Shonan Bellmare 2 - 3 Kawasaki Frontale
This weekend it was a trip to our neighbours Shonan Bellmare who were worryingly lying second from bottom going in to this game. Early on in the first stage we unbelievably drew 4-4 with them at home. I was hoping for a better result this time, but was at the same time acutely aware of my probably imaginary bottom three curse, so wouldn’t have been surprised with another draw. Given that it’s not that far from Tokyo, Shonan still took a while to get to, probably because we managed to stop off at three pubs on the way. By the time the game started I had been roasting myself under the scorching sun in a beer jus for quite a few hours. Possibly not exactly the wisest move on such a day, but hell, it was the day before my birthday so I was making a day of it.
When we finally got in to the stadium it once again seemed to have been oversold. We were queueing a good hour before the gates opened at 17:00 and we were still kind of lucky to find a place to stand. There were plenty of people stuck with nowhere to stand and it made going anywhere a bit of a squeeze. All the refreshment options were outside the ground so there was quite a lot of going in and out. I’ve never seen a queue for a vending machine as long as it was yesterday. And unfortunately, by half time, most of the refreshing drinks were sold out. The terrace was quite nice to be honest though, apart from the space problems, although it didn’t really have much elevation so seeing what was going on at the other end of the pitch wasn’t easy. Obviously the running track didn’t help, but as that’s another common moan for me, I should probably just stop going on about it.
The starting line up was exactly the same again. I guess why change a winning side, but I wouldn’t exactly say we’ve been winning comfortably recently. In fact, far from it. And today was another sign that we probably need to change something soon. At least the second half performance after we were three goals up was anyway. We were pretty good in the first half, not mind blowing and not creating loads, but we had a few chances and didn’t look like we were in any kind of trouble. Kengo smacked the bar with a shot from miles out. Our first goal came on 32 minutes when Kurumaya drove into the box from the left, put the ball round the defender and went the other way, collected it and for once had a shot instead of laying on a goal for someone else. It wasn’t the most powerful of shots but the keeper couldn’t stop it and Yoshito shepherded it in at the far post. We looked pretty comfortable at this stage and I was hoping we’d go on and score a few to get some goal scoring confidence back.
The second half came with no changes (of course we were expecting the usual Takeoka for Otsuka around 60 minutes…). We pretty much carried on where we had left off and were two up a few minutes after the restart. The ball was played to Kurumaya along the wing and this time he crossed for Yoshito to slot home. A nice easy finish for him and hopefully a little more confidence too. Then, shock of all shocks, on the 60th minute we scored from a corner! It was a nice ball in from Hashimoto and Shonan, probably having watched our last 100 corners, must have been concentrating too much on Taniguchi and let Kobayashi head it in from around the penalty spot (picture below). At the same time Neto was being totally flattened by a Shonan defender so if it didn’t go in we would have had a shout for a penalty I reckon. This goal meant that Kobayashi has scored in six consecutive games which is a club record. Hope he can make it seven next week against Kofu. So, we were coasting and looking like scoring plenty. So, perfect time to make some shape destroying substitutions to make things a bit more exciting, right?
The first of these was a return to the usual Takeoka/Otuska change and came just six minutes after the third goal went in. To be fair though, Shonan had already got one back by this stage. They threaded a ball through most of our defence who were obviously looking to make it more of an exciting game and Sung-Ryong’s save was pretty weak (it sneaked through between his arm and torso) and it trickled into the net. Then we changed Elsinho for Eduardo and did the usual ‘push Taniguchi up into midfield thing’ that never works and didn’t work again. I think if he wants Eduardo to play, he should start him next week with Taniguchi. Igawa has done well, but he probably wants a rest now. These kind of subs never seem to work but we still do them most weeks. I don’t get it! We were looking really wobbly at this stage. The confidence was shaky and we were for the most part just lumping the ball forward when we managed to get hold of it. I was expecting a capitulation to 3-3. Shonan were having plenty of chances and I was worried. They had a headed chance that hit the bar and bounced down on to the line. We were really living dangerously. Tasaka then replaced Hashimoto and whilst things still looked shaky we did manage a couple of chances, notably including a header from Tasaka which looked like it might have been over the line. Of course it was not given though. You can see it around 3:07 in this youtube link. Yoshito nicked the ball from a poor clearance from the keeper, crossed it to the back post and Tasaka’s header is just about blocked by the keeper, possibly behind the line. Whilst the replay is inconclusive, Kobayashi and Tasaka were pretty certain it had crossed the line.
The second Shonan goal came from a free kick on 90 minutes. There could have been a bit of a push on Edu, but we were just caught out really. The defending wasn’t good enough. Somehow the ref managed to somehow find six minutes of injury time from a game that didn’t really have any injuries and we were really hanging on at this stage. From leading 3-0 to desperation defending shows that we have probably got to sort something out. It was all Shonan at this stage and any shape we might have had was gone. If they had managed an equaliser it probably would have been fair, but once again, we seem to have a bit of luck on our side at the moment. The final whistle was a big relief. We had the three points, I had hurt my throat from shouting too much and had a splitting headache, probably due to dehydration. It had been a testing day!
So, positives. Three points, six in a row for Kobayashi, a Yoshito goal that might help him get back into form (but we've hoped for this before). Another great performance from Kurumaya. Negatives, pretty rubbish defensively in the second half, soft goal for Sung-Ryong to let in, our substitutions were a boost more to the opposition than to us. I get the fact that Otsuka’s job is to run like crazy and give 100% effort knowing that he won’t have to play 90 minutes and he did another decent job. But why not replace him with a midfielder rather than rejigging the side? Taniguchi does a great job in defence, so leave him there. It’s funny that apparently Yoshito had 30 minutes extra training with Otsuka to instruct him how he wants him to play. Yoshito grumbled last week about the system, but it seems that our goals are still mostly coming from the same place (Kurumaya). Not sure if the 30 minutes made any difference. And Yoshito is still very wasteful in front of goal. I can’t help but feel that he is blaming the system on his own bad form. Still, if he is going to have a bad spell, I would much rather he has it now and then get on an amazing streak for the last third of the season. Fingers crossed…
So, next week it’s Kofu at home. I am going to miss this game (and the away games at Sagan Tosu and Urawa) as I am going back to the Europe for a couple of weeks. Hopefully I should be able to watch a stream of them though. I’ll still post about them, but with the details and a bit less opinion as you really don’t get much of a feel about the game just from watching the highlights or a stream. I’m a bit sad to end my run of seeing every league game (apart from the first one) this year, but I think, much like some of the team, I could do with a bit of a rest. Kofu are fifth from bottom so I can’t mention the bottom three thing, and given that we beat Shonan, I guess I have to lay that one to rest anyway really. Let’s hope that I miss three wins and that when I’m back in Japan we’ll still be top. Go Frontale!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 18. ELSINHO
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 4. IGAWA Yusuke
DF 20. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo
MF 27. OTSUKA Shohei
MF 7. HASHIMOTO Koji
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
FW 13. OKUBO Yoshito
GK 30. ARAI Shota
FW 13. OKUBO Yoshito
GK 30. ARAI Shota
MF 6. TASAKA Yusuke (on for HASHIMOTO 80')MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
DF 17. TAKEOKA Yuto (on for OTSUKA 66')
DF 17. TAKEOKA Yuto (on for OTSUKA 66')
MF 22. NAKANO Yoshihiro
DF 23. EDUARDO (on for ELSINHO 75')
MF 26. MIYOSHI Koji
KURUMAYA (Frontale) 32' 0-1
OKUBO (Frontale) 48' 0-2
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 60' 0-3
OTAKE (Shonan) 63' 1-3
BAHIA (Shonan) 90' 2-3