Kawasaki Frontale 1 - 1 AC Nagano Parceiro (AET) (4-3 on penalties)
Phew! We scraped through. Coming into this game unbeaten and with us playing a J3 side who were struggling there seemed only one logical outcome in this game. Yes, that’s right, a real wobble from us, just about managing to avoid losing. At certain stages of the night it looked like being a great evening for either us, YFM or FC Chofu fans as within the trio of rivals there was always one team who seemed to be doing their best to embarrass themselves. I guess the one positive from your team losing to weaker opposition would be if your rival also did, particularly if it were to even weaker opposition. However, Frontale, perhaps the team who have the strongest rivalry with the other two (not downplaying the FC Tokyo and YFM rivalry, especially after events in recent years, but both of them almost certainly hate us more than they hate each other), managed to come up smelling of roses again with a slightly nervy win on penalties, with the added bonus of their two neighbours going out to a university team and an amateur team. I don’t want to hear about Honda FC’s strength and how they are actually better than some J1 teams. It’s much more fun to concentrate on the fact that they are in the JFL. Why let facts get in the way of fun? The win sees us take on JEF United in the next round, although that will probably have to be rescheduled as we’ll be away on ACL duty. Which will also be the competition our next game, (against Daegu on the 26th June), is part of. So a bit of a break now. Lovely! Get the international players back and have a bit of a rest and then get ready and firing for the ACL hopefully. Here are the usual bullet points before we all have a couple of weeks off.
In usual Frontale cup style we started with our probably strongest line up and toiled. Of course this is with the caveat that we had those five international players still missing. Probably the big surprise in the line up was Kozuka starting in midfield. Oniki has done this before, and much like the previous time he was replaced at half time. I thought this was a bit unfair both times as I couldn’t see he was any worse than anyone else, but maybe he wanted to put some players together who have played more alongside each other as we were trailing. Clearly Oniki sees something in him to have given him a couple of starts but I’m wondering how much longer that will go on. Personally, I wonder if he’d have more joy playing further forward. He’s apparently a more attacking midfielder so perhaps playing up front would suit him better. Another starter who was withdrawn relatively early was Issaka, who I thought did OK again. But his replacement at right back Tachibanada did really well, so you can’t argue about that change. Tachibanada has been growing in stature recently. (Metaphorically speaking. Literally, well if that were true he would have had to have started from a very low place if he’s grown to where he is now!). In both this and the YFC game I think he’s really seized his opportunity and looks like a great prospect. Another interesting prospect who got a surprise runout was Miyagi Ten. He came on for Hasegawa and it seems that he’s been learning quite a lot from him and Mitoma as his game seemed to be all about dribbling, beating the man and shooting. He could have scored a beauty. Which is a nice link to talking about almost all of the front players. They all could and probably should have scored but were denied by wayward targeting and last ditch defending. We hit the bar a couple of times and there were numerous goal line clearances and scrambled blocks. Full credit to Nagano for this, but you’ve got to wonder if we’ll get so many opportunities in our upcoming ACL games.
We did our best in this game when we moved the ball forward a bit more quickly. Nagano were understandably defending in numbers, particularly when they were ahead. We spent much too long building slowly. I say building, but it was building in the way that you can build a really long wall that stretches for miles but if you don’t add a few layers and a roof and join it up with some other walls you’re never going to get an actual building but instead will just have a long line of bricks. When we moved forward quickly and ran at them we made chances. And then missed chances, but that’s slightly beside the point. When we pondered we didn’t even make chances for us to miss. The big standout thing for me in this game was our passing and control. It was pretty bad! I would be surprised if we completed more than 60% of them. They were weirdly hit and off target. Attempted traps pinged off the boot or the body. Of course, I’d love to blame the ball, which seemed to be behaving like one of those little hard rubber super bouncy balls, which when I was young we referred to as ‘bouncy balls’ (perhaps not the technical name, but pretty descriptive, I’m sure you’ll agree). I wish we’d been able to adjust a bit more quickly to it as if the ACL decides to use a beach ball for this season's competition we need to be prepared to adapt a bit quicker. All in all, we looked a bit tired and a bit off the pace, but we really did have a lot of possession and a lot of shots and aside from some stout Nagano defending we would have won this easily. But you can guarantee that other teams will defend like that against us, so I’d hope we get a bit better at taking our chances soon.
There’s not much to say about Nagano that I haven’t already referred to. They were very unlucky. They defended well and scored a wonder goal. They had a player called Kammera Shuto which delighted me. You’ve got to feel sorry for them losing this game, but at least they did it on penalties to a team who are unbeaten and leading the division two above them. Full credit to them. I’m a bit worried how poorly we dealt with their long throws. I hope this won’t be picked up on by other teams. I never imagine these games will be easy, but they made it a lot harder than everyone expected it would be. Nice work Nagano!
Ref and VAR -
This was the best game for VAR so far this season... because it’s not used in this tournament. The ref was a new name for me, Sendachi. I thought he looked a bit out of his depth, perhaps being unwilling to make any bad decisions and as a consequence not really making any decisions. He wasn’t bothered about time wasting or shirt pulling and even if we played for days I don’t think Damiao would have got a decision given his way. He also tackled Kozuka, which I don’t think he’s really supposed to do, causing us to lose the ball and he didn’t stop the game for a drop ball as I’ve seen other refs do. I’m not going to complain too much though as given that this is the first time I’ve seen his name I guess he’s not that experienced. (Turns out from some research that he's not refereed a top flight game before and before this match has only taken charge of 8 games. He's only 31 too!). If it had been Nishimura or Iemoto doing the same I’d be far more inclined to have a rant.
Other stuff -
We had an earthquake before the game. It was the first time I’ve felt one whilst in the stadium I think. The JFA is still flexing their muscles and showing they’re in control of the Emperor's Cup by controlling the build up music before the game and it’s the same horrible crap they played last year. Endlessly looping guitar-solo-funky-rock-workout and then slightly traditional sounding intro song which gear changes into a soft techno beat mess. Rotten stuff! But quite funny I suppose and it does mark this out as a different competition. Oh and one point that could have gone in the ‘us’ section. Jesiel attempted an overhead kick in this game. At FC Chofu Leandro seems to be spreading grumpiness to his countrymen. At Frontale Leandro Damiao is instead convincing his compatriots to try an overhead at every opportunity. Lovely stuff!
This could have been a very different blog post if we hadn’t managed that equaliser. Full credit to Tachibanada for putting the ball in the net! We were really motivated toward the end of the game but couldn’t do actually score, so without his goal we would have been screwed. Maybe we should try the same insane formation we had at the end of the match for the ACL games, with everyone playing everywhere and loads of attacking players on the pitch. (Kurumaya was definitely left and centre back with Nobori and Jesiel up front). Probably best not to, but it was clear that Oniki was throwing every attacking option he had at the game in order to avoid an embarrassing defeat. And he did. Next up, the ACL. No one has the TV rights at the moment but hopefully that will change nearer the time. Otherwise the upcoming blog posts are going to be very brief. Probably a blessing. Let’s have a rest then get ready and then hopefully make a decent stab of it this year. Go Frontale!
DF 15. ISSAKA Zain
FUJIYAMA (Nagano) 0-1
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 1-1
MIZUTANI (Nagano) 1-1 (saved)
AZUMA (Nagano) 2-1 (saved)
KURUMAYA (Frontale) 3-1
YAMAMOTO (Nagano) 3-2
Sung-Ryong JUNG and TACHIBANADA Kento - Sung-Ryong basically won us the game by saving two out of the five Nagano penalties. If you save one penalty in a shoot out that’s great so two is definitely deserving of this prestigious accolade. Tachibanada gave us a lot more drive when he came on and he scored the goal that got us back in the game so he clearly deserves this too. Bravo to both of them!
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