Thursday 20 April 2023

Vs Shimizu S Pulse (home) 19/4/23 Levain Cup group stage game 4

Kawasaki Frontale 6 - 0 Shimizu S Pulse 

2023 has so far been something of a year of misery for Frontale fans, watching a squad of talented players flailing around and failing to reach anything near the level that their potential might suggest. There have been a couple of highlights, (Kashima away and Sapporo away), but neither really suggested that we were a force to be reckoned with. Kashima seem to be absolutely useless this year, (what a shame, eh?), and games against Sapporo are always a bit random. But now we’ve won a watch where we didn’t require some intervention from VAR or some gifts from an opposition keeper. Well, perhaps there was a little of the latter, but not till we were already pretty much home and dry. It’s always seems to be fun for people to make snooty comments about the relative worth of the Levain Cup compared to pretty much anything else in Japanese football or even in any aspect of anything really. These comments usually come after bad results with second string teams playing. After a big win in the cup it seems like it would be equally hyperbolic to get excited about the start of a new period for us. But I guess we can enjoy it as a nice little pick-me-up after some truly mind-numbing games recently. As we have a weekend game fast approaching and I have a lot of stuff I need to do, let’s get this out of the way quickly and not bother with bullet points.

We started the game with… I dunno anymore. Was it a second string? Was it the best players available? Was it just another spin of the wheel or random slinging of the magnets? Kamifukumoto was back in goal and I don’t think we particularly learnt much more about him. He has had three clean sheets in a row now which is great, but he did let in three in his first game against Shimizu. And all of these matches were with Levain Cup level opposition starting line-ups. I’m not downplaying his performances but merely mentioning this as a slight antidote to the people on Twitter who are demanding he starts. I think we clearly still don’t know who is the better keeper. At right back we had Yamane who did alright, seemed to be more disciplined and was running up the right and crossing which was very welcome. He was captain for the night, so maybe the responsibility caused him to give a bit more of a shit. He was substituted on 72 minutes along with Miyashiro and Schmidt which suggests that some if not all of them will be used for Sunday’s game against Urawa. In the middle were Takai and Kurumaya and on the left was Sasaki, who I thought had a really good game, and should be in with a shout for getting his place in the side back, I think. It’s a bit difficult to assess the defence really though, as Shimizu either didn’t really turn up or were wonderfully controlled by the mastery of our players (delete as to your opinion). A bit like with Kamifukumoto, anything we think we might be able to learn from a clean sheet is perhaps undermined by the fact that they didn’t have to do a great deal. Our starting midfield was Joao Schmidt, Seko and Chanathip. Chanathip picked up another injury and left the pitch on a stretcher. It didn’t look very good, so fingers crossed for him. Before that happened I thought we were looking quite good. There seems to be some different ideas about our formation with some saying that it was 4-2-3-1 and me thinking it was pretty much the usual 4-3-3. Much like with our clean sheet, I don’t think we can draw too many positive or negative conclusions from a potential formation change. Particularly when people can’t agree what that formation is. Up front we went with Tono on the left, Yamada on the right and Miyashiro in the middle. We scored quite a few times, so you’ve got to say that it worked well. There were a few gift goals in there though. It’s always nice to see Okubo in goal for Shimizu at Todoroki as he does tend to give us some nice opportunities. If I recall correctly a dodgy roll out or kick of the ball was pounced on by Kengo a few seasons ago and the same thing happened in this game, with Seko being the scorer. Also let’s not forget that the goal which sent us on our way was a shot that was going well wide before it was kindly deflected into the net by a Shimizu player. (Thanks a lot Kololli! I have had a grudge against him since he crocked Oshima away at Shimizu a year or two ago (so many Oshima injuries, it’s difficult to keep up with them). He seemed a bit bummed out by his deflection of a definitely-not-goal-bound shot and spent the rest of the match being very aggro).
I’d said before the game that I felt like our formation or player selections were less important at the moment than us getting a bit of luck, noting that we needed to get a goal with a shot going in off an opposition player’s backside in order to free us from our current lack of confidence. I now wish I’d stopped halfway through the word backside and then I would have looked like a real sage. That goal gave us some long awaited self-belief which I think led to us scoring a lot and moving from the bottom of the group to second with a very nice goal difference which might count almost as a bonus point. If it also signals a new dawn for us in the league, well we’ll see on Sunday against Urawa. I hoped that the win against Sapporo might have perked us up a bit, but after that game we reverted back to making no chances, drew 0-0 once in the Levain and then lost twice in the league, scoring only one goal in three games. So basically fingers crossed really. I felt at the start of the game that we still weren’t shooting much but that definitely changed once the first couple of goals went in. We finished up having almost 30 shots, with plenty of them on target. Honestly, it was a bit of a miracle. But a miracle that will not count for much if we’re back to double defensive midfield, sideways passing and hoping for a 0-0 on Sunday. 

No big moans about the ref, not anything in particular to bitch about or be snarky about, so let’s just finish up here. Short and possibly sweet. Perhaps it’s more difficult to write blog posts when we do well. Or perhaps it’s just because I have some other work that I need to do this afternoon and probably need to clean the house. I've just realised though that I didn't mention Kobayashi and Oshima being back from injury! And also didn't question where Damiao and Segawa have gone. All a mystery really, I guess. Next up, as mentioned numerous times, Urawa at home in the league on Sunday. Then after that, a golden week extravaganza of Fukuoka away and Kyoto away in the league. Two teams who are both doing better than expected this year. Would be quite nice in we came out the other side of Golden Week in the top half of the league, but one swallow doesn’t make a summer, so let’s not count our chickens yet. And why not some more cliches as well… game of two halves, all that glitters is not gold, every cloud has a silver lining…

DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 29. TAKAI Kota
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
DF 5. SASAKI Asahi
MF 6. JOAO SCHMIDT (Yellow card 61')
MF 16. SEKO Tatsuki
FW 20. YAMADA Shin
FW 17. TONO Daiya

GK 1. JUNG Sung-Ryong
DF 3. OMINAMI Takuma (on for YAMANE 72')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota (on for JOAO SCHMIDT 72')
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for MIYASHIRO 72')
MF 14. WAKIZAKA Yasuto (on for CHANATHIP 31')
FW 26. EINAGA Takatora (on for TONO 79')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

After weeks of not doing this, I’m going to give it to a few people on this occasion. As I said above, it’s a bit difficult to judge whether any defenders had good games as it seemed like they didn’t have much to do. With that in mind, I’m going to give it to…

SEKO Tatsuki, TONO Daiya, YAMADA Shin, SASAKI Asahi - Seko was great in the midfield, constantly looking for forward passes which didn’t always come off but definitely led to us having a different approach. Tono scored twice assisted at least once (I think) and never stopped running. Pleased to see him get a chance to play further forward. You can say most of the same things about Yamada, who was a constant menace but just couldn’t get a goal. Snatched at a few chances but really contributed to our success. Oh and I said I couldn’t give it to a defender but well done Sasaki. After being in and then mainly out of the team he’s come back and given Oniki a difficult decision for the next match.
TONO (Frontale) 13' 1-0
TONO (Frontale) 16' 2-0
KURUMAYA (Frontale) 58' 3-0
SEKO (Frontale) 69' 4-0
WAKIZAKA (Frontale) 84' 5-0
WAKIZAKA (Frontale) 89' 6-0

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