Kawasaki Frontale 2 - 1 Yokohama F Marinos
Football is delightful isn’t it? From that opening burst of positivity you might think that you had stumbled upon a different blog than Frontale Rabbit. But no. For some reason I’m suddenly in quite a good mood. This season hasn’t been much fun up to now with us severely underperforming and with an apparent absolute dearth of ideas to improve things. And then we had the recent COVID cases debacle, games with an absolute minimum of 4 goalkeepers in the match day squad and the fit outfield players looking like they were almost dead on their feet, which they probably were due to having to play 90 minutes every few days with no hope of substitutions. But for this game we actually managed to name a bench with just the one keeper on it and fill the other spots with almost fit players. There is a god! It’s a miracle! I really hope we don’t look back on the Urawa game at the end of the season and find that it was crucial. It was basically three points thrown away. If the game had been postponed and we’d gone on to win it at a later date, (I appreciate that the latter wasn’t necessarily going to happen, particularly in 2022), we would have found ourselves in the position that winning our games in hand would take us to the top of the table. But yeah, lots of ifs here and it’s probably better to get on with things rather than moaning. They’ll be plenty of time for that at the end of the season, eh? Let’s get a lot more positive, a bit more gloaty and introduce a massive skip full of schadenfreude. We’ve been floundering this year, but what better way to shake us out of that flounder and the COVID nightmare that followed it than to beat the team at the top of the table, who also happen to be our local rivals in the very last minute of the game? And let’s ramp that schadenfreude up further when before the game the Marinos fans proudly unfurled a big flag with what I presume was supposed to be the league trophy but actually looked more like a cupcake baking tray with their colours and a big 2022 on top of it. I won’t say that pride comes before a fall, as I think they are still very much the favourites for the title, but I am really enjoying thinking about how long they took to make the flag and how they felt when they were folding it up after the game. Let’s hope we never see it again and they have to burn it in a skip round the back of the Nissan stadium in a couple of months. They can borrow the skip of schadenfreude we have as we’ll probably be done with it by then if things go the right way. Yes, this was only one game, but I think the boost it has given us could make it a season changing moment… if we beat Kyoto next weekend, which we probably won’t and will come crashing back to earth. Similarly, I hope it might become a season changing moment for YFM too. I hope their upcoming opponents will have a look at how we played against them, try the same thing and hopefully get some success. But things are still in their hands, so we need someone else to do us a favour.
A bit of chat about the game. It was quite a well matched and exciting encounter. I’ll stop short of saying it was a high quality match the two teams only managed five shots on target in total between them. But it definitely was exciting. It has been rare for me to be positive on here recently and it has probably been even rarer for me to praise Oniki but he did his homework for once and actually thought about how we could best play against YFM and it worked! In his post match interview, birthday boy (hope you enjoyed the gift) Kevin Muscats had a bit of a dig at us when he talked about how they had had to deal with a lot of ‘rockets’ from us. It had been noticeable from the start of the match that we were going a bit more direct. I really enjoyed us holding the ball at the back, waiting for the YFM team to move forward and then launch it over their front five or six players taking them out of the game. I’m really pleased that for once Oniki has actually modified our tactics slightly, instead of just ploughing on with the same thing endlessly. As much as Mr Muscats wanted to hint that we were playing long ball stuff, it wasn’t really us launching the ball down the middle of the pitch for the tall guy to head it to the short fast guy. There was definitely a bit more nuance to it. But I’ll let him have with his attempted dig as we were able to get the three points. As an aside, apart from when he’s whistling, I find Kevin Muscats an infinitely less irritating manager than their previous guy. Somewhat surprisingly given his playing career, Muscats seems to be far less of an arsehole and I even find myself feeling a bit sorry for him as when YFM win it’s because of Angeball and when they lose it’s because of Kevin Muscats. Would be quite fun to see Muscats move to Rangers and compare the two managers directly when they are both playing in a league with two teams that are hugely richer than the rest of the clubs around them. Might be quite fun for him too actually, and a good chance for him to be appreciated in his own right. Anyway, back to our directness and a bit of a whinge about the ref Kimura. There were an unbelievable amount of fouls on Damiao as he jumped to win the ball from goal kicks. Time after time he was fouled, time after time the ref gave the free kick but kept his cards in his pocket. It was intensely frustrating for me. When he finally did book someone it was Damiao himself. I haven’t watched that foul back but it was probably the right decision, but the fact that it followed a deluge of wrong decisions, (not all against us, but I’d say 95% against us), made it slightly annoying. He missed the studs up element of a tackle from Nishimura on Damiao which ended up with Nishimura leaving the pitch injured (karma eh?). It’s never nice to wish an injury on anyone but sometimes things do come back to bite the perpetrator. As was the case with the ref Kimura himself who had to leave the pitch after getting injured in the second half. In the interminable delay that arose from him subbing himself he was clearly able to pass on his game plan to the fourth official who was equally shit when he came on. I didn’t think that refs would have a game plan, but it was clear on this occasion that Kimura instructed his replacement to carry on ignoring most things and by doing so hopefully ensure a YFM win. We had a clear penalty turned down (well, I would say turned down, but more accurately its existence was just completely ignored), when Iwata elbowed Damiao in the chest (with absolutely no attempt to play the ball) in the box in front of the goal as he was waiting to head a cross into the net. But it wasn’t a great surprise really.
I said above that both teams were up for it but I feel like neither were completely on top of their game. We looked like a team that has recently been ravaged by COVID and is still slightly trying to get back up to speed. YFM looked like a team that are probably mostly infected but aren’t testing positive yet. The amount of completely random misplaced passes and balls kicked directly off the pitch from them could only come from players with a certain amount of brain fog. In some ways, you could say that attitude-full, straight-from-the-salon shithead Nakagawa noticeably progressed in his COVID confusion as the game went on. Before the match when some of our fans applauded him, (he was a Frontale youth player, but to be honest his shitheadedness since that time prevents me from clapping him even slightly), he probably noticed it. Midgame he was in a slight delirium as he ‘accidentally’ celebrated his goal in front of our fans. The poor guy must have got disorientated as I’m sure it couldn’t be down to him being an absolute arsehole could it? (Hmmm, although he does tend to do these kind of things). At the end of the game it seemed that his COVID had set in as it looked like he was in pain, about to cry, and his silver hairdo was distinctly ruffled. I would say ‘the poor guy’ but I think the internet would crash when faced with my utter insincerity. I think both teams hit the post in the second half, so it could have gone either way really, but it’s nice that the luck fell our way as it hasn’t particularly done in the last couple of months. Some might say that the luck was really falling our way before then and they’d have a point as we definitely had been getting better results than our performances deserved. But perhaps some of this is a hangover from the last two seasons where we’ve had the luxury of a lot of good players and some exciting football. But now, after this big old blip, maybe we could be turning the corner. Yamane seems to have come back firing, perhaps the enforced break being something he needed as he’s been playing way too much for the last couple of years. I have no idea how bad his symptoms were but in this game you could see he was really up for it, and his volleyed cross for our first goal was beautiful. Perhaps not as beautiful as Jesiel’s header in the 98th minute though, (by the way, Jesiel was up front because he got cramp, so he and Yamamura swapped places for the last few minutes. Thankfully, his cramp didn't prevent him from scoring and celebrating wildly, although the run to the crowd did look quite painful), which again came from a lovely cross (maybe we could try crossing a bit more…), this time from Ienaga. He too seems to have stepped things up a bit. And Joao Schmidt was great in this game I thought, just giving the YFM midfield a lot of hassle. So maybe we could say that whether it was due to enforced COVID breaks for some players or a focussing of the mind and a pulling up of the sleeves from other players who weren’t infected but were very much affected by the absence of the infected, we seem to be coming out of a difficult patch with a new found desire and togetherness. I certainly feel a lot better about us than I have at any other stage of the season. But as I said above, anything but a good win against Kyoto and we’ll be back to the bad old days again.
Before we get to that Kyoto game we have the small matter of a second leg against Cerezo in the Levain Cup on Wednesday. So basically the schedule doesn’t ease up at all. And of course we’ve still got those games to make up that were canceled due to other people’s COVID postponements. I suspect we’ll see some rotation on Wednesday and I really hope we do change things a bit. We have in recent years had a habit of finding something that works and then screwing the system and players into the ground until it doesn’t work at all and they can’t walk at all. But hopefully we’ll change things due to the tough summer conditions at the moment. I’m not saying we should be prioritising either the Cerezo game or the Kyoto game, but we should be prioritising not breaking a squad that is just about holding together at the moment and maybe turning a corner. How nice would it be if we could get a couple of wins from those two games? Also YFM are playing Shonan at the weekend. Shonan got hammered at the weekend so will be looking to bounce back (hopefully) and I feel like after we gifted them three points and four goals, they could give us a little something in return. Perhaps it’s a bit much to hope for though, as I’m sure YFM will also be looking to bounce back. But just imagine that the little attempted throat clearing, slight wheeze and little cough that we heard from YFM in this match developing into a full blown choke. That would be lovely! Particularly if they are wheeling out the 2022 league title flag again!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 4. JESIEL
DF 8. TACHIBANADA Kento
MF 6. JOAO SCHMIDT
MF 6. JOAO SCHMIDT
MF 18. CHANATHIP
MF 14. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO (Yellow card 45')
FW 23. MARCINHO
GK 27. TANNO Kenta
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for MARCINHO 71')
DF 15. SASAKI Asahi
MF 16. SEKO Tatsuki (on for WAKIZAKA 71')
FW 24. MIYAGI Ten
MF 19. TONO Daiya (on for CHANATHIP 62')
MF 31. YAMAMURA Kazuya (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 90')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
My man of the match section is back! This could have gone to a few people for once. Some might have said Jesiel as his contribution at the back and up front was immense, particularly scoring when he was struggling to walk, but he's almost always great so for a change I'll give it to...
JOAO SCHMIDT - has struggled at times to fit in and to get a decent run of games. I also think he's been blamed unfairly when things have gone wrong. But in this game he was just immense, winning the ball in the middle and breaking up YFM attacks. Bravo!
LEANDRO DAMIAO (Frontale) 25' 1-0
NAKAGAWA (Yokohama) 45'+3 1-1
JESIEL (Frontale) 90+9' 1-0
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