Friday 23 September 2016

Vs JEF United (home) 22/9/16 - Emperor's Cup 3rd round

Kawasaki Frontale 4 - 1 JEF United (AET)

Less than a week on from the Omiya disaster we’re back in action again and back at Todoroki. Given that this was an Emperor’s Cup game we might have expected a few changes, but given that we’re playing again on Sunday (vs. Yokohama, at home again) it was more like a whole new team than just a few changes. Yoshito and Neto both started though as they are banned for Sunday’s game. The wholesale changes were not just restricted to on the pitch though. Because of the pathetic argy-bargy after the Omiya game the ‘kazoku’, the guys who wear the blue t-shirts, lead all the chants, try to get people singing and on occasion surround the opposition team bus after a defeat (the latter only once as far as I know), didn’t turn up. Presumably, this was to show their contrition for what happened last Saturday. I have no idea how many of them were involved and what actually happened, but there were apparently no arrests or charges. Possibly, things have been blown up out of proportion, but at the same time, it takes 20 years to build an image of being nice fans and one evening to ruin it. I’m still pretty peed off at what happened, but imagine things will be back to normal on Sunday with them in attendance. One of my fellow locals in my favourite pub who happens to be an Urawa fan thought the whole thing was negligible anyway. Urawa get up to far worse he said, which is almost certainly true, but why would we want to get associated with that kind of thing at all?

So, back to the matter in hand, a third round Emperor’s Cup tie against JEF United, a team lying almost slap-bang in the middle of J2. On paper a fairly easy tie I guess, but as we know, football isn’t played on paper and things don’t often work out how you might think they would. The game saw the return to Kawasaki of Takayuki Funayama, who left us at the end of last season. Always a 100% effort player, but one who never managed to find the net in the whole time he was with us, he inevitably scored against us… There were other returns too. Komiyama, Nara and Morimoto all started their first games for quite a while and the number of players being rested for Sunday meant that we saw quite a few players starting a game for the first time in a while (Harakawa, Hasegawa and Itakura). So, quite a few changes and it seemed like quite a few people playing in unfamiliar positions. Hashimoto was used as a kind of defensive central midfielder but seemed to be popping up all over the pitch, apart from on the wings where he normally plays best. Consequently, with the changes in personnel and positions, we weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders in the first half. JEF were defending in numbers and doing a decent job of it. We were passing the ball around as usual, but mainly sideways and backwards. It seemed that we didn’t quite have anyone who was starting dangerous moves. It was just lots of possession and not really going anywhere. That is until we gave the ball away, which we did quite a few times, creating problems for ourselves. Neto seems a little out of sorts recently even before the Omiya game. Maybe he needs a bit of a rest, but something’s not quite clicking at the moment and he's losing the ball a bit. The highlight of the first half was naturally Morimoto’s first goal for quite a while (since the home game against Shonan in March!). It was a decent goal, as far as I can remember without seeing the highlights and with it being at the other end of the pitch, it was a shot into the corner from around the edge of the box. [Having now seen the highlights, it was an absolute cracker from quite a way outside the box. Great goal!]. So far so good, but a bit unspectacular on the whole. We didn’t really threaten much.

The second half started with no changes for either team. The ref (Nishimura, complete idiot as far as I’m concerned) was being ultra fussy about everything making himself the centre of attention. Before I encountered Ogiya last week, Nishimura was the ref whose name I most feared seeing before one of our games. Totally obsessed with making himself the centre of attention and demanding free kicks being taken from the exact centimetre of turf where the infringement happened especially if it doesn’t make any difference to either team. There was a certain irony to this later in the half… On 51 minutes, we conceded the inevitable goal to Funayama. A JEF corner was punched clear by Shota but they worked the ball out to the wing again and the cross found Funayama who diverted it into the net. Having seen a replay filmed by someone in the crowd, I’d say there’s a hint of offside about it, but no-one seemed to complain too much. It was probably a fair enough score as neither team had exactly set the game alight. But it was a bit of a wake up call for us. After another ten minutes or so of us flapping around Kazama decided it was time to try and play a bit better and in short succession brought on Miyoshi and Elsinho for Hashimoto and Morimoto. And it kind of worked. Miyoshi and Elsinho were both really running at them and causing some problems. We started creating chances but sadly not putting them away. Yoshito was looking very out of sorts again, kind of sleepwalking his way through the match. On 79 minutes he woke up a bit though. A through pass found him racing clear of the JEF defence at the edge of the box and he was bundled to the ground. He felt it was inside the box and therefore a penalty, but the ref disagreed. Personally, I couldn’t tell. It was very much borderline. Nishimura though felt that it was definitely a metre outside the box which I find hard to believe, but wonder if he was just trying to erase any doubts people might have had if he gave it right on the edge. For a while it looked like we might have a repeat of the Omiya situation where we lose a player to a red card from a free kick we won. Yoshito wouldn’t shut up and kept berating the ref, even after he had been booked for his initial complaints. I’m kind of surprised that he didn’t get another yellow. Nishimura sent him off at the end of last season for a dive I think. But thankfully he calmed down in time. The remaining ten minutes was played out with some action and anxiety as both teams seemed to be looking for the win. Shota made a great save right at the death to keep us in the match. So, on to extra time. 

In the first period of extra time the game was being played at almost walking pace. I know we like a slow and patient build up, but it seemed that the majority of the players were totally knackered! I guess most of them haven’t been regularly playing 90 minutes, so 120 was a bit of a stretch. Possibly because of this or possibly unconnected, Hasegawa pulled up with some kind of muscle strain and had to be stretchered off. Cue Kurumaya, who maybe might have hoped to get the evening off as he’ll almost certainly be playing 90 minutes on Sunday. He helped us step up another gear and actually scored the goal that put us ahead. It was down the other end of the pitch so I can’t remember much but it was a very nicely placed header from a right wing cross. He was really causing JEF some trouble too with his pace and energy. The second half of extra time was where poor JEF, who had done a good job on us got what they definitely didn’t deserve. Yoshito curled one in past the keeper from just inside the box (see the aftermath in the picture below) and then immediately started playing like a man possessed. Wish he’d done that a little earlier and then we would have been spared extra time. He followed this up with a tap in after a goal-bound Miyoshi shot was somehow blocked. I would have liked to see Miyoshi get another goal but maybe considering the remaining games this season, Yoshito needs all the goals and confidence he can get. Although that won’t be much use this Sunday when he’s watching from the stands. Like I said, a final score that was very tough on JEF, but we deserved to go through to the next round. It’s not often that you can call a 4-1 win unconvincing, but this was probably the best way to describe it.

So, positives and negatives. Let’s start negative. A J2 side took us to extra time, almost knocked us out in the last few minutes of the 90 and it was an unconvincing performance from us. Another injury, let’s hope it’s not too serious for Hasegawa. Yoshito would have again been a big negative but his transformation after his first goal changed my mind. He has to keep that going for the remaining games he plays if we want to get anything from this season. Positives, a few. Lots of players back from injury, an important goal from Morimoto who we are going to need playing well on Sunday, Komiyama and Nara playing 120 minutes, the late in the game transformation of Yoshito, a decent performance from both Hasegawa and Itakura. Oh, and we’re through. And finally I should mention the great job done by the guy who lead the singing in the kazoku's absence and the stand-in drummers. The timing between them and us was a bit shaky at times, but I can't imagine any of them really expected to be in that situation, so well done to them!

Now, three days rest and then back to the league on Sunday. The next cup game won’t be for a while as the draw isn’t even made until October 4th. Yokohama will want to try to mess up our season after we did the same to them a few years ago so it definitely won’t be an easy one. As I probably keep saying, it will be a season defining game as we’ll have a couple of notable absences and we are now playing catch up (second stage) or grimly trying to hang on to our dwindling advantage (overall). Let’s hope we can get back to winning ways in the league and give Urawa (at home to Sanfrecce) and Gamba (at home to FC Tokyo) something to think about.


GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 8. KOMIYAMA Takanobu
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki
FW 13. OKUBO Yoshito (Yellow card 79')

I Shun
DF 18. ELSINHO (on for MORIMOTO 67')
DF 20. KURUMAYA Shintaro (on for HASEGAWA 96')
MF 25. KANO Kenta
MF 26. MIYOSHI Koji (on for HASHIMOTO 61')
FW 27. OTSUKA Shohei 
MF 32. DUKE Carlos


MORIMOTO (Frontale) 20'  1-0
FUNAYAMA (JEF) 51'  1-1
KURUMAYA (Frontale) 105'  2-1
OKUBO (Frontale) 108'  3-1
OKUBO (Frontale) 115'  4-1

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