Thursday 24 November 2016

Vs Kashima Antlers (home) 23/11/16 - Championship semi final

Kawasaki Frontale 0 - 1 Kashima Antlers

So, finally we can say without a doubt, that our league campaign is over. It’s a shame it had to happen like this, as I don’t think we can really say we did a good job in this game, but maybe if we were going to lose at some stage in this Championship stage, it is a bit less painful to fall at the first hurdle. And given that we only needed a draw to progress today and we couldn’t manage that suggests that maybe our race was run already. I imagine that this might be a bit shorter than other posts as there wasn’t actually that many noteworthy incidents in this match and I don’t really want to remember much of it. We did our best this year, but unfortunately, it wasn’t good enough.

We started the game with the same starting line up as against Urawa with a couple of changes on the bench. Harakawa and Kano were replaced with Kengo and Otsuka (bit of a surprise that one!). The starting shape seemed to be the same as well, (although the Frontale website suggests otherwise), Okubo playing deeper and Hasegawa and Miyoshi being the main attackers. One big change off the pitch was the presence of a couple of extra officials to the side of the goals. Not sure if this is a trial and something we might see more of next season or if it is to mark the special occasion. To be honest, they didn’t seem to do much, but to be honest, I’m not exactly sure what they are supposed to do and which calls they can make. The first half was pretty nervy from both teams and quite tight. We had a few early let offs with Kashima missing the target and our passing wasn’t quite in order. We were giving the ball away a fair bit, maybe because of the physical stuff Antlers were hitting us with, as they did at their place a few weeks ago. Once again we had a ref who was very keen to keep his cards in his pocket which some might praise, but I think it gives other teams a license to kick us out of the game. 2016 has been the season of the injury (think these things go in twelve year cycles like the zodiac animals and years thing does). Kashima’s physical play suggested we might be getting a few more, but when the next one came it was eerily reminiscent of the game we played in Kashima. Hasegawa who had once again been looking lively chased a ball heading for their keeper and pulled up with a muscle strain, exactly as Kobayashi had done. Like Kobayashi, he couldn’t continue, so the not-quite-fit Kengo was brought on. Only 20 minutes gone, the game plan out of the window. The rest of the first half seemed to pass quite quickly. Neither side was setting the world alight and chances were few and far between.

The second half started similarly and then they scored. From where we were it looked like the ball had gone off before the Kashima player crossed it, but there were certainly plenty of people closer who didn’t say anything. Kanazaki got in front of Edu and headed into the corner. I think both Edu and Sung-Ryong could have done better unfortunately. We have been conceding goals like this all season and normally we can cancel them out with some goals of our own. But not today. Conceding definitely caused us to up our game but it also caused Kashima to put pretty much the whole team behind the ball for the rest of the match. It’s a miracle we managed to create so many chances, but sadly, it’s all too familiar that we didn’t manage to convert them. We have definitely been lacking goals recently. We couldn’t stop scoring at the start of the season, but I guess at that stage Okubo looked interested and we didn’t have so many players on the treatment table. Now, through a lack of willingness to shoot, or what was more of a problem in this game, a lack of ability to hit the target, the goals have dried up and that has accounted for our league campaign’s sad demise. On 67 minutes Nobori came on for Tasaka and ten minutes later, Morimoto came on for Itakura, Yoshito dropping back into midfield again, but then pushing slowly further forward as we ran out of time. The last ten minutes was mainly taken up by us lumping the ball forward, losing it and then barely managing to avoid conceding as they counter-attacked. There was desire but didn’t seem to be much thought behind it. Our plan A was ruined early on, the normal plan B didn’t work, so we just hit it and hoped. Watching early highlights it seems we made more chances that I remember, but you win games on goals and not on chances. I read that we have twelve shots in the whole game and I guess most of these were in the second half. The telling statistic is that only three of them were on target. Kashima had nine in total, seven of which were on target. I guess this sums up our day. We tried but didn’t do too well.

It seems stupid to talk about positives and negatives but I guess I will. Negatives first. A bad performance at a time when it was important not to have one. Another injury and once again to a player who was starting to play well. Our Championship challenge is over. Terrible finishing. Yoshito’s constant barrage of moaning, particularly to Miyoshi. That’ll do I guess. Positives… erm… none really. I don’t want to pick on Yoshito again, as plenty of people didn’t play well today, but maybe it’s a good thing that he’s going to FC Tokyo and that now we can start the game with 11 players who can be bothered. He’s been an automatic selection and really hasn’t warranted his place for quite a few months. I wouldn’t be surprised if he picked up a mysterious injury that keeps him out of the Emperor’s Cup game against FC Tokyo as that’s all going to be a bit awkward. But to be honest, no positives really. I’m just gutted, particularly because I guess we got what we deserved in the end. We didn’t deserve to be champions given that we finished 2nd in the first stage and season overall and 3rd in the second stage. I’m torn about the final. Urawa deserve to win, I guess, as they got the most points over the course of the season. But, I don’t like them. And it would show up how stupid this whole Championship system is if Kashima won the Championship after getting only 20 points from their last 17 league games and finishing 11th in the second stage. I suspect I might just not watch it. Oh, I remembered a positive! Next year we will be back to the crazy concept of the team who plays the best over the course of the season winning the league.

Next up, not a lot. The next game (Emperor’s Cup vs FC Tokyo), is on December 24th when I’ll be back in the UK for Christmas, so as far as my attendance of games goes, I’m done for this year. 36 games and out. Seems weird that some teams still in the cup will have had such a long time between games, but could work out for us as we really need to get some players back from injury. I’ll write an end of season round up soon with some thoughts on who has done well and who hasn’t and try to think about what our squad is going to look like next year. But for the time being, let’s all not think about football for a little while. It might be easier that way.


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 6. TASAKA Yusuke
DF 23. EDUARDO (Yellow card 90+4')
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO (Yellow card 44')
MF 13. OKUBO Yoshito
MF 20. KURUMAYA Shintaro
FW 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya


GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for TASAKA 67')
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki (on for ITAKURA 77')
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo (on for HASEGAWA 21')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
MF 27. OTSUKA Shohei

KANAZAKI (Kashima) 50' 0-1 


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