How small are the things that a season can turn on? And how fast can a season turn from an amazing ride to the possible painful realisation that we’re probably going to fall at the last hurdle again? This was not a pleasant day for many many reasons and consequently I have been putting off writing this post. If you are only interested in positives, well, Nara was back on the bench. After that it all gets a bit dark.
Although Omiya away sounds like an convenient trip to make, this game was played at their once a year home in Kumagaya. I don’t know if this is a lucky stadium for them, but it will take a lot to make it a place where we have anything but bad memories. The stadium itself was quite nice though, a big bowl with adequate space for the tickets they had sold (unlike the Shonan game) and an unbelievable amount of flagpoles. As mentioned above, it was great to see Nara back on the bench. He’s been pretty unlucky this season and got injured when he was playing pretty well. Guess he’ll get a few games as the season comes to a close. We named a pretty good side (unchanged from last week against Avispa) and for the first half an hour it looked like we weren’t going to have too many problems. Tasaka was named as playing in the midfield but he was back at right back again with Elsinho ahead of him. For the first thirty minutes we were keeping the ball well, winning it back easily and the only thing not quite working was our final ball into the box. We had no reason to worry though as Omiya weren’t offering that much with their very direct play and we were dealing with pretty much everything they hoofed at us.
Then everything changed with a moment of stupidity. Yoshito was hacked down collecting the ball from a Kengo corner. As he sat up he was pushed to the floor by the idiotic Yokotani and then stood up shoulder-first, bumping into the aforementioned idiot who dropped to the floor as if he had received an instantaneous amputation of both legs. Straight red from the ref Ogiya who had a game full of insane and apparently random decisions. We were at the other end of the pitch and my first impression was that Yoshito had shoved him over. Consequently, I was pretty peed off with him for doing such a stupid thing. After seeing the highlights I have a little sympathy for him. Not completely sure it was a red card but I think he’s stupid to even give the ref an opportunity to send him off. Why there was no punishment for Mrdja who shoves the referee I have no idea. So, we were set to play almost 60 minutes with 10 men… Things went from bad to worse just under ten minutes later when Neto was robbed in the centre circle and one long pass meant that their striker was striding through on goal with Taniguchi a fair way behind. Sung-Ryong came out to meet the striker and brought him down. Penalty and thankfully only a yellow card, the ref possibly trying to balance things a little after his previous decision. It looked like a clear penalty at the time and was an easy enough one for the ref to give. Neto was also booked at this time (therefore missing the next game). My second Omiya villain, the immobile lump Mrdja went whining to the assistant referee that Neto had thrown a water bottle into the hoarding. Not sure why he felt the need to grass, or why any of the officials decided that listening to the players for advice is a way to make decisions in a football game, but it was a pretty pathetic action and typical of a few of the Omiya players, (but of course I would say that), and of the weak and inconsistent officials, (but of course I would also say that too). The penalty was duly dispatched. Half time, losing one nil and down to ten men. Bit of a bummer.
The second half started with no changes. Omiya put everyone behind the ball and we looked up against it. We were making a decent go of it though. Elsinho was pushing well forward, giving a 150% performance and everything was going through him. Good on him! We were making a few chances and our first sub almost resulted in an immediate goal. Tasaka went off for Miyoshi, effectively leaving Elsinho to play right back, right wing and also striker which he did admirably for a while. Oshima passed to Elsinho who crossed to an unmarked Miyoshi who with one of his first touches of the game smashed the ball over the bar with the keeper stranded. We did score very soon after though with a nice exchange of passes between Kobayashi and Elsinho setting the ball up for Kengo to hook one in to the top corner from just inside the box. Great stuff! Shortly after, Elsinho was replaced by Moriya, which was fair enough as he had run himself into the ground. A great performance from him. This did leave us a little short at the back though as Moriya is not exactly known for his defending. On 81 minutes we did the unbelievable and took the lead, Miyoshi redeeming himself for his earlier miss and putting a low cross in for Kobayashi to slot home (nice dummy from Moriya too).
Would have been nice if the game finished here, but sadly we had to play another 15 minutes. And this was enough time for everything to crumble into chaos and complete insanity. Only three minutes after our goal Omiya were equal, passing the ball easily round static defenders and beating Sung-Ryong weakly at his near post. Then there was an Omiya ghost goal which the ref gave and then changed his mind about. It was really bizarre actually. The majority of the stadium was going wild and there didn’t seem to be any sign from the linesman but the ref decided to rule it out after giving it. Maybe he was getting advice from our players as well as the Omiya ones. There was a push on Edu, but if he didn’t give the foul at the time, I don’t know how he can take the decision back. Pleased he did though. Although this was in vain as they scored again on 89 minutes. Naturally we were a bit exposed at the back as we were pushing everyone forward, but we had four against four and once again they just passed it round us and put it in at the near post. I thought it must have been deflected as Sung-Ryong looked wrong footed but I can’t see any evidence of this on the replay. Morimoto was then flung on for Moriya in a last ditch effort to take something from the match. And there was still time for a bit more insanity as in the final seconds of the game Omiya broke through again, Neto flattened one of their players and then appeared to tread on him but they couldn’t score a fourth. The ref obviously missed this as otherwise Neto would have been off. This final action caused a big flare up at the final whistle (watch it here if you want or check the blurred photo at the top of this post). The idiot Yokotani went for Neto, Edu got involved and seemed to damage (maybe dislocate) his shoulder again in the melee. Yokotani really seems to be a horrible whingy little scumbag. I wish him the least of luck in his future career.
So, what went wrong? Plenty. A silly reaction from Yoshito when he didn’t even look that upset, giving a card happy referee an easy opportunity to dish out a red. Neto didn’t have his best game, giving the ball away on a few crucial occasions and picking up a yellow (and luckily not a red, although he’ll still be banned for the next game as this was his third yellow). Silly mistakes at crucial moments and somehow clinical finishing from Omiya. It very much wasn’t our day, although if we could have held on when we took the lead it would have been a massive boost for the last few games of the season. I think maybe we were a bit too gung-ho with our attacking late in the game, but I guess without this we wouldn’t have taken the lead. But maybe after we did we should have tried to tighten things up at the back a bit. I know we didn’t have too many options to do this, but our line up at the end seemed very attacking for a team down to ten men. But what do I know? We’ve been lucky so far in the second stage. We haven’t been playing so well but have been getting results. And on the occasions when we have slipped up, our rivals also have. On the bus back to the station I was checking the Urawa score and was astounded to see that they were losing to FC Tokyo. But of course, they came back and we deservedly dropped off the top of the 2nd stage table (and down to 3rd place). Now we are only two points ahead of Urawa overall too. I don’t want to be too negative, but this result has a bit of an ominous feel to it. We will need a hell of a lot of mental toughness to come back from this. Our final five games are against Yokohama, Kobe, Sanfrecce, Kashima and Gamba. Great… It’s not looking too good, is it? And we have to play the first of these games without Yoshito and Neto, and then a couple more without Yoshito I think. (Step forward Morimoto. Your Kawasaki Frontale hero award is ready for you if you can grab it!) There was some call on twitter for the J League to look at Neto’s challenge at the end of the game, saying it deserves a ban. I’m not going to call it a stamp as I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. Surprisingly, the person calling for the ban was an Urawa fan, so maybe they’re still not so confident, but I can’t see why they aren’t really.
Aside from the chaos on the pitch there was also a bit of chaos outside the ground after the game. We were already on our way back to the station when for some reason it seems that some Frontale fans decided to surround the Omiya team bus, perhaps jealous that all the idiocy was taking place on the pitch and wanting to have some idiocy of their own. This caused a fracas with some Omiya fans and apparently some Frontale fans were taken away by the police. So, not only has our season probably been ruined on the pitch, our reputation as a club has also taken a hammering. One of the many good things about supporting Frontale is that we seemed to be free from the pathetic behaviour of some other teams fans (do I even need to mention the main offenders?). Watching football in Japan is much more fun than watching it in the UK because of the fact that people want to enjoy the game rather than vent their anger and aggression through abusing the opposition and trying to cause problems with their fans. Sure, passions run high, especially when we have been beaten in such an important fixture, but what are we doing surrounding the Omiya team bus?! I can only hope that the offenders are dealt with appropriately and that we haven’t caused too much damage to our reputation as a nice group of fans.
So, embarrassment, idiocy and insanity on and off the field and a horrible feeling that we’ve messed it up and this will be another season of being ‘silver collectors’. We’ve got two games coming up very soon this week which I’m pretty sure will give us a pretty clear idea of how this season is going to finish. First, against JEF United in the Emperor’s Cup on Thursday and then against Yokohama in the league on Sunday, both at home. Until then, I am going to try to not think about football as the bad taste this game has left in my mouth has been ruining my weekend and Silver Week so far.
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG (Yellow card 42')
DF 6. TASAKA Yusuke
DF 23. EDUARDO
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 20. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO (Yellow card 43')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo
MF 18. ELSINHO
FW 11. KOBAYASHI YuFW 13. OKUBO Yoshito (Red card 36')
GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
MF 7. HASHIMOTO Koji
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki (on for MORIYA 90')
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki (on for MORIYA 90')
MF. 19 MORIYA Kentaro (on for ELSINHO 71')FW 26. MIYOSHI Koji (on for TASAKA 61')
DF 28. ITAKURA Ko
IENAGA (Omiya) 44' PEN. 1-0
NAKAMURA (Frontale) 63' 1-1
KOBAYSHI (Frontale) 81' 1-2
IENAGA (Omiya) 84' 2-2
ESAKA (Omiya) 89' 3-2
(Don't do it! You needn't put yourself through the pain of watching these, but if you really want to...)