I’m probably not going to write too much about the actual game as not a lot happened. We started fairly brightly but passes were going astray and players from both teams were stumbling and falling on the horrible surface. I guess it’s no surprise that Leandro, Kobe’s former star striker has been injured so long and so frequently. I’m sure if I checked I’d find he got injured away from home, but that would undermine my point, so I won’t. Elsinho and Neto seemed to be having particular problems passing. On the whole we were doing ok, but were having to resort to playing it a little longer than usual, as short passes were more liable to be affected by bobbles. Kobe were playing a very physical game, allowing us no time on the ball and this wasn’t helping our usual game much. It’s a tactic people have employed with some success against us and it definitely disrupts our flow. Of course, I don’t like it, but I totally understand why people do it. Unfortunately Kobe were overdoing the whole pressing thing, committing foul after foul. It seemed extremely unlikely that the match would end with everyone on the pitch. We were making chances but they were having a few of their own. Sung-Ryong made an amazing save from one of these chances. The majority of their attacks were dealt with fairly easily. But after we won the ball, we’d then give it away playing out of defence. Not exactly the most reassuring kind of play. Guess our old friend the pitch was playing an important role. We were doing ok, but I couldn’t help but feel that we were slightly intimidated or on edge. Not a hugely satisfying first half, but we could definitely have some confidence that we’d turn it up a gear in the second half.
After another round of repairs from the huge team of groundsmen at half time we were back out, ready to pick up where we left off. Unfortunately it didn’t really work like that. We were definitely much more on the back foot in the second half. We made a sloppy start and were once again kicking everything long. I know we were being pressured on the ball at the back, but I still think we would have been better off sticking to the normal plan and playing it out of defence. As I’ve said many times, we lack height up front so long goal kicks meant we were losing possession, either to a Kobe defender or sometimes with the ball running all the way through to their keeper. Not at all effective for us. Kobe had the lions share of the chances in the second half, hitting the post and bringing out some great saves from Sung-Ryong. I remember last year we were down to our fourth choice keeper for this game and Takagi had a bit of a mare for a couple of the goals. Thankfully we had Sung-Ryong in this game. We were making opportunities but never quite getting to the actual shooting part. It was pretty disappointing. This disappointment was compounded by an injury to Oshima on 57 minutes. After beating a Kobe defender he went charging past only to pull up with what looked like a serious muscle injury. No blame on the defender. I’m guessing it was thanks to the damn pitch. Moriya came on to replace him. Out for two months, so the majority of the remainder of the season. The ref was losing control a little. Plenty of yellow cards were being dished out to Kobe but they also seemed to be getting the benefit of the doubt every time one of our attackers came up against one of their defenders. We made a couple more changes, as we’ve come to expect, Hasegawa on for Abe and towards the end of the game, Morimoto on for Kengo but nothing gave. We hugged and puffed but couldn’t get our shots away, let alone hit the target or work the keeper. We finished the game with two decent chances from free kicks just outside their box, but the first resulted in a free kick to them and the second sailed across the box without us getting anything on it. To make matters worse, Kashima scored in injury time to win against Gamba, pretty much putting an end to our title hopes. Oh well, maybe next year... Let’s hope we can hold onto second place as apparently the prize money has dramatically increased this year. And of course we need another Silver medal to add to our collection.
Positives and negatives. Positives first. Better result than last year, but not nearly good enough for what we needed. Only one serious injury from a horrible surface and some terrible tackles. A clean sheet. Players didn’t blame the surface which is good of them, as I think it really should be blamed. That’s about it. Negatives. We couldn’t cope with the bad surface. We definitely didn’t challenge their keeper enough, attacking a lot, but not really shooting much. A big problem if you want to score goals. Too many players couldn’t pass. A bad injury for Oshima. Any momentum picked up in the Shimizu games is gone. Our title challenge is over. Tojo is still a referee. That’ll do for the negatives as I’d quite like to move on from this game if you don’t mind.
Next up we have Cerezo Osaka at home on Saturday. No midweek game for us this week, which is nice, but maybe it would have been good to get back in action and not dwell on Kobe away. Cerezo beat us easily earlier in the season in another game where we really didn’t turn up. I hope we can get back to winning ways and keep our race for second going. After that, we’re away to Sendai in the Levain cup next Wednesday. A game that’s getting increasingly crucial for us as we drop out of competitions. Fingers crossed. Go Frontale!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 18. ELSINHO
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro (Yellow card 45+1')
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo (Yellow card 64')
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki
GK 30. ARAI Shota
MF 6. TASAKA Yusuke
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki (on for NAKAMURA 82')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for ABE 65')
DF 28. ITAKURA Ko
My Frontale Man Of The Match
Not many players covered themselves in glory in this game. Taniguchi made some important blocks, Nara did a decent job against Podolski and in the second half Hasegawa and Kurumaya were getting some stuff going down the left. But given that these attacks didn’t come to anything, I’ll have to give it to...
Sung-Ryong JUNG - prevented a disappointing draw for becoming a soul-crushing defeat with some important saves.
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.