Friday 28 April 2017

Vs Suwon Bluewings (away) 25/4/17, ACL Group Stage Match 5

Suwon Bluewings 0 - 1 Kawasaki Frontale

It’s a bit early in the season to be having make or break games, but Tuesday night’s away game in Korea was exactly that. Given our/the referee’s (delete as the mood takes) terrible performance in Hong Kong it was nice that we were still in the competition by the time the fifth game came round. And whilst we weren’t exactly looking like we were in a particularly strong position, the fact that our last group game at home against Eastern was potentially our easiest (but we all know how we normally go in those kind of situations…), gave us the knowledge that if we were able to get a result in Suwon, we would have an excellent chance of progressing. I’ve tweeted about some things that happened at the end of the game but will leave them out of this match report as I am intending to write another post on that soon. Needless to say, it was an eventful evening in Suwon, in what was a very nice stadium but which was very empty. It seems that the Suwon fans aren’t too keen on weekday evening games or possibly the ACL or possibly Frontale. The attendance was only about 3500. It’s difficult to estimate how many of these were Frontale fans, but I’d say that there probably weren’t more than about 100. I am not very good at estimating numbers of people though. 

I was expecting the starting line-up to clarify whether we were serious about progressing. I have no idea if it did or not. Somehow we seemed to name both a strong and weak line-up at the same time. Sung-Ryong was in goal and the back four was Tasaka, Nara, Taniguchi and Kurumaya. So far so familiar. The defensive midfielders were Kengo and Moriya and in front of them were Miyoshi, Otsuka and Abe (from right to left) with Kobayashi up front by himself. Rhayner was back from suspension in the league but only made it on to the bench. Neto who is suspended for the next league game was also on the bench. I was a little surprised by both of these. The rest of the bench were Arai, Itakura, Hasegawa, Morimoto and a back from injury Takeoka. In spite of the lack of supporters for both teams, the atmosphere was actually pretty good. I don’t know how big Suwon’s drum is, but it made a hell of a noise and there was plenty of singing from both sets of fans. We started the first half pretty shakily. Suwon had several very good chances, but they were wasteful in front of goal. As were we when we had our chances. In the two games I have seen, I feel that we are fairly similar teams to be honest. We both pass the ball around quite nicely and neither of us seem to be able to put away many of our chances. But they do seem to be able to do the physical thing a bit better than us and have a lot more height in their team. There were a few crunching challenges flying in our direction quite early on but it seems we miraculously managed to escape any further injuries to our glass-limbed squad. Otsuka was playing in the all action role that was familiar last season and started the game in not the best form. He was giving the ball away a bit and wasn’t quite up to speed but was running around a lot and making a nuisance of himself. Our passing took a while to click and we were pretty sloppy for the first quarter of the game, often passing the ball to nobody. There also seemed to be a bit of a lack of communication in between the defensive midfield and the forwards which is ironic considering all of the outfield players were Japanese. Suwon probably had the best of the first half to be honest, but it was fairly even. We’d both had good chances and failed to put them away, but Suwon had a few more and better ones too. One miss was a particular stinker. It was pretty much the same old story as the last few games with possession, passing, pressure but not really any decent shots. But in a new development to the same old story thing, we were a bit more shaky at the back. Great…

We started the second half pretty well, coming out firing and were piling on the pressure. On 48 minutes Kengo swung in a lovely free kick and Nara beat three defenders to head the ball into the far corner. It was a beautiful goal and we celebrated like crazy. This goal seemed to give us loads of confidence and we started playing some lovely stuff. On 65 minutes we made a double substitution with Neto on for Moriya and Rhayner coming on for Otsuka. It looked like Miyoshi moved into Otsuka’s position and Rhayner on the right. Kobayashi had a one-on-one with the keeper and when it looked easier to score than not he managed to take the tougher option. I hope he can soon get scoring again, as aside from penalties he hasn’t found the net much recently and must be low on confidence. We really needed another goal and we were making chances. Rhayner and Kobayashi combined with some lovely skills but he Rhayner could only hit it straight at the keeper. Suwon, who only needed a draw to progress started piling on the pressure and we were riding our luck a little. However, you could probably say the same about them as we were still attacking well, right up until the bit where you have to shoot. Abe was having another good game, helping out a lot defensively and showing that he has a surprising amount of strength for a little guy. The ref, who had been having a slightly flaky game was really coming under some pressure from the Suwon fans who definitely felt like they were being hard done by. Towards the end of the game he seemed to almost completely lose control. We made it to 90 minutes with our clean sheet still intact and only needed to see out the four minutes of injury time. I’m sure the late capitulation against Shimizu was in our minds for better or worse as the clock ticked on. And then in the fourth of the four minutes Suwon had an amazing chance to score and looked destined to do so. Sung-Ryong pulled out a worldy (as I believe they are called), managing to get down fast, get an arm on a powerful shot and then roll on to the loose ball. I had no idea how close we’d come to messing it up again until I saw the replay as this was very much at the other end of the pitch. The replay shows just how good the save was. Must have been particularly emotional for him in front of the fans of the team he used to play for. Not sure how the feel about him, but I imagine they were a little irritated after he saved that shot.

So, we did it. We held on, took the three points and whilst we are still in third position in the group, our last game puts us down as favourites to go through. But best not count our chickens yet. Suwon and Guangzhou now both have a tricky last game where a win for either team will take them through, but a draw will put Suwon out. We’ll see what happens the week after next. Positives and negatives. Positives first. Finally a win in this competition, and finally a win after a long run of draws. Another goal for Nara and a clean sheet (even if we probably didn’t deserve it). Amazing performance from Sung-Ryong to keep us in the game in the second half and one particularly amazing save. Hopefully we’ll get a confidence boost from this too. Takeoka back from injury too, which gives us a bit more depth in the squad. Negatives, we rode our luck defensively and whilst we got away with it, we probably shouldn’t have done so. Still wasteful in front of goal, but hopefully the win will bring confidence which will bring more goals. The big negative is the thing I haven’t talked about. The invasion of our end by the away fans was pretty shocking and quite scary, although the fact that no real trouble seems to have occurred has to go down as a positive. We had no idea at the time why it had happened, but once we were back on the bus found out. The two idiots who were displaying the rising sun flag should be ashamed of themselves, not just for the cultural insensitivity, (which may well have been exactly why they took it in the first place) but for the impact it could have had on the safety of the Frontale fans, the reputation of the team and any possible punishment we may receive for displaying it. Like I said, I will write another post going into more detail when I have sorted the whole thing through in my head, but however long or short it was displayed for was too long.

Next up, we’re away at Cerezo Osaka on Sunday. This is the third of three games against promoted sides in a row, two away and one at home. So far we’ve had two draws. Let’s hope we can draw on some of the confidence we’ve gained from this victory and put it towards another win. And let’s hope that we can get a few more of the injured players fit again and put a run of good results together. Go Frontale! 


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 6. TASAKA Yusuke
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki
FW 27. OTSUKA Shohei

GK 30. ARAI Shota
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO (on for MORIYA 65')
MF 22. RHAYNER (on for OTSUKA 65')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

Sung-Ryong JUNG  - Awesome saves keeping us in the game. Safe hands!


NARA (Frontale) 48' 0-1


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