Saturday, 11 March 2017

Vs Kashiwa Reysol (home) 10/3/17, J-League match 3

Kawasaki Frontale 2 - 1 Kashiwa Reysol 

Off to Todoroki on a Friday night. In the UK I probably would complain about games being switched to Friday night as it doesn’t make it very easy for fans to get to them. Marinos fans had to schlep all the way out to Kashima for their fixture, but we were lucky this time and were at home. I understand why they want to move games around given ACL fixtures congestion and I’m not moaning because I don’t work on Friday, so these games actually seem like quite a fun thing for me. But I wouldn’t be so pleased if I was a hardcore fan with a 9-5 job who had to miss one of their team’s games because they couldn’t travel hundreds of miles between work and a 7pm kick off. This was a weird game. We could quite easily have won it 5-1. But equally, we could easily have lost 3-2. I guess games swing on small incidents and thankfully, this game swung just far enough in our direction. Not saying that I don’t think we deserved to win. I think we did. But we were under a lot of pressure at times and we missed a few sitters. It was definitely an entertaining night’s football though. Although I appreciate it’s much easier to say that as a Frontale fan.

Once again, Oniki shuffled the attacking end of the team. I guess the work in progress part of our team is definitely in this area at the moment. There is a bit of tinkering going on at the back too, but we can probably say that the area up front is where we need more work. We still haven’t found quite the right mix up front yet and I’m not sure we have after this game. But things looked a bit better than against Sagan Tosu last weekend, so maybe we’re heading in the right direction. We started the game with Sung-Ryong in goal, a back four of Tasaka, Nara, Taniguchi and Kurumaya and Neto and Oshima in front of them as usual. The attacking part of the team was announced as being Kengo and Nobori on the wings and a front two of Kobayashi and Abe, but in reality it was Abe up front by himself and Kobayashi on the right and Nobori on the left. On the bench were Arai, Itakura, Kano, Miyoshi, Morimoto, Moriya and Rhayner, Otsuka having disappeared into the wilderness again. I was slightly apprehensive going in to the game as Kashiwa totally destroyed us at home last year and that was a time when we were playing fairly well and with some confidence. So, playing the same team, who this year had been tipped as a surprise package for the title by some, after our stuttering start to the season didn’t look like it would be a walk in the park.

Much like against Tosu and Suwon, we started the game really brightly. We were cutting them open at will in the first 15 minutes making plenty of chances. As usual we were kicking towards the away fans in the first half and it was at this stage that I realized we haven’t scored at the home end of the stadium yet this year. Maybe tonight was to be the night! (It wasn’t…). Cristiano, a player who I always think looks like he has the look of a fifty year old man, (particularly since he went for the silver hair and beard, guess he’s had a hard life!) was looking dangerous coming forward, but also looked like he could be leaving a few gaps in areas he might be supposed to be defending. The Kashiwa defence and midfield seemed to be on a mission to kick lumps out of Oshima. Maybe it was part of their game plan. We were getting free kicks for most of these challenges but I felt like maybe the ref could have taken a bit more control and dished out a few cards. It was nasty spoiling football, but was quite effective. Possibly my understanding of what constitutes a yellow card is a bit out of date, but when you make no attempt at playing the ball and just kick the player on the ball and can keep doing so with little punishment, it doesn’t really seem very fair. I know I’m always moaning about referees, so I’m sorry about that, but they do generally seem to be pretty incompetent recently. For some reason, tonight’s ref didn’t seem to want to let us take any free kicks quickly, which was also getting on my nerves a bit. Guess I was a bit tense! So anyway, we were making some decent chances and unlike against Tosu, they were more often than not on target. Kengo had a decent shot well saved and our front players were causing Kashiwa some problems. Bizarrely, given our recent pedigree in the area, our opening goal came from a corner. Kengo whipped the ball in and Taniguchi outjumped two defenders and angled the ball into the corner with his head. For some reason it seemed to take an eternity to get into the net, but looking at the replay I think this was also due to my underlying tension. So it looked like we were going to go into half time with a one goal lead. But that was not the case. We got a second in injury time at the end of the half. A defensive howler from Kashiwa (the defender seemed to somehow almost nutmeg himself), was seized upon by Abe who could easily have shot but unselfishly chose to square the ball to Kengo who rolled the ball home. I was really impressed with Abe for doing this. He clearly is desperate to get his first goal but did the right thing for the team. Good on him! Apparently this is the best time to score as it messes up the half time team talk the conceding team had prepared.

Maybe not in our case though as Kashiwa came charging out at the start of the second half. They were making loads of chances and getting lots of corners. It seemed inevitable that we would concede from one of these sooner or later and that’s exactly what came to pass. Cristiano was doing a good job of delivering the ball and it found their striker unmarked standing between Tasaka and Taniguchi and he finished pretty easily. Maybe Kobayashi could have done more to stop it as he was standing on the post. But can’t be helped I guess. By this stage, Abe had already missed a bit of a sitter when his shot was initially saved and the ball dropped back to him but he could only power it over the bar. I hope he can score soon as I think he’s been doing a decent job on the whole and out of all of the players who has played as our lone frontman so far this season, maybe he’s been the best. Not long after the goal we made our first sub. Rhayner came on for Nobori who had done a decent job but was perhaps running out of steam a little. There was another big talking point on 70 minutes. Kengo was racing through on the Kashiwa goal and was knocked to the ground by a Kashiwa defender. From the stand it looked like a clear red. From the picture I saw on twitter where the defender had more than a handful of Kengo’s shirt it looked like a straight red, but I also saw on twitter that people thought it was debatable. Looking at the replay on the highlights video, I can’t see why anyone would think that. It looks pretty clear to me. Kengo is also not the sort of player who is going to go down trying to get someone sent off. But yeah, as I always say, I’m biased. After the red card the game didn’t seem to change that much. We still looked under pressure but were getting a few breakaway chances. It looked a bit like we were the team with 10 men rather than Kashiwa as they had plenty of possession and were causing us some difficulties. On 76 minutes a Kashiwa forward (think it was Oliveira) broke forward and under pressure from Nara seemed to fling himself to the ground, I guess looking to get the numbers evened up. The ref booked Nara, but it looked like a dive to me… from the other end of the pitch. There were a few meaty challenges going in and Neto picked up a booking for a challenge he made which people are saying was retaliation for an earlier foul on him. Oniki did the right thing and changed Neto for Itakura shortly afterwards. I love Neto and I think he’s very important for us, but he does sometimes let his passion get the better of him, so well done Oniki for stopping this from happening. There was still time for one last change from us on 89 minutes. Abe was replaced by Morimoto who seemingly was tasked with getting the ball and hanging on to it with his bulk. And that was how the game finished, with Morimoto shielding the ball by the corner flag. Not exactly the most comfortable of victories but I think it was deserved. According to the stats, we dominated on possession and shots. Could have done with a few more of those shots going in though. But we’ll happily take the three points!

Positives and negatives. Let’s start positive today. Pleased for Taniguchi to score again. After not really being able to score from a corner for most of last season, we seem to be looking a bit more dangerous from set pieces, mainly from the head of Taniguchi. Our team is not exactly blessed with height, so it’s good that he’s seems to be getting better and better. Kengo had another good game, apparently with the energy of someone much younger than him. Abe did a decent job of playing up front by himself and I think that’s the best option we have at the moment, with Ienaga still injured. Also, I thought Nara had a pretty good game too. We looked, dare I say it, and I should stress that I am touching wood whilst I am typing this, not too bad at the back. Nara put in some crucial challenges and I’m really pleased, given the ridiculous decision given against him in Hong Kong, that when he was chasing back with a Kashiwa striker he was able to challenge and win the ball. I’m sure they red card was racing through his mind at the time. Sung-Ryong also looked pretty solid. He made some good saves and can’t be blamed for the goal. Oh, and yeeeeessssssssssss! We’re top of the league. I’m trying to get this up quickly whilst that is still the case. Negatives, whilst we were better today, we are still not taking our chances well enough at the moment. We did give Taketomi a free header for their goal so our set piece defending could use some work. And after starting games really well, we do seem to take our eye of the ball a little at crucial stages. We could have conceded a lot more goals in this game. But as I said, we also could have scored a lot more too.

So three games gone and seven points to show for it. The Kashiwa and Omiya victories looked decent enough without being spectacular, but in the game against Sagan Tosu we did look a bit shaky and things weren’t working so well. But, we didn’t lose it, I guess. Of course it’s still too early to say how things will go this season. Next up, we are away to Guangzhou Evergrande on Tuesday, which must be our trickiest ACL group game I guess. If we can get anything from that, it will be a huge boost. Then, next Saturday we are away to FC Tokyo, which is always a fun fixture. I’m sure you have seen the PPAP Tamagawa Classico version. I was wondering why Fronta had such a strange voice until it was pointed out to me that it was Ai Risa voicing him. Sorry Ai Risa! FC Tokyo have been tipped by quite a few people to be serious title contenders this season and of course we know who their number 13 is. I hope he plays the way he did during the last third of last season. Writing this before their third game, they haven’t exactly set the league alight of far, but they have got two wins out of two, so it will probably be our toughest game so far. I’d love a repeat of last year’s scoreline though. So, two tough games. How great things will look in ten days time if we can reflect on a couple of good results. Let’s hope so anyway. Go Frontale!


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 6. TASAKA Yusuke
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki (Yellow card 77')
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO (Yellow card 81')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
FW 8. ABE Hiroyuki

GK 30. ARAI Shota
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki (on for ABE 89')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
FW 22. RHAYNER (on for NOBORIZATO 68')
MF 25. KANO Kenta
MF 28. ITAKURA Ko (on for NETO 84')


TANIGUCHI (Frontale) 42' 1-0
NAKAMURA (Frontale) 45+1' 2-0
TAKETOMI (Kashiwa) 60'  2-1


The Frontale youtube channel has longer highlights provided by DAZN, but given that last year's highlights got wiped when the broadcaster got changed, I'm going to stick with the official J League ones. But you can watch the longer highlights here if you want.

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