Thursday 25 May 2023

Vs Urawa Reds (away) 24/5/23 Levain Cup group stage game 5

Urawa Reds 2 - 1 Kawasaki Frontale

I’m going to be a bit busy in the next few weeks as I’m playing a concert in Kobe and I’m woefully underprepared. This is why I’m writing this on my phone on the way home from another exhilarating 2-1 defeat. Little did we know that after three minutes we’d only see another 2 shots on target in the remaining 91 minutes. I remember one of them, (Ienaga’s pretty tame shot straight at the keeper (good to see we’re carrying on from where we left off against YFC)), but if you offered me a winning lottery ticket to describe our other shot on target I’m sad to say I’d fail and be even more depressed than I am after watching another shocking game. (I’ve watched the highlights now and it was an Ienaga header). There’s not much to grasp on to if you’re looking for something positive. Sure we almost got a draw, but it was a draw that would be pretty much against the odds and against the run of play. Unbelievably, we had more possession in the second half, but as usual we did next to nothing with it.  Last time we went to the Saitama Stadium we had three keepers on the bench, and even then we couldn’t fill it. This time we’ve got plenty more players to choose from but a manager who hasn’t got a clue who to pick. And to be honest, it doesn’t really matter who he picks as whoever starts, we play the same dull stuff. If you’re looking for positives, well, Sung-Ryong did a lot better than Kamifukumoto has recently. Ominami looked decent at right back. Tono made a difference when he came on. Kozuka probably had his best game for us that I can remember. But all of this is against a backdrop of three shots on target. Another amazing Oniki half time team talk saw us drop from top of the group at half time to bottom (and barring a miracle in four different games, out of the cup), at full time. And the same team talk resulted in us fluffing a chance and then conceding from the next attack only five minutes into the second half. I’ve been saying Oniki is out of his depth and out of ideas since Mitoma left. Well, actually also a bit before then as 2019 was also pretty awful. Perhaps people are bored of hearing me say it. Or perhaps some people might be agreeing with me now. I still don’t expect any change in management before the end of the season though. Instead we’ll keep on plugging away, perhaps avoid relegation, Oniki will leave and so will probably lots of players who are unsettled by the fact that we’re utterly shite and will be manageress. We’ll also be back to the drawing board, starting with a new manager and (hopefully) new ideas which will take some time to bed in. So basically, the next six months are utterly pointless and probably so will be the first part of next season. 

I’m fully aware that whatever team Oniki picked I would find something to moan about but this one seemed to underwhelm in every possible way. Still grimly sticking to the same formation and tactics. Resting some of the big names although some of them deserved to be dropped anyway. It was a mystery as to whether it was a first choice side with some changes or a reserves side with some changes. Whichever it was, it didn’t work, so I guess it’s pointless thinking about it too much. Marcinho seems to have now joined Damiao in the mystery zone. Get injured, come back for one game and then disappear. I suspect Damiao has a transfer lined up and we don’t want him to get injured. Perhaps Marcinho has too. (Actually, today it’s been announced that he’s injured again, in training, our for three months, another victim of our full-contact cage fighting training methods). I wonder who of our players might not want to get out of the club at the first opportunity. I can’t blame those who want to leave. At the moment going to these games feels more like an addiction than any kind of hobby or fun pastime. There’s certainly not much pleasure to be found. A third minute goal and then hanging on and not doing much for the rest of the game. Sure it’s a game of small margins. If Kobayashi had scored and we had gone 2-0 up at the start of the second half, it would have obviously been a different game. If we hadn’t conceded a clanger of an own goal we might have scraped a point. But when things aren’t going well, you do seem to get this kind of luck. But is it really luck? We’ve been crap, and we’ve got the results a crap team should get. In fact perhaps we’ve got better than expected results considering how bad we’ve been. That was certainly the case for the whole of the 2022 season. I’ve also said this before, but it’s not who we pick, it just seems to be the whole approach. I’m sure Oniki will comment and say that Urawa just wanted it more, we need to make better decisions when we’re shooting and some of the other usual platitudes he wheels out. He won’t consider changing the formation. He won’t shake up the line up too much. He won’t actually suggest to the players that we try to actually shoot instead of sideways pass. What a shit season. What a shit manager.

Urawa looked alright. I think it was very much a reserves team that we lost to. Their fans even made some noise. Perhaps the ACL title has put them in a good mood. The pre-game music is still unbelievably awful. A mix between the shittest of shit ROCK MUSIC!!!! and upbeat house versions of what were already pretty camp songs in their original form. This time they added some dull country rock too, probably with lyrics about good old boys, drinking whisky and some kind of relationship ups or downs. I guess the stadium is pretty much in the countryside though. And maybe this love of good old Southern country music, combined with their fans' previous penchant for slightly exclusionary politics might explain why they use a burning cross in their scoreboard graphics. Cheeky and a bit of an on the nose way for them to express certain elements of their ultras politics quite so openly. 

Considering it’s still part of the greater Tokyo sprawl there is a surprising feeling of being in an absolute wasteland with a baffling amount of houses for the apparent total lack of amenities. And don’t forget them playing the whole of East 17’s house of love accompanied by a video where their club crest looks like it’s being spied on by a pervert, zooming in on various areas and lingering a little too long, as the crest assembles and disassembles itself in 3D like some kind of AI generated sexy video made by a heraldic loving pervert artificial intelligence. Presumably the reason for the song choice is that there is a house (or big long building) on the top of their crest. But is that really enough of a reason? The crowd loved it though and politely applauded at the end of the video, as if they’d just seen their grandchildren doing a hip-hop dance demonstration. Probably the same way FC Tokyo fans feel when the flame cannons get wheeled out. The only other observations I have about the Urawa crowd is that they still clap Kurumaya for some reason. And that they also seem to think that incessant booing and whistling when their opponent has possession will spook them. Honestly, there’s no need to bother trying. We are more than likely going to give away the ball without the interaction of either the opposition fans or even the opposition players. They could all stay rooted to the spot from kick off and we’d still contrive to lose the ball to their ‘high press’.

Oh, we had Yamashita, the J League’s new female ref, and aside from one occasion when we were once again absolutely robbed by an awful failure to play the advantage, I can’t say I have anything to moan about. The linesman nearest us, well, that’s a whole different matter. He was an absolutely useless arsehole of the highest order, who seemed to find it more difficult to see things the closer he was to them. But forget the officials. They didn’t rob us. We just had nothing much to give and therefore nothing much to be robbed of. Same old crap again.

Next up Kashiwa at home in the league. They had a slight new manager bounce but then lost in the Levain. What’s the betting that we can give them a gift wrapped three points on Sunday, further cementing our absolute shiteness against teams near the bottom of the league. Who knows who’ll play? I think if Kamifukumoto is back in goal it will just be baffling, but at the same time totally predictable. Once again we sang the team off the pitch. Well, I say we, but this time unlike last weekend, I was out of there at the final whistle. At this stage the relentless positivity is just making us look like we’re severely damaged people utterly out of touch with reality. 

GK 1. JUNG Sung-Ryong
DF 3. OMINAMI Takuma
DF 31. YAMAMURA Kazuya
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
DF 5. SASAKI Asahi
MF 14. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
MF 49. KOZUKA Kazuki (Yellow card 47')
FW 20. YAMADA Shin
FW 30. SEGAWA Yusuke

MF 8. TACHIBANADA Kento (on for KOZUKA 73')
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
MF 16. SEKO Tatsuki (on for WAKIZAKA 73')
FW 17. TONO Daiya (on for SEGAWA 58')
FW 33. MIYASHIRO Taisei (on for KOBAYASHI 73')
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro (Yellow card 88') (on for YAMADA 79')

SEGAWA (Frontale) 3' 0-1
KANTE (Urawa) 51' 1-1
OWN GOAL (Frontale) 89' 2-1

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