Kawasaki Frontale 1 - 1 Ventforet Kofu
After the mood boost of last weekend in Sendai, it now somehow seems inevitable that we would come crashing back to earth at home against Kofu. April is a crazy busy month for us and we have some pretty important games. So far, won one and drawn one. To be honest, things could easily have been a lot worse given how late we conceded. But the real disappointment is the difference in how we played compared to last week. In Sendai, I was full of optimism with our new formation and how well some of the team performed. Today, we started with a similar formation which was gradually dismantled over the course of the game, and whilst we didn’t play particularly badly and we had loads of possession, we couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net until the 93rd minute. The picture above shows what was probably the highlight of the day for many. Some people messed around a bit with a drone and everybody took pictures.
We started the game with only one change from the Sendai match. Due to Oshima’s injury (5 weeks out…) Moriya took his place in central midfield alongside Neto. So we started with the same 3-2-3-2 as I want to call it, although the Frontal website seems to think it was more 3-4-3. I feel that Kengo was definitely behind Kobayashi and Hasegawa though, so I’m sticking to 3-2-3-2. The bench was an attacking one, with Miyoshi, Morimoto, Chinen and Otsuka (with Itakura, Arai and Kano being the other three). I suspect the big thing this tells us is who is fit to play though. We are not getting any luck with injuries at the moment and Kofu gave us another one in this game. We really need some of those injured players back soon. We must be getting close to breaking point! Kofu seemed to be lining up in a 9-1 formation, with loads of players at the back to hoof it to the big lump up front. Consequently, our three at the back was maybe a bit excessive. Kurumaya spent a lot of the first half attacking. I’m sure he was the furthest forward player on a few occasions. This wasn’t causing us any problems really though as Kofu weren’t offering much apart from an away shirt that looked a bit like a magic eye tablecloth. Stare at it long enough and the words ‘hit it long’ appear. Rhayner was all over the pitch and causing some problems and Nobori was tearing up the left with Kurumaya. We had a lot of possession in the first half, and actually in the game as a whole, but we weren’t really creating many chances (apparently only three shots in the first half). Rhayner had a decent effort. He’s getting closer every week. Hope he can score soon. The ref (here I go again…) put in another ridiculous display. Kofu were kicking lumps out of us with no punishment and Neto gets a card for his first foul. Is it just me, or are the majority of officials in the J League pretty useless? It’s always a pleasant surprise when the ref actually seems to have watched a game of football before. Although, I don’t moan about refs as much when we win, do I? All in all, it was a pretty disappointing first half. We were by no means terrible, but things weren’t clicking for us.
The second half started with a bit of a shuffle. We switched to a back four with Kurumaya at left back and Nobori at right back. Both were attacking a lot though. Kofu still weren’t offering much and seemed to be time-wasting right from the kick off. They were hoping to soak up our pressure and hit us on the break. Their penalty box and the area in front of it was very congested and we were really having trouble breaking through it. A lot of our players looked tired, which is a bit concerning this early on in the season. Rhayner was still running a lot, but there was something missing all the way through the middle of the team. Neto wasn’t having his best game. Same for Kobayashi. Kengo was pretty quiet. Hasegawa wasn’t having the impact he had in Sendai. But we slowly started picking things up a bit. It really felt like we needed a substitution and we got one on 72 minutes. The Kofu forward Dudu left a boot on on Sung-Ryong and he had to be replaced. We were at the other end of the ground, but it looked like a nasty little foul to be honest. Sung-Ryong seemed to want to continue, but apparently there was quite a lot of swelling around his eye so he was replaced by Arai. A few minutes later we got a substitution that wasn’t enforced on us. Hasegawa was replaced by Miyoshi who took up a position on the right, with Kengo to the left of him behind Kobayashi. Remember how well that whole Kobayashi up front by himself thing has gone recently? I guess it worked a little better today, but unfortunately Kobayashi wasn’t having the best of days. We were creating chances though and plenty of them. Whilst we still feel the need to try to pass the ball all the way to the net, we were having some shots and Rhayner was getting closer. We hit the post and it was surely only a matter of time… Chinen appeared again, replacing Moriya. I can’t even tell you what the formation was like at this stage. All I know is that he played up front and the other players played in other positions. Thing were pretty fluid with people all over the pitch. Due to the injury to Sung-Ryong, we were to have seven minutes of injury time. And then the inevitable happened. Completely against the run of play, they hit a through pass to their striker who I swore at the time was miles offside (he wasn’t…) and he managed to sprint past Nara and slot the ball home. Nara and Arai ended up in a heap and gave each other a rueful look. I don’t know who I blame. Maybe Nara would have had a better chance of catching him if he wasn’t appealing for offside. Taniguchi lost the ball pretty cheaply and you could say he was maybe a bit too far forward. Arai could probably have done a bit better. But what’s certain is that we were exposed in the way that we probably knew we were going to be. But, credit to the team and to the fans, we didn’t give up. We were making a lot of chances now and the noise in the stadium was building. Two minutes after their goal we were equal. Nara floated a well-directed header into the corner of the net from a corner. His first goal for Frontale and it was an important one. We still were pushing hard and looking for a winner. But it wasn’t to be. We had left it too late.
After the game, mixed emotions really. We really should have won it, be I can’t say for sure we deserved to. Certainly we were the team making the chances and with the possession, but our inability to finish off the nice moves we make is costing us at the moment. Sure, we’re blighted by injuries, but for pretty much the same team to perform so differently in two games only a week apart is a bit worrying. We had a lot more shots in the second half. 13 rather than the pitiful three in the first half. Over the course of the game we had twice as many as they did, but we scored the same amount of goals and took the same amount of points from the game. Positives and negatives. Start positive. We avoided a defeat and we came pretty close to it. We played some nice stuff on occasions in the game, but I think I’m clutching at straws a little. Rhayner looked decent. Kashima and FC Tokyo lost. But, (moving on to the negatives) Urawa won 7-0. I think at the moment it would take us three or four games to score that many goals. Too many players weren’t really with it in this game. Neto, Kobayashi, Kengo, Hasegawa all looked very different from last week. Potentially big negative is Sung-Ryong’s injury. Apparently it’s too early to say whether he will be able to play on Wednesday against Guangzhou. I hope he does as he was looking solid recently. Another player joins the injury list… And I guess the biggest negative is our inconsistency. Maybe it’s due to all the injuries, but I think Oniki is having trouble finding how we should be playing. Miyoshi doesn’t seem to be in favour at the moment, but maybe it’s worth giving him a start soon. We’ll see on Wednesday I guess.
As I’ve already mentioned a few times, next up is Guangzhou on Wednesday. If we’re going one good game one then one bad game at the moment, this bodes well for this game I suppose. I hope we can play like we did in the second half against them in the last ACL game, rather than put in the rabbit in the headlights performance we did in the first half of the same game. Whilst we’re still unbeaten in the ACL this year, we’re going to need to turn some of those 1-1s into wins soon. After that we’ve got another long away game against Consadole Sapporo next Sunday. Guess it’s going to be a bit chilly up there. Anyway, onwards and upwards. Go Frontale!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 3. NARA TatsukiDF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO (Yellow card 7')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
MF 22. RHAYNER (Yellow card 84')
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo
FW 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
GK 30. ARAI Shota (on for JUNG 72')
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki
MF 13. MIYOSHI Koji (on for HASEGAWA 75')FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for MORIYA 84')
MF 25. KANO Kenta
FW 27. OTSUKA Shohei
MF 28. ITAKURA Ko
KAWAMOTO (Kofu) 90+1' 0-1
NARA (Frontale) 90+3' 1-1
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.