Monday, 19 June 2017

Vs Sanfrecce Hiroshima (home) 17/6/17, J-League match 15

Kawasaki Frontale 1 - 0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 

After a two week break, football is back (international games don’t count as football as far as I’m concerned…) After our last disappointing performance against Yokohama, where we were half undone by the ref and half undone by our poor finishing, Sanfrecce were today's visitors. They’re a 'big team' but one that is having a stinker this year. This, along with us having big players finally back from injury and consequently grounds for optimism, made me think that this would probably mean that we were going to lose. We do seem to have a habit of stumbling when we should be having no problems, but I'm pleased to say we didn't this time. It was close, but we just about managed to get the three points and I guess at the end of the season we will remember that we won, rather than how close the game might have been. Not a lot has been going on since the last game. Hopefully we’ve had a chance to rest up a bit as our schedule may have been starting to catch up with us a little. The one piece of news was our signing of Wakizaka Yasuto from Hannan University. He’s actually returning to us, as he is a former Frontale youth player. Guess what? He’s a midfielder!

As I said, coming into the game we were boosted by the return of Elsinho, now sporting a slicked back ponytail. Not my favourite look if I'm honest, but delighted to have him back. Unfortunately for Rhayner, the three foreigners rule meant that he didn’t make the squad. It’s nice that we have that problem now though, as injuries have plagued us all year so far. We also welcomed back Oshima to the starting line up. I guess this could be the first time all year we could name our best starting eleven. Although I suppose the best starting eleven is something that none of us, including Oniki, are really sure of still. In goal, the usually wonderful Sung-Ryong continued. In front of him were Nobori on the right, Edu and Taniguchi in the middle and Kurumaya on the left. The defensive midfielders were Neto and Oshima. And up front in the constantly shifting front four were Kengo, Kobayashi, Abe and Elsinho. Abe started off up front with Kengo behind him, Kobayashi on the left and Elsinho on the right. But as always this shape didn’t hang around for long and pretty quickly everyone was swapping positions. On the bench we had Arai, Nara, Tasaka, Miyoshi, Hasegawa, Moriya and Ienaga. The game started with Hiroshima pressing us very high up the pitch. They were giving us no time on the ball and were putting in some pretty meaty challenges. The ref was Nishimura. These are words to strike fear into the heart of any Frontale fan. We never seem to get the rub of the green when he is in charge of one of our games. And so it was to be when Aoyama, Sanfrecce’s midfield ‘battler’ or ‘enforcer’ or ‘general’ (choose your favorite cliche. I think the truth would be something close to ‘dirty fouler’), smashed into Oshima and then had another kick at him whilst he was on the ground. This brought a surprisingly forthright reaction from nice guy Oshima and started a little bit of argy-bargy during which Neto shoved Aoyama's shoulder. Aoyama dropped to the floor clutching his face (I really, really hate it when players do these kind of things), presumable trying to get Neto sent off and avoid punishment for the nasty little fouls he had put in on Oshima. As is totally predictable when you get this kind of mini fracas the referee booked one player from each team. It’s true that Neto deserved his card as you really shouldn’t just shove someone. It’s annoying though that Aoyama got away with just a yellow as he really showed himself to be a horrible little man. Shortly afterwards there was one of those horrible moments when you see a potentially very serious injury. A Sanfrecce player got his head in the way of an Oshima blaster and hit the floor very hard. The reaction of the ref and the players near to the action suggested that maybe he’d been knocked out and unsurprisingly he was unable to continue. I’m sure all Frontale fans wish him a speedy recovery. Aside from these two incidents that I seem to have written a lot about, there was also a football game taking place. Sanfrecce made some good chances and so did we, but neither team had any cutting edge. As is usual of late, our finishing wasn’t really up to scratch. Kengo was a bit out of sorts and Elsinho was maybe lacking a bit of sharpness (understandable after so long out). Kobayashi was pretty quiet. Our rotation up front seemed to leave us, more often than not, with no-one up front, which I don’t think was the intention. I guess these four haven’t played together yet though. The fact that for the majority of the game Sanfrecce had 10 players behind the ball didn’t help. They’d clearly come to soak up the pressure and hopefully hit us on the break. And they had a few chances. But thankfully when they did break Edu and Taniguchi were doing a decent job at stopping them getting through. So very far from an exciting first half. We were showing some promise, but were pretty disjointed.

The second half started with no changes for us. And we started brightly. We were making good goal scoring opportunities but as usual the finishing was weak and either straight at the keeper or off-target. But there was reason for some optimism. Hiroshima were persisting with the ‘everyone defending’ tactics that had served them pretty well in the first half, but we were starting to cut through them a bit more. Then, finally we got a shot on target with a bit of welly behind it and we were ahead. Some nice build up play from Kengo and Neto resulted in a pass which a Sanfrecce defender got a boot on. The ball fell invitingly for Abe who hammered it home into the corner with his left foot. On target and with some power! Lovely! Not much more than a minute later Abe had a chance to double his tally but we were back to the weak shots again so it was an easy save for the Hiroshima keeper. I wouldn’t say we were sitting on our lead particularly, but we definitely changed the way we were playing a little. It almost seemed like a bit of desperation was coming into our game in spite of the fact that we were winning. We started giving the ball away and gifting them opportunities. The best one was around 72 minutes when they were able to cross and find their player who was perfectly positioned between two of our defenders (who were very much not perfectly positioned). Thankfully his header hit the bar (Sung-Ryong had it covered, I'm sure…) and the rebound was bravely headed away by Oshima. This flurry of chances for them prompted a substitution from Oniki who brought on Nara for Elsinho. I think we switched to three at the back, but Nobori and Kurumaya weren’t exactly bombing forward so maybe it was more like a back line of five. As for what the change meant further up the field, well, your guess is as good as mine. True, we added a bit more strength to our defence but the gaps it left upfield meant that as soon as we did manage to break up their attacks the ball went forward to nobody and they could come straight back at us. It was pretty uncomfortable viewing to be honest and my feeling was that we were going to concede an late equaliser. On 84 minutes, Kengo was replaced by Ienaga but on the whole, not a great deal changed. We were still looking wobbly. On 90 minutes with three minutes of injury time to be played Sung-Ryong had to make a crucial save low down by the foot of the post, preserving our lead. If that had gone in, I could have seen us conceding again and losing the match to be honest, but our 2017 hero had saved us again. At the moment he has to be making a case for being player of the season, I think. I imagined we would put on another sub to waste a bit of the last few minutes but we didn’t. Possibly we were struggling enough to defend without disrupting things further with a substitution. And we hung on. But it wasn’t exactly comfortable.

Positives and negatives. Positive first. Back to winning ways and three points on the board. A nice goal from Abe keeps his goal tally ticking over nicely. Taniguchi and Edu had a reasonable game, at least in the first half. Elsinho and Oshima are back. We managed to survive a Nishimura refereed game without too many bad decisions. Negatives, a few more. For large parts of the second half we looked pretty clueless. We couldn’t keep the ball up front and were having to defend desperately (which we just about managed, so I guess that could go in the positives column). Oniki’s change of tactics didn’t seem to change anything. We are still a work in progress up front and our shots were way too easy for them to stop. A better team would have punished us I reckon. I think many of us thought that this season could be one of transition and next year we might be able to push on. This is probably true, but it seems that the league is wide open this year so we’re still in there. But there’s a few big teams that we haven’t played yet and those games are coming up soon.

Next up is Tochigi UVA in the Emperor’s Cup on Wednesday. UVA seem to be in pretty awful form at the moment, sitting second bottom of the Japan Football League (the fourth tier) with 10 points from 14 games. I guess this will be an opportunity for Oniki to give some match time to some of the players we haven’t seen much of this season. I’m hoping to see a Tabinas debut and a first professional goal from Chinen. After that we’re off to Gamba Osaka on Sunday. Not the easiest of places to go to, but it’s a nice ground and hopefully we can get something from the game. I’m sure Abe will be up for showing his old fans what he’s doing these days. Let’s hope we can put in a better performance than we did on our last trip to Osaka when we played terribly against Cerezo. Let’s stay optimistic! Go Frontale!


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO (Yellow card 17')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
FW 8. ABE Hiroyuki

GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki (on for ELSINHO 78')
MF 6. TASAKA Yusuke
FW 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro (on for NAKAMURA 84')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

Nice goal from Abe, but there's one guy without whom we wouldn't have won, so once again it's...

JUNG Sung-Ryong - particularly for that one cracking save, but he made a couple of other good ones too.

ABE (Frontale) 56' 1-0


The Frontale youtube channel usually 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment