Sunday, 21 May 2017

Vs Kashima Antlers (away) 19/5/17, J-League match 12

Kashima Antlers 0 - 3 Kawasaki Frontale

[Insert expletive to show shock here]. This was a bit of a surprise. Going in to this game against our bogey team Kashima Antlers we had won three in a row, scoring nine and conceding none. I would never have expected us to get the 3-0 scoreline to keep the average going from the previous games. But we did. And whilst it wasn’t the most convincing of performances, it was the most convincing of scores and to be honest, I think most of us would take a good result over a good performance when we’re playing Kashima. This time I decided to spice up the usual challenging bus journey by going to a beer festival immediately beforehand. In the end though, it wasn’t too bad. I guess that due to the Friday night kick off a lot of people didn’t go. The attendance was only just over 10,000 which is pretty shocking for a team like Kashima in their big fancy stadium. We took a decent amount though and the away end, which for some reason has moved to the other end of the pitch from last year, was making a decent noise. I think this is why I always prefer away games. There are a lot more people singing rather than just clapping which makes for a much better atmosphere and a more enjoyable experience. Thankfully, due to Kashima winning their ACL group, we won’t be playing them three times in a row. This would have happened if either of us hadn’t topped our groups. I wouldn’t have fancied doing that coach journey four times in just over a week. And I’m sure they would have got the better of us, as they always seem to do when it matters.

The team was slightly changed from our last game against Jubilo. Sung-Ryong continued in goal and continued in the fine form he has been in recently. The back four was Takeoka, Taniguchi, Edu and Kurumaya. Defensive midfield was Neto and Oshima and the front four was made up of Kengo, Kobayashi, Abe and Hasegawa, who took the place of Rhayner. On the bench were Arai, Noborizato, Nara, Tasaka, Morimoto, Rhayner and Ienaga. Once again, I can’t really say who was playing up front. Again, it seemed that Kobayashi and Abe were taking turns which seems to be working quite well. We started the game with loads of possession and a load of booing from the Kashima fans. It seems that, similarly to the Urawa fans, they don’t like it when the other team has the ball. I don’t know why, but I find it quite annoying. Sure if we are just playing it repeatedly across the back four, it might be irritating, but if we are passing and making chances and your team can’t get hold of the ball, it seems a little pathetic to boo every pass. Early on it was clear that we had a new contender for worst ref in Japan. I think this is the first time I have come across Tojo, or if he’s refereed one of our games before he couldn’t have been as useless as he was on Friday night. Normally a ref annoys one set of fans, but Tojo seems to have a wonderful ability to unite rival fans in mutual bewilderment and dismay at his bizarre decisions and incomprehension of the rules of football. In the first half it seemed to be the case that all the decisions went your own way if you were in your own half. In the second half he mixed it up, making decisions entirely at random, apparently controlled only by the desire to make sure that they were always the wrong decision to make. Also, somewhat bizarrely, all the officials seemed to be wearing the same shirts as Sung-Ryong. Neto and Oshima were playing well in midfield, totally controlling things. Hasegawa was all over the pitch getting involved up front and at the back. He’s really having a good season this year. Whilst we rode our luck a little in the first half, not being punished by some dodgy finishing and being saved on a few occasions by some Sung-Ryong super-saves, we were also testing their defence a fair bit. It was from one of these saves that we scored our first goal. A half-volleyed shot from a Kashima corner was well blocked by Sung-Ryong and the ball fell to Kurumaya who set off upfield. Hasegawa sped through the middle, collected a pass and shot across the goal. The keeper parried it, but it fell to Abe to tap in for three goals in three consecutive games. A nice move and unusual for us to score on a quick breakaway. We’re normally a lot more deliberate about things! Our second goal was also an uncharacteristically fast move. A pass from defence was beautifully half-dummied by Oshima to put Kobayashi through. I say half-dummied as I initially thought he’d dummied it and it seems that the Kashima defenders bought that dummy, but there does seem to have been a small touch on it. Kobayashi crossed the ball and this time it was Abe whose shot was saved and fell for Hasegawa to smash home. You’ve got to feel a bit sorry for their keeper (another South Korean!), who was doing his best, but we always seemed to have players available to smash another shot in from the rebound. Very satisfying! And also right on half time, which they always say is a good time to score, but I think in my book, anytime is a good time to score. So we went into the break with a 2-0 lead and very very happy.

The second half started with no change in players or formation. We were doing well and whilst we weren’t dominating, there was definitely no reason to change anything. It seemed that Kashima had received a bit of a talking to though, as they came out with some determination and made a few more decent chances. Cue some more great Sung-Ryong saves. I didn’t realise how good some of these saves were till I saw the highlights to be honest. He’s really doing the business at the moment and long may that continue! On 56 minutes Nobori came on for Hasegawa. I’m not sure why to be honest and made a note saying it was a strange sub as Hasegawa had been doing well. Perhaps he’d picked up a little knock though. No sooner than I had made the note saying it was a strange sub, the sub scored. Recently I had been thinking that Nobori’s song was a bitterly ironic one, a darkly humorous yet nostalgic nod to the times when he did ‘get goal’, but apparently not. Again it was good work from Kurumaya who fed the ball to Abe on the edge of the box. The Kashima defender totally flattened Abe and the ball ran to Nobori who drove into the box round a couple of players and put the ball in off the far post. He looked delighted to score for the first time since 2014 and the mood in the stand reached a new unheard of peak. I think the defender was lucky to get away with not being booked for his assault on Abe but it seems the ref missed it, despite it being right in front of him.

30 minutes to go and we were leading 3-0 away from home against our bogey team. What could possibly go wrong? Fortunately, nothing it seems. Sung-Ryong kept up his dominant form and people were getting in the way of shots and passes all over the pitch. The defence was having a decent game and when they were beaten we had our hero in between the sticks to save us. If he’s a confidence driven player, he must be getting better and better as he is making more and more great saves recently. I wouldn’t say we saw out the remainder of the game easily but we did it competently. I was a bit surprised to see Kashima show-boating flicks and backheels whilst 3-0 down at home, but each to their own. They certainly seem to be better at doing that kind of thing than shooting. Probably the only other notable incidents were Rhayner coming on for Oshima who seemed to have picked up a knock again, and Ienaga replacing Kobayashi. Both of these subs had a decent go in the limited time they had available. The feeling at the final whistle was great. The best since Suwon away, another game where we had shut out the opposition with some great stuff from Sung-Ryong. It was a nice relief not to have the opposition fans invade our area though and we were able to fully enjoy Edu forcefully leading the crowd in the ‘Vai La De Frontale’ song. What he lacks in tunefulness he certainly makes up for in enthusiasm!

Positives and negatives. Let’s start negative, although all I can think of is the possible injury to Oshima. I hope it was more of a precautionary sub rather than anything serious. I honestly can’t think of anything else, which is lovely! Positives, a few more. First of all the goals. Three in three for Abe, Hasegawa keeps putting them in and Nobori got one. Shame Kobayashi didn’t score again, but he’s doing a great job helping make them at the moment, so I hope he’s happy with that. Apart from giving the ball away a couple of times I thought Neto had a great game. His best one for a while. He was my man of the match till I saw some of Sung-Ryong’s saves. Can’t say anyone had a bad game. Very satisfying. Three points at Kashima and the scoreline is a big bonus. Seems like many of the other teams at the top have also won this weekend, but I’m happy as long as we keep winning. Let’s start paying more attention to the others when we aren’t winning, as as long as we keep winning, there’s not much else we can do. Maybe the front two rotation thing with Abe and Kobayashi could also be the solution to our previous goal-scoring problems. It certainly seems to be working at the moment anyway. And confidence… that most elusive of qualities that seems to be sticking with us for the time being. Long may that continue. Four wins in a row, 12 goals scored, no goals conceded.

Next up we have Muangthong United of Thailand in the ACL knockout stage. They are another moneybags team and won all of their home games in the group stage, before finishing runners up to some team called Kashima. Whilst they apparently started the ACL as underdogs in their group, they have done pretty well. But let’s hope that run stops from Tuesday onwards. It’s a long journey to Thailand and I reckon it will be pretty hot and humid there, but hopefully we’ll be able to get a decent result to take into the home leg on May 30th, which will be the next game in our quieter than usual schedule. We’re back to J League action on Sunday June 4th away to Yokohama. So a little break from the league, but still plenty to get excited about. I won’t be going to Thailand so expect some more photos of a pub TV in the next game report. Let’s hope we can keep this winning run going! Go Frontale!


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
FW 8. ABE Hiroyuki

GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for HASEGAWA 56')
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
MF 6. TASAKA Yusuke
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki
MF 22. RHAYNER (on for OSHIMA 71')
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro (on for KOBAYASHI 83')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

Was going to be Neto until I saw the highlights as I thought he'd bossed the midfield. But after seeing some of the saves it has to once again be Sung-Ryong.

JUNG Sung-Ryong - getting better and better, game by game. Long may it continue!


ABE (Frontale) 19' 0-1
HASEGAWA (Frontale) 45' 0-2
NOBORIZATO (Frontale) 61' 0-3


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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