Tuesday 31 October 2017

Vs Kashiwa Reysol (away) 29/10/17, J-League match 31

Kashiwa Reysol 2 - 2 Kawasaki Frontale

This year's away game at Kashiwa couldn’t have been in more different conditions to the one last year. In 2016 we visited early on in the season and cover from the elements was in short supply and high demand, given that it was dangerously sunny. This time the cover was equally desirable but for a different reason. A typhoon was passing and it was pouring down. There were some similarities though. I once again came away with a red face, but whereas last year it was due to a touch of early season sunburn, this year it was the effect of having torrential rain whipped against my face for five hours. Also, getting in to the ground is still ridiculously slow. I know it’s a small stadium, but they could probably do with getting a few more people on the bag checking if they insist on doing it. In spite of being probably around half way in the queue, it still took almost half an hour to actually get into the ground. I have to say, I quite like the view at this ground, but the match day experience definitely leaves a little to be desired. This time, a large portion of the pre-match time was spent standing in the toilets as it was one of the few places where you were away from the lashing rain. But it did finally ease off a little and we were able to take our place on the terrace. Whether we would get to actually see any football was still up in the air at this stage as the pitch was looking pretty bad. The officials took their time coming out pre-game and when they did emerge it seemed almost impossible that the game would be able to go ahead. Balls were rolled, kicked and thrown up and all momentum was absorbed with a splat into a pool of water. There seemed to be lengthy discussions going on, but no decisions being taken. I’m not a ref, so I don’t know what is taken into account in these situations, but I would think being unable to pass the ball might cause some reasons to wonder if the game should go ahead. It’s not exactly that far from Kawasaki to Kashiwa, so the inconvenience of a postponement wouldn’t have been that great. I was actually praying for that to happen, as a hugely waterlogged pitch was hardly going to suit our passing game. But when the announcement came it was that we were only going to have a delay of 30 minutes. Kind of strange as it was still raining, so things were hardly going to get better. This announcement heralded a team of pitch driers, most of them with sucky-up rollers to absorb some of the water, some with something that looked like a rake or broom to push the water off and a team of people with towels and buckets who were presumably going to give the wet pitch a good towel down. Sounds like it was all going to be perfect! It wasn’t. This first paragraph is already way too long. I’ll try to get to point soon.

Our starting line up saw many of our first team regulars back, apart from right at the back. Sung-Ryong is still injured so Arai continued in goal. In front of him were Elsinho, Nara, Edu and Kurumaya. Moriya and Taniguchi were in front of them and our front four were Ienaga, Kengo, Miyoshi and Kobayahsi. Neto couldn’t play as his ban for accumulating yellows was for two games as it was the second time he'd accumulated them this year. On the bench we had Ando, Noborizato, Morimoto, Hasegawa, Rhayner, Chinen and Itakura. By the time we finally kicked off the rain had eased off a little, but I should stress that it hadn’t stopped at all since we arrived in Kashiwa mid-morning. It still seemed that the sensible thing to do would be to call the game off. But for whatever reason, it wasn’t going to happen. As soon as the game started it was clear how much of a farce it was going to be. Long high balls would land with a splat and no bounce, passes would stop dead en route, players were just slipping over in huge puddles of water. As the ball was difficult to kick off the ground, most people were doing a kind of weird thing where they’d try to tee it up for themselves to volley the ball. The horrible condition of the pitch meant that everything was going long and high (pretty much usual Kashiwa play judging by Wednesday’s game, hehehe). Technique and touch were not required, it was merely a matter of punt it as far as you can and hope that your striker doesn’t slip over before he gets there. Of course the game was extremely scrappy and had a real stutter to it not just because the ball kept getting held up in the puddles, but also because there was no possibility of building any kind of attack. It was purely hit and hope and was horrible to watch. We had only managed two shots in the first half, but they hadn’t done much better with just three. But as the half drew to a close the rain stopped. So there was a possibility that the game might be much better in the second half. Except the pitch still resembled a swamp, so that probably wasn't going to happen.

The Kashiwa fans charitably booed us back onto the pitch. Not sure what we have done to them, other than hand them a free pass to the Emperor's Cup semi final, but it seems they don’t like us much. As has been his wont when we’re not playing well, Oniki started the half with a tactical change, bringing on Morimoto for Moriya. I always think of Morimoto as a big lump but he’s not actually that tall (177cm, fact fans). He definitely has that feel about him though. This move made sense to me as we clearly weren’t going to get anywhere playing our passing game. It would be a matter of lumping it up the pitch and hoping. However, before he had a chance to make any kind of impact we were two goals down. The first can be blamed on the rotten conditions. Nara looks like he’d make the clearance but the ball stops in a puddle and Cristiano was able to nick it of him and it was an easy finish for Lopes from the pass. Irritating. The second was less annoying in a way, as it was a pretty good move and there wasn’t that much we could do about it. Lopes did really well by the corner flag and whipped in a cross for Diego Oliveira to finish. I have to say the cross was pretty good, especially considering the conditions. Perhaps he found the one part of the pitch that wasn’t horribly waterlogged. The two players near him could probably have done a bit more to stop him putting it in, if I'm really looking for someone to blame. So, a rotten start to the half and it looked like our title challenge was over. Chinen came on for Miyoshi in response to the goals, (actually, I think he was probably already coming on before the second one went it). It really started pelting down again so maybe this was the reason this sub wasn’t done at half time. The goals and subs seemed to have awoken something in us and we started to put some attacks together, by which I mean, we were starting to be able to collect the long balls that we were pumping forward. There were a few good chances we didn’t take advantage of through weak or off-target shooting, but there was some momentum building. There was also some rain momentum building too and the puddles were reforming. To be honest the mopping up they’d done didn’t do much more than slightly fix the problem from an aesthetic point of view. There was no way they were going to be able to get rid of the amount of water that was falling. Kashiwa really put the brakes on, taking an interminable time over every set piece and at one stage deciding to have a little meeting of four or five players instead of taking a goal kick. The Kashiwa fans got on Arai’s back when he remonstrated with a ballboy who also appeared to be trying to eat up some time. Taniguchi picked up a yellow for what looked to hardly even be a foul. This does seem to be the case recently. We used to go for games without getting any bookings, (well apart from for Neto and Rhayner, who could pick up a booking walking to the changing room from the coach before the game). But now it’s us who’s getting the yellows and reds and our opponents seem to get nothing. Maybe we’ve turned nasty.

The pitch conditions now were worse than they were before the game, before they’d started trying to sponge the water up. But still the ref seemed determined to continue. We seemed to be working out where the areas that weren’t completely swamped were and were maybe getting to grips with the conditions a bit. Not to say that there weren’t plenty of under 5’s style losses of control of the ball whilst dribbling. Players often would set off to run a little with the ball, only to find that it wasn’t obliging and had decided to have a little rest in a puddle. Sliding tackles had the potential to be the quickest way to get back to the railway station as once you started sliding you just kept going until you hit something. But something was happening. On 70 minutes we got a goal back and it was the second ‘big man’ Chinen (also 177cm…), who again scored a crucial goal. Kurumaya was the creator again, receiving the ball from Ienaga and then dinking a lovely cross in for Chinen to head home. It was a great finish actually, getting in between two defenders and really having to twist to get to the ball. It bodes well for his future with us, I’d say. We were making some other chances as well. Morimoto had a couple that came to nothing, Kobayashi too, but the conditions were foiling us. It looked like it wasn’t going to be our day. On 90 minutes, Kurumaya put a lovely ball in again, this time given to him by Kengo and from much closer to the edge of the pitch. This time it was Kobayashi who headed home. Cue a beautiful silence from the Kashiwa fans. And finally their irritating trumpets stopped. We almost got a winner in stoppage time, which ridiculously given how much time wasting had been going on between minutes 52 and 90, was only three minutes. I guess the officials probably wanted to get the game over and done with before anybody got a serious injury or the coastguard had to be called to rescue someone. After we had a couple of shots blocked we scooped the ball agonizingly past the post. And that was that. The game was over, although it was finished as a game of football about an hour before kick off. One point each did nothing for either team. We’re still in with a remote chance, but as every games passes it gets narrower and narrower.

I’m not going to talk about positives and negatives this time as this was a totally ridiculous game. This, and Jubilo’s fixture against Yokohama (which was fine for an hour and then ended up even worse than ours), were total farces. The J League should be ashamed for letting the matches go ahead (in our case) and not be called off (in both cases). I don’t know what kind of pressure was put on the referee and where from, but no ref in their right mind could do a pitch inspection, the results of which were clear to see, and then let this game go ahead. I can’t imagine Kashiwa particularly wanted to play in these conditions either, although perhaps they might have thought they were more suited to their game than ours. This was a crucial game for both teams and ended up as a joke. It’s a miracle that four goals were scored. The puddles made it near impossible to move the ball along the ground and at the same time almost impossible to kick the ball any distance without teeing yourself up. Our draw and Kashima winning has all but decided the title race. They have three tricky games, but they’d need to lose two of them now and we’d have to win all three of our remaining fixtures. I’m not sure either will happen. I guess we’re spoilt by usually being able to watch some nice football, but this was a horror show. Ugly, ugly, ugly and hardly resembling football. And I got totally soaked. Even if we’d been able to get an unlikely win, I reckon I’d still be feeling the same way about this match. It really shouldn’t have gone ahead. If it’s possible for us to make some kind of complaint, I really hope we do. But I bet we don’t.

Next up we have the small matter of the Levin Cup final on Saturday against Cerezo. Apparently, you can mark your place in the queue the day before, but you have to return to your sheet at 07:00. Just the six hours to kill before kick off. Sometimes it feels like the J League is doing it’s best to make things as difficult as possible for the fans. It’s a massive game and gives us the opportunity to win our first ever title or screw things up in the most heartbreaking way in all competitions this year. It’s a pretty fine line between party time and total despair and it all will take place at the same venue as our current most heartbreaking moment of this season. Let's hope lightning doesn't strike twice. I’m very excited about the game, but at the same time, deeply anxious. Fingers crossed we can get over the line in magnificent style, but I’d settle for us stumbling over it too. Go Frontale!


GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki (Yellow card 14')
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo (Yellow card 61')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro

GK 24 ANDO Shunsuke
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki (on for MORIYA 46')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for MIYOSHI 53')
DF 28. ITAKURA Ko (on for IENAGA 88')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

Well, it’s certainly wasn't the ref. It’s difficult to single anyone out for anything positive or negative in this joke of a game. Could have possibly have been either of the goalscorers but…

KURUMAYA Shintaro - Two assists for the goals sets him apart in a game that wasn’t really football so can’t really be judged as such. But I thought I’d better give it to someone.

LOPES (Kashiwa) 48’ 1-0
DIEGO (Kashiwa) 52’ 2-0
CHINEN (Frontale) 70’ 2-1
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 90’ 2-2


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.

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