Monday 18 April 2022

Vs Guangzhou FC 18/4/22 ACL Group stage match 2

Guangzhou FC 0 - 8 Kawasaki Frontale

After a bit of a dodgy performance and a late scraped win against our ACL nemesis Ulsan on Friday, a game I watched and a blog post I wrote after consuming a decent amount of mid afternoon drinks, the only way was up for both Frontale and the quality of my blog posts. I watched this game in a state of complete sobriety, but somehow it was equally difficult to focus on. On Friday there was the alcohol haze and the general malaise that our toothless performances so far this year have created. On this occasion there was very much a feeling that it was a bit of an unfair contest and it felt like a training game, albeit one with two very different level teams. Once again the Chinese teams in the ACL have brought their kids to compete in this tournament. I don’t remember people getting so annoyed about that last year, but this year the general feeling on Twitter seems to be that the competition is a farce. The amusing thing is that I saw the ‘tournament is a joke’ argument used to both support and rail against the proposed Asian Super League. So basically the one true force for good to unite opposing factions right now is the shared belief that the ACL is a farce. I think it’s a bit unfair to be honest. I’m not particularly a lover of the ACL, but I don’t think it’s very fair to judge a tournament that has a massive COVID cloud hanging over it. That’s the reason the Chinese teams are sending their kids and the reason the stadiums are empty. And that’s creating the big mis-matches with apparently no atmosphere. To be fair to the AFC though, I can’t really see how the competition could be played any other way this year when you consider the countries involved. If one of the bubbles had been in Japan the only difference would probably be that there would be a few more people in the stands and bit of clapping as there aren’t any tourists being let into Japan and is still no signing allowed. Although it is apparently possible to attend these games in Malaysia, I’m not surprised that not many Frontale fans have much appetite for travel right now. Even in Johor’s first game in the competition this year, played in their home stadium, the stands weren’t that full, so it’s no surprise that the locals don’t want to go and watch a game that kicked off five hours before their game did. But anyway, enough pontification on the competition itself and let’s get on with some in depth analysis of this match.

Ha! Got you there! You thought you were going to get in depth analysis! If you’ve read this blog before you should have known better. Instead of that, here come my usual random thoughts. The line up was a weird one. We probably expected a lot of changes, and the fact that Oniki did exactly that shows quite how weak he thought Guangzhou would be. When we’ve played university sides and J3 teams in the Emperor’s Cup in the past Oniki has often gone with his first choices so it was a real shock to see him ring the changes big time in this match. Definitely big time, as YAMANE GOT A REST! Slightly bizarrely though, Sung-Ryong was still selected. In Guangzhou’s previous match against Johor, the Chinese team had two shots in the whole game. But Oniki still wasn’t confident enough to change his keeper. Some people were talking about Hayasaka starting which I thought would have been a bit unfair on both Tanno and Ando, neither of whom have had any pitch time this year and hardly had any last year either. I feel like Hayasaka probably has to wait for them to at least have one game before he’s involved. Perhaps Oniki’s innate conservatism and caution came into play as he knew he was going to name an unusual centre back pairing so thought he’d better have Sung-Ryong in there to make sure things were safe. As it was Guangzhou had only the one shot in this game and it was off target, so Oniki could have played the injured Nobori in goal and we probably would have still been OK. The inexperienced centre back pairing ahead of them was going to be Wakizaka and Kozuka if the pre-game team line up graphic was to be believed. Definitely a case of the guys who had to make it, just shrugging their shoulders and thinking that whatever they picked would probably be wrong and just going for it. Of course that was wrong and it was instead Kurumaya and Tsukagawa. Tsukagwa actually played in defence, midfield and attack in this game, so it was quite an evening for him. He looked absolutely knackered by the end of the match. Guess he hasn’t played 90 minutes for us… erm…. ever I think. I’m not going to go into any detail about other people’s positions too much as there was quite a lot of moving around. I will say though that Seko played 90 minutes at right back, Matsui had a half, somewhat surprisingly at left back, Tanabe and Igarashi played 45 minutes at left back and up front on the right respectively and Takai got a bit more than 30 minutes at centre back. So that was all quite nice to see! The best thing about these group games against weaker teams is if we can see different players play. Chanathip got his first goal for us it was a nice one. Chinen, Kobayashi and Kurumaya (!) got braces. It was all one way traffic so it’s slightly absurd to think about what we might be able to learn from this game. Especially as the pitch was pretty awful and I have a horrible feeling that all the group stage games will be played on the same surface. (After checking this I've found it's not true. They are split half and half between two stadiums, with every game Johor is involved in being played in their home stadium and the other one in the round being played on the dodgy pitch. Nice bonus for Johor for them hosting I guess!) If it’s bad now, I’m a bit worried how bad it might become by the final match day. Oh, and the ref blew up early before the end of the allotted injury time at the end of the first half again. Is that an ACL thing, I wonder?

Next up we have Johor at 11pm Japan time on Thursday night. They beat Guangzhou 5-0 and will be kicking off against Ulsan soon. I guess we probably think that Ulsan will win that game. (THEY DIDN'T!) If they do and everything goes as expected in the other games, our fifth group stage game against them will likely decide how we do in this competition. Hopefully we’ll play a bit better in that game than we did in the previous game. If that’s another draw, we probably have the dream game to finish up the group with if we’re trying to get a better goal difference than Ulsan as the last match is the other fixture against Guangzhou. Of course there are a lot of ifs before we get to the stage though. If we do manage to get through the group safely though whilst scoring lots of goals, I hope we can bring back some of that form and confidence into our league campaign, which has been pretty underwhelming so far. The results in the first game in hand that the other teams had to make up went pretty well for us and we’re still miraculously sitting at the top of the table right now. If Kashima fail to beat Cerezo that will be the case when we return to Japan! I’d say that Cerezo owe us something for the generous gift of three points and four goals that we gave them recently so hopefully they give us a nice present back. Fingers crossed! And Go Frontale! 

GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 16. SEKO Tatsuki
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
DF 25. MATSUI Renji (Yellow card 10')
MF 17. KOZUKA Kazuki
MF 14. WAKIZAKA Yasuto

GK 27. TANNO Kenta
MF 8. TACHIBANADA Kento (on for MIYAGI 84')
DF 15. SASAKI Asahi
FW 19. TONO Daiya (on for KOBAYASHI 69')
FW 28. IGARASHI Taiyo (on for CHINEN 46')
DF 29. TAKAI Kouta (on for WAKIZAKA 58')
DF 30. TANABE Shuto (on for MATSUI 46')
CHINEN (Frontale) 7' 0-1
CHINEN (Frontale) 12' 0-2
KURUMAYA (Frontale) 16' 0-3
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 21' 0-4
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 39' 0-5
MIYAGI (Frontale) 50' 0-6
CHANATHIP (Frontale) 69' 0-7
KURUMAYA (Frontale) 71' 0-8

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