Wednesday 9 March 2022

Vs Gamba Osaka (away) 6/3/22 J League match 3

Gamba Osaka 2 - 2 Kawasaki Frontale

Apologies for the late arrival of this blog post. I’ve been luxuriating in the fact that we don’t have a game for six days after this one so have slacked off a little. Also, work has been busy but I’m sure you’re not interested in that. Our weird 2022 season continued in this game at Gamba. This was the first time we’ve actually been able to attend this fixture for a few years and perhaps to celebrate us being there again the two teams served up a repeat scoreline of the last time we visited the Suita stadium, (although the order of the goals was a bit different on this occasion). The game will almost certainly be remembered for the cheeky equaliser that Kobayashi made for Damiao by stealing the ball off an unaware Gamba keeper. I say almost certainly, as it’s  unlikely that Frontale fans will particularly want to remember much else about the game. And Gamba fans will want to forget it because of the late equaliser but presumably won’t be able to erase the memory particularly easily. To get my main point out of the way quite early here, I think a draw was probably the right result. Again we weren’t great and it would be difficult to argue that we deserved to win… But the second Gamba goal was a bit of a freak one… And Damiao missed a very good chance perhaps trying to overcomplicate things in the first half… And we hit the post and totally dominated the second half (when we weren’t conceding from one of the two shots Gamba had in that second half…). So things probably evened out in the end. Slightly worryingly the last time we were able to go to Suita (when it also finished 2-2) was in our disaster 2019 season. There are probably already a few too many similarities to that season which are cropping up for any Frontale fan to be particularly comfortable or satisfied with our start to 2022. But if you are looking for some reason to be positive, perhaps you can find it in the fact that our 95th minute cheap equaliser prevented us from equaling our total season defeats last year. In 2021 we lost twice. In 2022 we’ve come very close to losing twice within the first five games. Hang on, this was supposed to be talking about some reason to be positive and I seem to have undermined it… Oh well. Let’s get on with this post and excuse me if it’s a bit detail free. I got to the game with a slight hangover from the evening before, was distracted by being pretty cold during the game as I had dressed inappropriately for the weather and had my hoodie break on arrival at the stadium and then have left this too late to remember things particularly well. Plenty of disclaimers already so this post is bound to be a banger…

Let’s talk about Gamba first. The pre-game announcement of a Gamba old boy guest for the ‘HEAT UP TIME’ (personally could have done with some of that heat), was perhaps met with some confusion by some Gamba fans who might not remember Shohei Otsuka ever really playing for them. We definitely remember him though and it was great to see him back. He was a somewhat random signing for us when he joined but I remember how excited I was when he scored and he had a nice song too. Also he looked pretty cool rocking the baseball cap look as, as many men of a certain age (admittedly a bit older than he was, but it happens to plenty of people) he always seemed to be slightly at war with his hair. I think I am suffering from a similar problem recently to be honest. A quick word of praise for the Gamba big screens which seemed to show some genuinely interesting information during the game. This is all a bit too positive so far… We never seem to have things our way at Suita and this was no exception. In spite of them having plenty of absences and a few makeshift partnerships on the pitch we by no means did well in this game in the first half. Gamba didn’t do much better with both teams only having a couple of shots on target in the first 45 minutes, but Gamba did manage to put one away with a nice finish. I suspect I could single out some individuals to moan about if I rigorously rewatched the goal but I think it’s better for everyone if we just move on. I hope our management team might pay a bit more attention to us conceding another goal though as it’s becoming worryingly common this year. Last year we conceded 28 goals in 38 games. This year we’ve done seven in our first five games, so basically are conceding around as twice as many as last year. But this is supposed to be the Gamba section. Gamba fans have got a few things to be annoyed/upset about regarding this game. Of course the late goal was an absolute howler. But I guess this happens once in every keeper’s career. Once and then every single time for the next however many years they always check over their shoulder before dropping the ball. If I were a Gamba fan, I probably would be a bit upset that the keeper wasn’t warned by any of his defenders. And then wasn’t even consoled by any of his defenders until Damiao had taken the lead. But it was a freak goal. It’s a shame that it had to happen to their third choice goalkeeper who is clearly going to be thinking about that mistake for quite a long time. It’s impossible not to feel for him. At the same time though it was impossible for Frontale fans not to be excited about us once again getting off the hook. More Gamba frustration will come from the fact that Usami left the pitch with what has now turned out to be a ruptured Achilles. He rejected a move to us in the off-season so when fate took over the controls he was either going to have a great game and score a hat trick or have a nightmare and it turned out to be the latter. Once again,  it’s impossible not to feel sorry for him. One person who it isn’t impossible to feel sorry for, and this is something of a surprise given that he is an ex-Frontale player, got a ridiculous undeserved red a few weeks ago and seems like a genuine nice guy off the pitch in spite of apparently hating Frontale, is Patric. Once again he showed that he’s not afraid to dish out a but of physicality whilst at the same time having the incredible talent to find an elbow in an empty room. He spent a lot of time on the floor and gesturing for cards but I guess that this isn’t a massive surprise. He also seemed to have a shirt with ridiculously short sleeves. When plenty of players were wearing undershirts Patric seemed to be rolling his already short sleeves up even higher. I would say that it’s a risky game to play when you consider how much time he spent lying on the cold pitch. (Didn’t really have many disses for Gamba so have had to resort to some pretty petty stuff here, as you can see). To get a bit of ref talk in here, this week’s ref was Yamamoto and he is from the ‘give less’ school of reffing. This season has been dominated by the ‘give more’ school so far with loads of bookings and red cards handed out. I’m still not sure which approach I prefer, but I will say I really don’t like the refs that give us loads of cards and don’t give the opposition any. Perhaps along with our title hopes, our hopes of becoming the fair play team of 2022 are also disintegrating horribly quickly. Perhaps I could also mention the Gamba manager Katanosaka, who seemed to be putting in some wild moves on the touchline. In stark contrast to their previous boss who I guess had more success in coordinating his casual wardrobe than organising his team and projected a calm and cool persona (or perhaps one with zero shits given) mid game, the new guy was jumping and waving his arms like the bride’s father at his daughter’s wedding who after spending the day worrying has had a few too many glasses of booze during the meal, done his speech and has just heard his favourite song from his youth kick in at the reception disco. Oniki has a lot to learn from him in terms of entertainment. We don’t want to see magnet work and the occasional guts pose, we want to see arm-waving and punk scissor kicks. But maybe he hasn’t got much to be excited about at the moment….

Yes, we’re still a bit shit. Aside from Kashima we’re not starting games very well this year. And aside from this one we’re not doing too well at the end. And the middle part isn’t great either. So far this season we’ve been consistently pretty disappointing. I don’t know if this is because of players leaving. Certainly some serious damage was done when Tanaka and Mitoma left. After they went we looked pretty ordinary last year but somehow held things together. This season sees us also without Hatate and Chanathip, who is perhaps his replacement hasn’t quite settled in yet but seems to be an automatic pick regardless of his form. To be honest though, I think it’s more to do with a majority of players having poor starts to the season though. Wakizaka had another game to forget and Yamane, apart from scoring against Urawa (whilst having a not very good game I thought) is also struggling to get his form back. I’m not sure many others have done much better. Oshima has disappeared recently and whilst some have speculated that this might be due to injury, I wouldn’t say he’s had a great start either. We just need a bit of confidence probably. But as soon as we can build some up we destroy it for ourselves. Less than a minute after the restart after we equalised we’d conceded again, and it wasn’t a surprise really as we’d dithered and faffed around for all of those fifty seconds. Admittedly what looked like a wonder goal at the time was (probably) a deflected cross. Probably a cross, definitely deflected. But much like against YFM we had got back in the game only to get ourselves back out of the game pretty quickly. Perhaps this contributed to Oniki not being very happy at the end of the game, but I feel he has to start taking a bit of responsibility for things too. The triple sub in the second half totally changed the game and we looked a lot better after Ienaga, Kozuka, Kobayashi and then a little afterwards Miyagi came on.  So perhaps we shouldn’t have started with the eleven we did. I realise I have been saying that Ienaga hasn’t been playing great recently so I am somewhat contradicting myself here, but that’s par for the course for internet ‘experts’ so I’m going to roll with it. All four of these subs contributed greatly. Ienaga and Kozuka tore up Gamba and made loads of opportunities for us and Kozuka’s assist for the first goal was lovely! Sadly no one wanted to shoot, until Miyagi came on, who pretty much only wants to shoot, but as I’m sure he would tell you, you don’t score if you don’t shoot. And then Kobayashi was very smart for the late equaliser. I feel like Oniki is still trying to fit square pegs in round holes though. I love Chinen and Kobayashi, but can’t help but feel that it makes more sense to play a left sided attacker in the left sided attacker role. In recent years we’ve been overflowing with these kind of players but now we only seem to have Miyagi and Marcinho (who I guess might have had COVID given his absence but is now apparently in training. So if he hasn’t had it that’s even more of a mystery…) and perhaps Tono. But then again Tono rarely gets played there anyway and is more often in midfield. Our formation leaves us one main striker spot and Damiao, Kobayashi and Chinen have all showed that they have a decent shout at getting that, but perhaps this has contributed to Oniki trying to play them elsewhere instead. I just wish we’d shoot a bit more. We don’t get extra points for exceeding 60% possession as we did in this game (bit of luck considering our low possession in previous games this year, I guess), so I wish we’d try and be a bit more direct before we concede and end up chasing the game. But maybe this is just a sticky patch. But the end of last season was a similarly sticky patch… At least now we are the ones scoring the late goals unlike late last season (although those late goals from Urawa and Oita won them the tie instead of grabbing a draw from the jaws of defeat as we did here). It’s great that we’ve got subs to bring on a change the game, but it would be nice if we didn’t start so shittily.  One quick last mention for Damiao again, as aside from being a great guy consoling the distraught Gamba keeper also celebrated his goal with what we think is a dove of peace celebration. It’s so nice to have a player who is both a great footballer and a great human being. Is this where I should mention Yuma Suzuki again? Actually forget him.

So, on we trot, wobbling from one shaky victory to a defeat, to a couple of games with decent spells where we just about got over the line and then this game where our positive aspects were met with a similarly sized serving of self sabotage. Or maybe this is all bad luck… I don’t really think that’s what’s happening before anyone gets annoyed about THE ARROGANCE. I wish people would get the jokes a bit more in these posts. Perhaps the ‘jokes’ should be a bit better. We definitely need to buck up our ideas though as those sailors from down the road are having similarly flaky results but crucially scoring a few more goals so are top. And most of the league has played two fewer games than us. Aside from about 20 mins in the Kashima and Urawa games this season has been a bit of a grind so far. It would be lovely if we could shoot a bit more and then we might actually score a bit more often. But maybe we’ve played five difficult games so far and things will get easier… Maybe. Next up is Nagoya at home at the weekend. We’ll have had a bit of a break, and we’ll get another couple of breaks between the following two games. All of which might suggest we might not have needed to squeeze so many games in at the start of the season but hey, what do I know? I’ll be pleased to not have to write a blog post every few days as while I theoretically enjoy doing these, it does become a bit of a pain in the neck when the games are coming thick and fast. Fingers crossed we can play a bit better against a Nagoya team who’ve had a pretty mixed start to 2022 under their new manager. I’m hoping Oniki can get us a decent win and a decent performance. If that’s not possible, I’ll just settle for a rotten performance and a massive win. Fingers crossed.

GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 31. YAMAMURA Kazuya
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo (Yellow card 45')
DF 15. SASAKI Asahi
MF 14. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
FW 19. TONO Daiya

GK 27. TANNO Kenta
MF 3. TSUKAGAWA Koki (on for SASAKI 81')
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for TONO 58')
MF 17. KOZUKA Kazuki (on for CHANATHIP 58')
FW 24. MIYAGI Ten (on for CHINEN 75')
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro (on for WAKIZAKA 58')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

As ridiculous as it is to give this to multiple players, as mentioned above the subs changed this game and all contributed in their own way. Therefore, it’s going to…

IENAGA Akihiro, KOZUKA Kazuki, KOBAYASHI Yu and MIYAGI Ten - respectively for the following reasons, confidence, beautiful assist, smart assist, goal and hit the post.

YAMAMOTO (Gamba) 34' 1-0
MIYAGI (Frontale) 75' 1-1
ONOSE (Gamba) 77' 2-1
LEANDRO DAMIAO (Frontale) 90+5' 2-2


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