Kawasaki Frontale 5 - 1 Cerezo OsakaSaturday saw us back at home and back on track. There were a few notable absences though thanks to Vissel Kobe and their rotten pitch. Yes, I know, I should move on, but I still find it incomprehensible that a team that seems to have signing slightly past it European players on megabucks as it’s main goal, can’t find enough cash to have a surface that is actually suitable for playing football on. But anyway, this post is supposed to be about the Cerezo game, so I’ll move on by saying both Abe and Oshima are now out for one and two months respectively. You could say Cerezo taught us a bit of a lesson earlier in the season. I’d say that if that’s true, the lesson would have been that we lose games when we don’t turn up, and sadly it’s not only at Cerezo that we’ve had that lesson hammered into us. But I shouldn’t be so pessimistic, as this has been a decent season so far. We just need to make it a bit more than decent in the next couple of months if we can. One big boost coming into the game was the fact that Sagan Tosu beat Kashima, meaning that we have a glimmer of hope in the league again. It’s still a pretty long shot, but Kashima’s remaining fixtures don’t look the easiest. But neither do ours, and wouldn’t it be typical if Kashima lost another couple of times, but we stumbled at the final hurdle against Omiya? We’ll see, I guess.
As mentioned above, there was a bit of movement in the starting line up and on the bench. Along with Oshima and Abe dropping out, recently in form Morimoto was also nowhere to be seen. He isn’t on our current injured list though. Replacing the first two in the starting line up were Hasegawa on the left and Moriya alongside Neto. On the bench were Arai, Tasaka and Itakura as expected. They were joined by Kano, Rhayner, Chinen and recent man of mystery Miyoshi. No idea where he’s been of late but very pleased to see him back. I think the Kashima result has put us back in a bit of a position of uncertainty again with regards to what is our priority. We certainly started the game with our full strength side and I imagine this was the plan even before the Kashima game finished. I suppose we don’t want to look as if we’ve given up on the league and finishing as high as possible could still be our priority as there is a significant amount of money to be won for league position this year. Apparently a second place finish this year would get us more than a league win last year would have done. It will be interesting to see who starts on Wednesday in the Levain away against Sendai. There was a decent attendance at the ground and it felt pretty loud. Cerezo filled their area, but it was a lot smaller than some other teams have been given, so our fans spread right round the curve at the away end. The pre-game team announcements were more entertaining than usual with a railway feel (Tokyu were sponsoring the match). You can see them in the extra video at the bottom of this post. The ref for this game was Nishimura, which in the past would have had me wailing in despair, but compared to some of the recent displays of officiating we’ve seen, (I’m talking particularly, but not exclusively about you Tojo!), meant that maybe we wouldn’t have as much incompetence from the man in black, (or in this game, yellow), as usual. I’m not sure my new found acceptance of Nishimura lasted so long though, but more on that later.
We started the game a little disjointed, I guess due to the fact that it wasn’t the usual starting members. We’ll probably have to get used to a few changes over the course of the next couple of months. We were playing ok though and for some reason Cerezo weren’t pressing us as much as other teams have recently. They were allowing us plenty of time and space at the back. At least for part of the first half anyway. Everything was going down the flanks for us as the middle of the pitch was pretty congested. Apparently they were using the same formation as us, but it really looked more like two fairly narrow and quite deep banks of four for much of the game, hitting some long passes at us when they got the ball. We were making chances, but our final ball wasn’t quite there again. I think the stats showing how many shots we had don’t really tell the whole story as we often tripped up just as we should have been pulling the trigger. But it was looking hopeful anyway. And after 19 minutes we went ahead. A decent shot from Kengo was saved and we won a corner. From the corner, Taniguchi made a lovely run and headed home. I think I’ve said this before, but it’s nice to have a threat from corners this year. And the fact that Moriya is playing means that we have a couple of players who can take them (I guess, Neto has dabbled too, but only if there's no-one else, I think), so we’re getting more variety with the delivery. The goal seemed to give us loads of confidence and it really seemed to rattle them. We were cutting through them with ease but not quite getting there to score a second. Definitely reasons for optimism though. Cerezo weren’t offering much aside from some long passes to Sugimoto who was having a decent battle with Nara. Nishimura began to stamp his personality on the game. It seems that he feels in order to show how great a ref he is, he has to let the game flow at all costs, which meant that plenty of stuff was going unpunished. It wasn’t a dirty game by any means, but I got a bit sick of Nishimura doing his play on arm thing over and over. When he did give fouls, he appeared to have forgotten his cards. But as I said, this was nowhere near Kobe style brutality. Cerezo were trying to play football. Kengo was having a great half, totally running things for us when we were going forward. He’s may be in the middle of another great season, but I haven’t seen him play this well for a while. Our second goal came on the stroke of half time and came from a nice cross from Neto. There was a bit of shirt-pulling going on in the box so perhaps we were lucky to get it, but it was a nice volleyed finish from Kobayashi. 2-0 up at half time, looking very dangerous going forward and fairly solid at the back.
We carried on where we’d left off for the second half. Our third came on 52 minutes. A cross from Kurumaya was partially cleared by the defender and fell to Elsinho. I distinctly remember shouting ‘smack it!’, as I seem to be doing every time Neto goes forward with the ball. Unlike Neto, Elsinho obviously heard me and did exactly that. It was a very calm finish, dipping and swerving a little, leaving the keeper with little chance to stop it. Our goals were getting better and better. I’d like to say I also shouted the same thing as Moriya picked up the ball in the middle of their half shortly afterwards, but I can’t remember if I did. He certainly did smack it though, trumping Elsinho’s goal with what has to be the Frontale goal of the season, if not the J League goal of the season. It was from miles out, bent and dipped viciously and went in the top corner off the post. I don’t think it could have been any better. Neto certainly liked it! The game looked like it was going to turn into a rout, but Nishimura seemed to be trying to even things up a bit. We took our foot off the gas a little and Cerezo brought on Souza, who immediately started causing us problems. No idea why he didn’t start to be honest. He got in on the dipping and swerving action with a shot that Sung-Ryong just about got in the way of but his save, which it looked like he made with his shoulder, fell to a Cerezo player who was able to reduce the deficit a little. Kengo looked like he was tiring a bit, but our first change wasn't to come till quite late and saw Tasaka replace Hasegawa, who’d again had a decent game. This change was immediately followed by Itakura replacing Neto. Kengo actually played the whole game in the end, so I wonder if this means he won’t be taking part on Wednesday. One other player who might not play is Kobayashi, who in making a great defensive tackle and stretch pass seemed to tweak something and had to be replaced by Miyoshi. This change was possibly coming anyway, but the potential injury caused a slightly weird situation. From Kobayashi’s stretch pass Kengo played a lovely ball to Elsinho who raced away, leaving some tired Cerezo defenders struggling to keep up with him, drew the keeper out and then beautifully lobbed him. In any other game that would have been the pick of the goals, but after Moriya’s finish, these kind of things just seem normal. The bizarre thing was pretty much everyone else was back down the pitch worrying about Kobayashi, so when he turned after scoring a beauty there was no-one there to celebrate with him. So, Miyoshi got a few minutes on the pitch, much to the delight of some ladies at the back of the stand who squealed in excitement at the change. I think he did a decent job of replacing Kobayashi, playing that front collect and hold on to the ball role. There wasn’t much game left, but Nishimura made an absolute howler of a decision to deny Ienaga a penalty. It was one of the clearest penalties I think I’ve ever seen, the keeper totally taking his legs before he could shoot. No idea why it wasn’t given, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t going to make any difference to the result. Did reaffirm my belief that he is an absolutely useless ref though.
A great performance and a great result. So plenty of positives and no negatives this time. Awesome performance from Kengo, running things. Two great goals from Elsinho. An amazing goal from Moriya. Our attacking looked deadly and I don’t have any complaints about the way we defended. Big positive is that we are back in the title race, but it’s probably a bit optimistic to think that we’ll be able to pull it off. Kashima’s remaining games are Hiroshima, Urawa and Kashiwa at home and Yokohama, Sapporo and Iwata away. Not the easiest run in, but we have Sendai, Gamba and Omiya at home and Hiroshima, Kashiwa and Urawa away, so it’s probably much of a muchness. We need some favours though and we need to keep things going at our end. Fingers well and truly crossed.
Next up, we ridiculously have three games against Vegalta Sendai. This kind of thing seems to keep happening this season. The first is away on Wednesday in the Levain cup. The second is the home leg of that tie next Sunday and then the following Saturday we are at home again against them in the league. Guess we’ll be getting to know them quite well. They have been doing ok recently, so these games will be by no means easy ones and I think there will be a bit of rotation going on with the team. I guess the starting line-up and result on Wednesday will tell us a lot. It’s unfortunate that Kashima will be having a couple of weeks off. Let’s hope the defeat against Tosu will play on their mind over that time. It’s certainly set things up nicely! 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 19. MORIYA Kentaro
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
GK 30. ARAI Shota
MF 6. TASAKA Yusuke (on for HASEGAWA 86')
FW 13. MIYOSHI Koji (on for KOBAYASHI 90')
FW 20. CHINEN Kei
MF 22. RHAYNER
MF 25. KANO Kenta
DF 28. ITAKURA Ko (on for EDUARDO NETO 87')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
Plenty of candidates. Some amazing goals and everyone played their part. Elsinho got two, Moriya got just one, but it was an absolutely world class one. Defence was fairly solid too.
NAKAMURA Kengo - in a game with such great goals, it seems a little strange to give it to someone who didn’t score, but Kengo totally bossed this game with an age-defying performance.
TANIGUCHI (Frontale) 19’ 1-0
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 45’ 2-0
ELSINHO (Frontale) 52’ 3-0
MORIYA (Frontale) 58’ 4-0
KAKITANI (Cerezo) 68’ 4-1
ELSINHO (Frontale) 89’ 5-1
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. And we have that extra footage video again at the bottom.