Kawasaki Frontale 3 - 2 Shimizu S Pulse
So we live to fight another day! Possibly YFM want to make me look as stupid as possible as I’ve been saying we have no chance of winning the title for months now. Usually when they slip up, we do the same and fail to take advantage. And then of course there are those days and those games where they win 4-0 (away at Nagoya where we scraped a 1-1) and we either draw or lose. So now we sit here five points behind with three games to go. Of course there’s nothing more I’d like than for them to totally choke and for us to win the league. But that would require us winning our last three games, (at home against Kyoto and Vissel and away to FC Tokyo), and them slipping up twice in their last three games (at home to Jubilo and Urawa and then away at Vissel). So it’s not going to happen. And then I will be able to moan again about our horrendous results in ‘easier’ games that has totally messed us up this year. But we did win this game and it was fun. Two things that can’t be said about any of our last three games. The usual pre-game display of the league table on the big screen was met with the absolute minimum smattering of light applause, perhaps done more from muscle memory rather than actually as a reaction to what was being shown on the screen which didn’t look at all good. Perhaps the clapping might be a bit stronger on Wednesday but it’s still not really very nice viewing. Oniki’s hand was forced when it came to the starting line up as Jesiel, Sung-Ryong and Kurumaya were injured and Tachibanada was banned after his red card against Sapporo. So we were finally rid of the double defensive midfield thing, (or at least two defensive midfielders being played together anyway), which worked against YFM (just about) and has been more certain to happen recently that the inevitability of all of our eventual deaths. In the same way that we all must meet our maker one day, Oniki’s tactics too expire. But much like human beings in ghost stories or the bible but not in real life, I suspect that there will be a resurrection of the Tachibana Joao Schmidt midfield double, probably in the game after next. (Joao Schmidt is banned for the game on Wednesday). I think I always say this but I’m really busy right now and have a hell of a lot of things I need to do before the end of the month, so please excuse this post for lack of detail. And I should probably apologise to both readers and myself for the almost certain excessive length of this post. (Reading back, it doesn’t actually seem that long!) So let’s get on with it.
This was something of a weird game (and that’s not even mentioning the fact that Kozuka was back on the bench and joined there by Einaga! (Guess that really shows how short of numbers we were. I’m in favour of both of those things, but I’m pretty sure Oniki isn’t). Singing was back at Todoroki but it was a weird kind of singing. Given that we get pretty close to filling our stadium most weeks (well about 4/5 full anyway), we were never going to go for the massive revenue reduction that having stadium wide singing involves, (you need spaces between each spectator so obviously can’t get as many people in). There’s also the issue of us having a lot of season ticket holders in reserved seats. Well, we did have anyway, as a short while ago those reserved seats were canceled leading to the reintroduction of the dreaded early morning get your spot in the queue system. Thankfully our seats are on the upper tier and therefore are still reserved allowing us to stroll up as close to kick off as we want, safe in the knowledge that we will be able to get a decent spot. For some reason we still go about an hour before. Not 100% sure why, but I guess spending time at the stadium with nothing to do is an addiction it is difficult to kick. But reserved seats on the upper tier meant no singing for us, and instead we had to just clap along to the singing coming from the lower tier. And what a lot of singing there was! It sounded great to be honest and I wish I could have joined in. But I have done my fair share of singing recently at away games, so it wasn’t quite as much of a wrench as it could have been. The return of sining also brought about something I was calling for in a previous post, a song for Tanno! And as Kengo was in attendance we got a chance to sing his song too and then rolled out a few more for other players who have left without us having one final sing song for them. I think it was the first time we have sung Kozuka’s song too as he’s been invisible for a while now. It’s good that it was Shimizu visiting for a singing game as their drumming and singing is always great. To be honest though, I didn’t hear that much of it in this game. I guess I’m at the other end of the stadium though and I suppose that the limited numbers visually don’t look that different but do in fact sound quite different. The ref for this game was Shimizu so I was anticipating writing that he was biased and should not be allowed to referee his own team (funny observation, eh?), but I don’t recall him being that bad! Certainly he was a bit slow cracking down on some unbelievable time wasting for the 20 minutes Shimizu were ahead. But to be fair to him, he was equally lax when we were time wasting when we were ahead at the end of the game.
A few words about the game itself. I think Shimizu did a pretty good job in the first half and the game was quite end to end, with a bit of a lack of quality when it came to shooting from both teams. Checking the stats I was quite shocked to see that we dominated them in the first half as it certainly didn’t feel that way. We did seem to be playing some more attacking stuff though, even if we couldn’t quite get through the Shimizu defence. One thing that was abundantly clear was that every dangerous attack for Shimizu came from them going down Yamane’s side. He was usually somewhere else though, which I guess is the reason for them focusing on that side. Yamane is a bit of an enigma for me. Sometimes he’s great, but more often than not recently he really looks like he doesn’t give a shit, particularly when it comes to anything he is supposed to do in his own half. This match was the Halloween game and we were treated to a special team line up video mentioning what the players were scared of. Taniguchi saying ‘DOGSO’ got the biggest laugh but Yamane’s ‘crows’ really should have said ‘defending’. But I suppose he’s not scared of defending, he just has no interest in doing it. I think he was at least partly to blame for both of the Shimizu goals (although I think one of them looked like it came from a foul on one of our players that wasn’t given, at least to me anyway). I haven’t watched them back as the second one in particular felt like a horror show at the time and I don’t want to be reminded of it. But the feeling as it happened was that there was acres of space where Yamane should have been and the man himself was trotting around in the centre circle waiting for someone to give him the ball. I guess this is what can happen when you have a player who is undroppable. Our utter lack of cover in that position, coupled with Oniki’s reluctance to play anyone there unless he really really has to means that Yamane can basically do what he wants. And as he’s playing so much, I guess he’s tired, and if you like scoring goals more than you like defending, I guess you’re going to scrimp when it comes to the latter. It was great to see Tono, Kobayashi and Yamamura score in this game. Of course I like it when any of our players scores, but those three scoring was extra nice. And it was also nice to see us attempting to repeat our game against Sapporo but actually managing to stop conceding after taking the lead for the second time. In order to once again show you how much I know about football, I was castigating Oniki for canceling the triple substitution he had ready to make when we scored our second. My feeling was that we’d scored from a corner but had not been creating much anyway, so just go ahead with the subs. But of course I was wrong as the lift the equaliser gave us propelled us on to score again two minutes later. So yeah, nice work Oniki, and Neil is stupid. At times the game felt like it was going to boil over, particularly when we got back into the game. There were some fruity tackles going in and the Shimizu fans were already annoyed about Taniguchi bumping in to Gonda at the end of the first half and him not returning after half time. I think they might have been clutching at straws though as there clearly wasn’t anything in it. Gonda being withdrawn meant that we once again got to see Okubo, who I have in the past said looks like an estate agent playing at being a footballer. I don’t know if they comparison translates from UK estate agents to Japanese ones, but it really works for me. With this in mind, and with the fact that the J Talk Podcast likes to translate Sagan Tosu’s home ground to ‘The Real Estate Agent In Front Of The Station’ stadium, I’d like Okubo to be referred to hereafter as ‘The Real Estate Agent In Front Of The Goal’. I think it kind of works… It’s weird that Shimizu have two former FC Tokyo keepers. It’s also weird that Okubo aped his teammate and also dropped to the floor following the lightest of contacts, as (I think) Marcinho light brushed the sticky out bit of his slicked back mullet. To be fair to him, he did get up quite quickly and I’m just using this as a way to say rude things about his haircut. Feel free to hit back at me similarly. That’s probably about it, isn’t it? Maybe I could mention that Kobayashi still doesn’t quite seem to be back and banging. He had his usual first few dodgy shots in this game but unlike a few years ago, didn’t follow it up with some top skills and goals. Well, he did score a goal and it wasn’t the easiest of finishes, but it was basically having to angle the ball into an unguarded net. But he put it in, so well done to him. I think he’s a confidence player and just needs to get some minutes and get himself back into a bit of form. It’s a shame that we only have three games left really, isn’t it?
Next up, Kyoto Sanga at home on Wednesday. The away game was one of our most ridiculous performances of the season and a real gift for both Kyoto and YFM. Hopefully we’ll be able to do a bit better in the return fixture. It would be difficult to do any worse to be honest. As I mentioned above, we’ll be spared the double defensive midfield thing for this game so maybe we’ll be attacking a bit more than we have recently. Who knows, it might even be fun! Probably not though. I’ll be keeping an eye on the YFM Jubilo game whilst we’re playing but I can’t really see lightning striking twice in a week. Jubilo probably do need to win to stay up though so hopefully that will motivate them. And then after that we have a seventeen day break before the following game. I know the schedule this season has been totally messed up by moving the World Cup to the end of the year, but we do seem to have been playing an insane amount of matches back to back and then having massive breaks. Perhaps it will be better next year, but I think I heard that everyone including ACL teams will be playing the Levain group games next year, so that probably just means even more fixture congestion and more trouble for people trying to write blog posts between matches. Good luck to us all! I want to say fingers crossed we keep on winning, and I will, but at the same time, double fingers crossed YFM keep on losing. Nice to end on some positivity!
GK 27. TANNO KentaDF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 31. YAMAMURA Kazuya
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 6. JOAO SCHMIDT (Yellow card 54')
MF 6. JOAO SCHMIDT (Yellow card 54')
MF 19. TONO Daiya
MF 14. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
FW 23. MARCINHO
GK 21. ANDO Shunsuke
DF 15. SASAKI Asahi (on for NOBORIZATO 90+1')
MF 16. SEKO Tatsuki
MF 17. KOZUKA Kazuki (on for CHINEN 90+1')
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for TONO 60')FW 24. MIYAGI Ten (on for KOBAYASHI 87')
FW 26. EINAGA Takatora
My Frontale Man Of The Match
I think that aside from the shocking goals we conceded we generally did alright in this game, but at the same time, no-one in particular stood out, so maybe I’ll skip it again, but this time not for the usual negative reasons.
TONO (Frontale) 28' 1-0
SHIRASAKI (Shimizu) 49' 1-1
YAMAMURA (Frontale) 76' 2-2
CARLINHOS (Shimizu) 57' 1-2
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 78' 3-2
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