The fun continues! After a 5-0 demolition of Kobe at the weekend, few could have expected us to dismiss Urawa with almost the same ease. But that's exactly what happened on Wednesday night at Todoroki. At times like this, it's a real joy to be a frontale fan. Not only are we winning, but we're winning in style against teams we'd expect to be strong, and on this occasion, a particular team that I am not particularly fond of. How long this will last is anyone's guess, as we're off to Kyushu next, where we haven't done very well recently. Fingers crossed I guess!
It was a weird night for a few reasons. We had a total downpour about an hour before kick off which threatened to make things interesting. Pleased to see that they didn't bother watering the pitch after that. The make up of the fans in the stadium was also a bit weird. We seemed to have given Urawa a hell of a lot of tickets for this game. Or maybe they were in areas that they perhaps shouldn't have been. Either way, one whole end of the stadium was red. I can't imagine Urawa doing the same thing for opposition fans. But as it turned out, this just meant that there were more if their fans to see them get totally destroyed by us. It's such a joy to type those words! I guess I should also once again make my complaint about their fans. Of course we're all aware of their reputation for being the most hooligan like fans in the league, being partial for a rumble and for also enjoying some casual and not so casual racism. But I find them pretty overrated when it comes to actually supporting. Sure they make a load of noise when they get going, but they really don't bother to get behind their team very often, and the rare support they do give tends to be particularly dirgey, if such a word exists. They started the game booing our possession. Guess it's more fun for them to hate the opposition than to support their own team. One of our players in particular seemed to be getting some grief from them. You can decide for yourself if it's a coincidence that it happened to be the one that's Korean. Anyway, enough whinging about them and on to making the most of an opportunity to gloat over a very good victory.
The starting line up was unsurprisingly unchanged. It would be harsh to change a team that had just won 5-0. There was one change on the bench though. Nara has apparently picked up another injury (hopefully nothing serious), and his place in the bench was taken by Itakura. Also present on the bench was 'Urawa killer' Moriya, who always seems to score against them. Presumably he'd be deployed if we needed a magical winning goal. The ref was Iemoto. Another one who I don't like, and whilst I had plenty of opportunities to moan at him, I'm not particularly upset looking back. We started the game poorly and were on the back foot immediately as they had a few chances. But we just about held firm. They seemed to have come with a physical game plan in mind, presumably to unsettle us and it worked early on. It didn’t take us too long to find our feet though, and after 16 minutes we took the lead. At the time I thought it might have had an element of offside about it, but watching the replay it seems we were ok. It was a fairly simple goal for us and refreshing to see us mixing it up a little and going a touch more direct. Abe passed the ball to Kobayashi on the edge of the box and his turn fooled the defenders. His finish was nice and we were a goal up. At this stage the game was fairly open, with both teams making chances. Urawa’s finishing in the first half though was pretty bad. Plenty of shots were flying well wide. But it was a bit cagey to be honest, with both teams probably realising the significance of the match. On 28 minutes we were two up and once again it was a direct move, this time from a counter attack with Edu winning the ball as Urawa entered our half. From there it went to Oshima, who then gave it to Kengo who played a lovely through ball for Abe to race on to and smash home from the edge of the box. A nice finish and a nice birthday present from Kengo to Abe on his special day. It’s weird that we had cut through them so easily on two occasions as they had a lot of players behind the ball for most of the game. Maybe they had come looking for a draw and hoping to snatch something on the counter attack. Urawa were stunned by this goal I think. Their manager Petrovic, who I have for some reason taken a dislike to, was flapping around on the touchline like one of those air powered dancing men that you sometimes see outside petrol stations or car lots. He seemed to be having a good old moan, but I don’t think he had anything to moan about from the point of view of the ref’s decisions. Perhaps he was unhappy with his team’s defending. The rest of the half was pretty ponderous from Urawa, both in the stand and on the pitch. They were playing the ball along their back line a lot, apparently unaware of the score. The fans were mostly silent, occasionally breaking into a boo. Probably the final highlight of the first half was a crunching ’tackle’ from Kurumaya on Moriwaki. I wouldn’t say I normally enjoy fouls, but when it’s on the loathsome Moriwaki, I think most people would make an exception.
The second half started with a sub from us. Hasegawa came on for Nobori. Not sure if this was tactical or for an injury. I thought Nobori had done a decent job in the first half though, but am always happy to see Hasegawa on the pitch. Once again we didn’t start the half particularly well, but the game was swinging from end to end. On 52 minutes Urawa had a great chance but were denied by a nice double save from Sung-Ryong. As the game went on he rescued us a few more times to be honest, as Urawa were turning the screw a bit. We were probably guilty of over-playing things rather than just having a shot (as usual!). On 70 minutes we had another breakaway and a great chance to finish them off but Kobayashi was a little off target (presumably getting those bad shots out of the way before his next goal, as he seems to do). A couple of minutes later it looked like we would be regretting that miss as Urawa got one back. Makino managed to get into the box pretty much unnoticed and head in a corner. We were starting to wobble. We were making chances on the break but Urawa were starting to boss the game. Neto missed a bit of a sitter. Seems he’s better at hammering them in from distance. On 79 minutes things swung back in our favour. A long goal kick from Sung-Ryong was headed on by Ienaga (who’d just replaced Kengo) and Kobayashi raced through on goal past their defenders and was pushed to the ground in the box by Endo. I think there’s not much doubt about the decision. I was pleased to see Endo off, as he’d been playing pretty well. After interminable delaying tactics from Urawa and then apparently the ref (!), Kobayashi stepped up and banished the ghosts of his last penalty miss against Cerezo. I’m not sure he meant to put it in off the post, but I guess it added to the tension and excitement… This seemed to be the cue for quite a few of the Urawa fans to head for the exits. I guess they weren’t really doing much anyway. The goal really switched the focus and we scored again a couple of minutes later. Hasegawa received the ball in his own half and ran towards the Urawa goal. He had a few options and I guess these helped to open up space for him to keep running. After a quick step-over he smacked it into the corner from just outside the box leaving Urawa’s captain on his backside. Good on him! We saw out the rest of the game pretty comfortably as it seemed Urawa had realised that the game was up. On 88 minutes, Tasaka replaced Kurumaya and took his place at left back. Another string to the Tasaka bow! There was also a bit of a dodgy tackle from Edu who got Lee right on the knee with a high boot. Of course I would say this, and I’m sure many opposition fans would disagree, but I think it was merely clumsy from Edu rather than malicious. He’s not that kind of player and the ref only gave him a yellow so it seemed he agreed. All in all, a pretty satisfying victory.
Positives and negatives. I’m going to leave the negatives today. I felt so good after the game and intend to keep that positivity going. Positives. A huge victory against a team I really dislike and who will probably be up there come the end of the season. Nine goals in two games! Kobayashi with another couple means that his confidence must be growing. Ienaga had a decent impact for the limited time he was on the pitch. I think as soon as his first goal goes in, he’ll really step things up. Hope it happens soon. Another great goal from Hasegawa. Basically, just loads of positive feeling about the result. It’s been a decent first half of the season I think. Maybe we’d have liked to have been a little higher up the table, but our ACL commitments and continued progress have maybe taken the edge off us a little in the league. But definitely something to build on in the second half. I worry a little what might happen if we get some injuries in crucial positions, as it’s pretty much the same eleven every week at the moment. I’m sure there are people on the bench willing to step up though. Guess it’s a matter of whether they are ready to do so.
Next up, we’re away at Sagan Tosu. I’m actually writing this in a hotel in Fukuoka in an effort to get the blog post up before the next game. Pretty hectic schedule at the moment. I would imagine the players agree! After that, we’re away again next Wednesday at Thespakusatsu Gunma in the Emperor’s Cup. I guess this means some players will be getting a rest. Maybe it'll be the first game that Kurumaya doesn’t play a part in. In any case, these are two pretty exciting away trips for me so I’m looking forward to both matches. Just hope that the results match my excitement. Go Frontale!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 18. ELSINHO
DF 5. TANIGUCHI ShogoDF 23. EDUARDO (Yellow card 86')
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo
MF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
FW 8. ABE Hiroyuki
GK 30. ARAI Shota
MF 6. TASAKA Yusuke (on for KURUMAYA 88')
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki
FW 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for NOBORIZATO 46')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
DF 28. ITAKURA Ko
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro (on for NAKAMURA 76')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
Could easily have been Kobayashi as his two goals changed the game, but he missed a few sitters too. Equally, Neto had a great game, but his sitter miss took the shine off a bit. The most crucial performance, however, was probably right at the back.
JUNG Sung-Ryong - Another solid performance in goal. Perhaps could have done better for their goal, but made up for it by saving us on plenty of other occasions.
ABE (Frontale) 29' 2-0
MAKINO (Urawa) 73' 2-1
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 82' 3-1
HASEGAWA (Frontale) 84' 4-1
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. There's also now some other match related content exclusive to the Frontale channel, so that's the bottom video.