This is a post surprisingly light on details. I think anyone who watched on TV or the internet probably has a much better idea of what went on than anyone who attended the game, as in addition to the usual running track, we had an area of grass about the size of another running track round the outside. And also we were pretty much standing at ground level so the angle wasn't great either. And the weather went from not great to pretty bad during the second half when we were soaked through by a heavy rain shower and further disoriented. Considering that it's not that far away, the journey there took a pretty long time. However, I like the new rule that draws the stronger team away this year, ( although not sure how that will work in the next round though when there will probably be J1 teams playing each other). I heard that this would not apply to teams still in the ACL. However, it seems the exception doesn't count if you are lowly Frontale. It really does seem that the 'big' teams get priority treatment. But, it was a really fun evening to be honest. I like Emperor's Cup games as they normally give us a hint of what the rest of the squad is up to, and we get to see some different grounds, players, teams and fans.
To be honest though, our starting line up was quite familiar this time. I guess this may be due to the break from games that we have soon. We didn't have the need to rest players to give them a break from the league, but sadly this meant that some of the more peripheral players didn't get a look in this time. Although there were a few unusual starters. In goal we had Arai, with Tasaka, Taniguchi, Nara and Nobori ahead of him. The defensive midfielders were Neto and Moriya. And the front four were Ienaga, Kengo, Rhayner and Morimoto. There was definitely a fair bit of movement up there though. On the bench were Ando, Abe, Oshima, Kobayashi, Hasegawa, Elsinho and Itakura, so no place this time for some of the youngsters. The game started very badly for Thespakusatsu, (think from here forwards I'll just call them Kusatsu, as they seem to call themselves that). In the third minute we took the lead and it was slightly surprisingly a nice Morimoto goal! Moriya played a lovely ball into the box and Morimoto controlled, turned and slotted it home into the corner. Well done him! Perhaps the first step on the road back to some form for him. He had a reasonable game I think, leading the line as a target man, holding the ball up and at times on the right wing. He definitely offers something a little different from our other strikers so could be useful in the future if he can keep recovering the ability we know he has. I'm sure that his goal was due to me having a photo taken with him on Tuesday morning. Frontale Rabbit Blog power! In spite of this early assist, Moriya seemed to be getting moaned at by some elements of our fans which annoyed me a bit. He was doing ok I thought, and once again playing in a position that probably wouldn't be very close to his first choice. Most of the play in the first half was going on at the other end of the pitch, near the Kusatsu goal. However we did give them a few chances by giving the ball away and they showed that they can attack. Fortunately for us their finishing didn't seem very good and the few times they managed to get a shot on target, Arai was able to deal with it pretty easily. I think the surface wasn't helping. It had been pretty wet in Maebashi that day and whilst the rain held off for the first half, plenty of players were slipping and sliding around on the pitch and perhaps our short passes weren't really going exactly where we might have hoped. One thing that Kusatsu seemed particularly good at was putting in meaty challenges. Their number 8 was probably lucky to not get sent off. He picked up a booking pretty early on and I think probably could have had another yellow on a few occasions. Rhayner was having a good game going forward and covering at the back. I guess his recent absence from the squad, due to the limit on foreigners, has made him come back with some enthusiasm to show what he can do. Neto was also doing a great job of spraying long passes across the field, switching the play and making some great opportunities for us. As soon as I wrote this note on my phone, he put in an absolute stinker which flew right off the other side of the pitch. But aside from that one, he had a decent game. Our second goal came right near the end of the half and once again Moriya was involved, giving the ball to Rhayner who did a great job of making some space, shielding the ball and then laying it off for Tasaka to smack it home from outside the box. Kind of reminiscent of his goal in the last Emperor's Cup game. So, a reasonably satisfying first half. Nothing amazing from us, but despite gifting them a few chances, we were fairly comfortable.
With the second half came the rain, a couple more goals and a few substitutions. Personally speaking, the rain was the most memorable factor. I pointed out that bizarrely it was raining on the pitch but not in the stands and almost immediately the deluge started, slowly at first, but gradually building up to power shower intensity. To be honest, it was quite refreshing. Not so refreshing was the two and a half hour journey home, soaked to the skin. I had a rain poncho in my bag, but as the rain only gradually built up, by the time I decided I should probably be wearing it, it was probably already a little too late. In the interests of 'painting it blue' I didn't cover my shirt with a boring white non-official rain coat and the weather actually did for some reason seem to make our support stronger and louder. Not so good for taking notes on a phone though. I managed a few pictures, but there's a reason people don't use their phone whilst showering. It's difficult to type. So all of what follows comes from my memories on the train home and watching the highlights so will probably be presented here in a not particularly linear way. Firstly, Moriya's goal was spectacular. He really has a talent for hitting them in from distance, but the curve and the dip were great. Really pleased for him. Equally, I'm really pleased Ienaga has finally got off the mark. It was a fairly regulation header from a Moriya corner, but the celebration from him showed how much it meant to him and the rest of the team. Until the goal he'd done a decent job of approach play, but couldn't quite get it together when it came to shooting. Actually you could probably say this about his whole season's performances up till this goal. Apparently it's a little difficult to fit in to the Frontale way of playing for new signings sometimes. I think we've been patient though. We know he's a good player and he's been doing well apart from directly in front of goal. But as soon as the ball hit the net he seemed like a changed man, hungry for the ball and dangerous going forward. He was really up for it and I have great hopes for him for the rest of the season. Other reflections on the half were that Rhayner once again was doing a great job and that we had a very enjoyable mix of goal scorers. Of the second half subs, I was quite surprised to see Kobayashi come on for Morimoto. I thought he would be one of the players looking to have a rest. But perhaps the hint of some interest from the national team meant that he was looking for some more time on the pitch. Hasegawa on for Kengo made sense as it seems that Kengo is feeling the pace a little recently. I was actually surprised to see him start. He's still hugely important for us so I thought he might have been rested for what on paper was an easier game. Nice to see Hasegawa back after being absent from the match day squad at Tosu. Finally Itakura on for Neto gave both players a chance. Itakura, a chance to get a bit more practice before going away again with the U23 national team, and Neto, a chance to have sit down and dry off. So, it finished 4-0, with decent performances from all of the players involved. It's probably only Miyoshi now that we need to get scoring. He wasn't involved at Kusatsu though, which was a shame. He too is off with the U23s now. We're through to the next round, which I believe will be drawn in August. I'd quite like another away trip like this to be honest.
Positives and negatives. Let's start negative. The train journey home was uncomfortable because my clothes were very wet. That's about it to be honest. Positives. I guess we have to start with the first goals for Morimoto and Ienaga. Confidence sure to follow hopefully. I should also point out that I had a photo with Ienaga too. And Tasaka. My powers are strong. A clean sheet is nice too, and the fact that we only picked up one yellow card (for Rhayner, can't remember why actually...). We looked pretty solid at the back apart from a couple of slip ups, and we got a clean sheet. Of the players who don't regularly start, I'd say that Moriya and Rhayner made most of a claim for themselves. Both were very involved and made a good case for what they can offer. Finally, I guess the most important thing is that we're through to the next round.
Next, we have a bit of a break. Our next game is against Jubilo Iwata at home on the 29th. Before then, we have a supporters event, a training camp and a well deserved rest for the players. It's maybe a bit of a shame to lose the momentum, as we're in good form at the moment, but hopefully this will carry over to when we're back in action. And everyone, players, staff and fans alike can have a bit of a rest. Go Frontale!
GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 6. TASAKA Yusuke
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
MF 22. RHAYNER (Yellow card 63)MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki
GK 24. ANDO Shunsuke
GK 24. ANDO Shunsuke
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for MORIMOTO 56')
FW 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for NAKAMURA 65')
MF 18. ELSINHO
DF 28. ITAKURA Ko (on for NETO 82')
Once again there were a few contenders and everyone played pretty well I thought. It could have gone to Rhayner who was a constant menace and whose control and dribbling was great. Ienaga or Morimoto both got their important first goals of the season. Neto controlled the middle of the pitch and distributed the ball fantastically (most of the time...). But when you look at the stats, I think it has to go to one player.
MORIYA Kentaro - Had a hand in all of the goals. One goal, two assists and an assist assist (pre-assist, sub-assist, call it what you want, maybe don't call it anything...) It probably could have gone to him just for the great goal, but given his other contributions, it was pretty clear cut I think.
MORIMOTO (Frontale) 3' 0-1
TASAKA (Frontale) 44' 0-2
MORIYA (Frontale) 61' 0-3
IENAGA (Frontale) 76' 0-4
Actually managed to find some proper highlights for this round. Still no sign of any from the last round. Maybe that kind of thing is only for the big teams...