I guess I can’t put off writing about this any longer, so here we go. I’ll try to keep it brief. We’re now down to two competitions, and with a performance like last night’s, it’s no surprise. This was not an enjoyable game to watch and to describe it as a blip is understating it a bit I think. Sure, we made plenty of changes whereas Kashiwa seemed to be playing a full strength side. I’ve got no complaints about us doing this, (and to be honest I don’t think that was the problem). We really have a chance in the league now. I just hope that this hasn’t dented our confidence. In a way though, we have the perfect next game, once more against Kashiwa, this time away and in the league. Hopefully we can show them what we’re really like, instead of rolling over like we did on Wednesday.
As mentioned above, the starting line up saw some big changes. Sung-Ryong is injured so was replaced by Arai, (although I suspect that would have been the case even without the injury). In front of him were Tasaka, Nara, Edu and Kurumaya. The defensive midfielders were Neto and Moriya and the front four were Ienaga, Chinen, Rhayner and Morimoto. Don’t read too much into the order in which I have listed them. Morimoto was up front, but the other three were switching around quite a lot. I initially presumed that we’d be playing with a big man front two of Morimoto and Chinen, but Chinen found himself on the wing most of the time. Not too sure about that, but I still really don’t know much about him as a player. The bench was made up of Ando, Noborizato, Taniguchi, Kobayashi, Miyoshi, Kengo and Hasegawa, a kind of ‘break glass in case of emergency’ selection of substitutes. It was a cool rainy night, but the rain had pretty much stopped by the time the kick off came around. Kashiwa had brought quite a few fans and a few trumpets too, which was initially a bit of a novelty but soon the excitement drained away. The game started in fairly subdued fashion, with both teams having some possession but attacks breaking down due to the attacking team’s incompetence rather than any kind of wonder defending. We were doing ok right up until we got to their box where we’d lose possession weakly. Rhayner was looking lively but not quite getting there, Chinen was doing a good job of tackling back in defence, Ienaga was trying to pull some strings, but we weren’t really clicking. I don’t think this was due to the irregular line-up, just more a case of no-one particularly playing to their abilities. Arai made a couple of good saves but as we know, struggles a bit to live up to Sung-Ryong’s role as an extra defender to pass the ball around. Consequently, a lot of goal kicks and clearances were going long (which never quite seems to work, but should have had a bit better chance of success in this game given that we had Morimoto and Chinen on the pitch). Arai did occasionally go short but more often than not this got us into a bit of trouble as we didn’t seem to be expecting it. Neto wasn’t having the best of games, seeming a bit sleepy. Perhaps having a game off didn’t do him much good. I hope he’s back to speed on Sunday. Kashiwa grew into the game and had the best of the first half. Their tactic seemed to be fast breaks, pretty much always going through Cristiano. He doesn’t look the most athletic of players but was doing a good job against us, using his power and skills to get the better of our defenders. Thankfully, Kashiwa’s shooting was for the most part, reminiscent of Sanfrecce’s last weekend, so we didn’t have too many problems. Every corner they had, they were taking short so they clearly had something up their sleeves. Ienaga picked up another yellow and it seemed a bit of a harsh one, but I haven’t been able to check it. And that was about it for the first half really. A bit of huffing and puffing but not much in the way of chances.
The second half started with Kengo coming to try to reinvigorate us. He replaced Morimoto, who'd had a quiet half, and immediately his presence had an effect on our players. They seemed to be more involved and we looked a little dangerous for the first time in the match. Unfortunately though, he wasn’t playing particularly well, misplacing passes and having an all round off day. I guess Oniki hoped to not need to use any of the subs, but our first half was so lacklustre that something had to be done. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the Kengo effect to wear off and we were back to first half levels of performance. None of the team could pass, which wasn’t helping us play the ball out of defence. When passing isn’t working, I think we shouldn’t be dilly-dallying so much at the back. Their goal came on 61 minutes and was in part our own making. Arai rolled the ball short to Neto who had to quickly pass to Kengo. Kengo’s pass back was way off target and presented Kashiwa with a shot which we deflected out for a corner. From the corner, (a short one naturally…), Cristiano was able to bend the ball in from the edge of the box. He had plenty of time and space to shoot. In spite of every one of their corners being played short we hadn’t worked out how to defend them. A 1-2 from the corner left him in loads of space and we just watched as he set himself up and shot. Arai got his fingers on the shot, but not enough to stop it. Terrible defending from a set piece which had been trailed all the way through the game and all from a corner from our own error. Them taking the lead resulted in them sticking pretty much everyone behind the ball and time wasting for the rest of the game, as they had every right to do. They were relying even more on quick breaks now, but even though they were sitting back, somehow it felt like they were still more likely to score than we were. Rhayner was replaced by Noborizato who almost scored with his first touch of the ball, but his shot was put over the bar by the Kashiwa keeper. Not long afterwards, Chinen was off and Kobayashi on, but to be honest it didn’t change things much. We were unable to break through the banks of defenders lined up and we weren’t shooting from distance. We were second to everything and looked like we hadn’t even met before, let alone played together. At this stage, there were quite a few of our usual starting line-up on the pitch but we were far from our usual selves. The remaining game time ran away through a succession of misplaced passes from us, horrible life-threatening injuries to their players (thankfully they were all ok in the end, phew!) and confusion as to where they should be taking their free kicks and throws and who should be taking them. It was nothing more than we deserved though. I almost found myself hoping that we wouldn’t get an equaliser which would condemn us all to another 30 minutes of misery. Or probably more accurately boredom, as our play was so lethargic that it would have struggled to inspire misery. It clearly wasn’t going to be our day, so the less time we had to spend on the pitch, confidence ebbing away as pass after pass rolled to the opposition the better. Better make a clean break, forget this and get started again on Sunday.
Positives and negatives. Let’s start positive. None. Negatives. A totally lacklustre performance, sapping confidence against a team who we have a crucial league fixture against on Sunday. Three shots in the whole game. Three!! They had twice as many in the first half than we had in the whole match. Our performance had the feel of a team who had been relegated the previous week and were just fulfilling the fixtures before they could find a new club in the off-season. This was a cup game, but we didn’t seem to have any desire to win it. Way too many mediocre performances from too many players and strangely, I’d say it was probably the regular starters that were playing the worst. Perhaps it’s fatigue, and if that’s the case, I’m worried as we have five more crucial games left. Hopefully we can put this rotten game behind us on Sunday and I can put this subpar blog post behind me too. I didn’t even moan about the ref and my photos are worse than the match was. Apologies...
Next up Kashiwa away on Sunday in a crucial league game to keep the pressure on Kashima who are away at Consadole Sapporo. I seem to remember last year hoping that Jay would do us a favour and score a few for Jubilo against Urawa at a similarly tense stage of the season. He didn’t last year, but hope he’ll come good this year and smack, (or head), a hat-trick past Kashima in the Sapporo Dome. But we need to concentrate more on ourselves than anyone else after this stinker. The only way we can keep the pressure on Kashima is by keeping winning. After that, it’s the small matter of the Levain Cup final the weekend after. All these matches are crucial now, so fingers crossed and go Frontale!
GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 6. TASAKA Yusuke
DF 23. EDUARDO
DF 3. NARA TatsukiDF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO
MF 20. CHINEN Kei
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro (Yellow card 40')
MF 22. RHAYNER
GK 24. ANDO Shunsuke
MF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for RHAYNER 64')
DF 5. TANIGUCHI ShogoFW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for CHINEN 70')
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo (on for MORIMOTO 46')
FW 13. MIYOSHI Koji
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
My Frontale Man Of The Match
KURUMAYA Shintaro - Did a reasonable job when all around him were doing a less than reasonable job. Created a few decent opportunities with his runs down the left and then was foiled when there was no-one in the box to cross to. Also, the goal was on the opposite side of the pitch to his. That’s about it.
CRISTIANO (Kashiwa) 61' 0-1
Really?! You want to watch them?