’t it? Well, it hasn’t really been. Hasegawa looks to still be lacking some sharpness after his long lay-off. He’s got nowhere near back to where he was at the start of the year. Similarly with Kobayashi, and you can’t imagine that penalty miss against Yokohama will have done his confidence much good, (seriously, please stop taking them! You’re only punishing yourself). Damiao has been pretty quiet recently and doesn’t really seem to get a chance in most games. Kobayashi gets the chances but misses them. I’m a bit worried that Oniki is picking the team based on memories rather than on what is happening in front of him. It’s Kengo’s last season but I’m not sure he should be starting too many games. He lost the ball in midfield for the attack that led to the red card. Saito seems to be trying hard but nothing much is coming off. Oshima seems to play better from the bench than from the start (like many others actually). And recently Yamane has been more noticeable for going missing at the back than doing anything going forward. I should temper all of this with a big caveat that it has been a long and tiring season and bodies and minds are knackered. I just think that Oniki has to make his team selections with form rather than reputations in mind. What’s happened to Miyashiro? Hatate seems to have fallen out of favour a bit. Maybe Diogo could come in to give Yamane a rest. I don’t expect Oniki to change the whole 11 but I think he probably needs to change a few players to get us over the line.
We took a big crowd to Oita but our support was pretty poor. Oita don’t allow drums, which is a bit annoying when they have pre-recorded drumming and singing they can play and then clap along with. We didn’t, although I wonder if they would have allowed us to bring in a mini-amp attached to an mp3 player with some of our own recorded stuff. Probably not. The Kazoku attended this game in full but weren’t leading the clapping. I have no evidence for this, but I feel somehow that the recent criticism of them has upset them a bit. In case you haven’t heard there are voices online saying that people preferred it without them and that since they have come back to coordinate the support we have been rubbish on the pitch. You can’t really argue with the evidence on the pitch but I’d say it has nothing to do with the drumming and clapping coordination. The atmosphere against YFM at home was great I thought and I for one am really happy the drums are back. In the first half of this game the Kazoku sat towards the back not getting involved. Some brave soul tried to start some kind of clapping but the whole experience, much like our performance on the pitch was pretty flat. In the second half the Kazoku struck, with the big drummer down the front to try and get some more organized clapping going. It was much better but still a bit lacklustre but that’s probably due to the lack of drums. There was definitely a feeling on my part though that the difference between the standard of first half support and the second half support was being clearly demonstrated. If they were trying to make a point that they are needed, I totally agree with them. Maybe many fans don’t like everything they do, but without them to lead us, it's pretty lame.
That’ll do. This has probably been a disappointment for any rival fans looking to come and see me have a meltdown. Put simply we were crap in this game and got what we deserved. I’ve heard words said about the surface, but we can’t blame the grass every time we don’t turn up. Hopefully we can put it behind us and get the job done on Wednesday, perhaps with a bit of a change of personnel. You’ve got to imagine that Ienaga will be back in the side against his old team. Hopefully someone will manage to get a few shots on target. We might even challenge their keeper. Oh, I can dream… Anyway, fingers crossed we can dazzle our way to another title. But I guess I’d settle for an utterly quality free goalless draw too. Go Frontale!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo (Red card 34')
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo
FW 19. SAITO Manabu
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
FW 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
GK 27. TANNO Kenta
MF 8. WAKIZAKA Yasuto (on for SAITO 76')
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO (on for YAMANE 79')
DF 17. DIOGO MATEUS
FW 18. MITOMA Kaoru (on for HASEGAWA 46')
MF 25. TANAKA Ao (on for NAKAMURA 46')
MF 30. HATATE Reo (on for KOBAYASHI 60')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
In a game as bad as this, there was never going to be many players to choose from. Honorable mentions go to Morita and Kurumaya for just about hanging on as a defensive partnership and to Ao for his endless enthusiasm and energy. But it really has to go to…
Sung-Ryong JUNG - Went a long way towards saving our blushes by keeping us in the game when we were having an utterly awful first half. Some amazing saves and can’t in any way be blamed for not saving the penalty.
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