Sunday, 19 November 2017

Vs Gamba Osaka (home) 18/11/17, J-League match 32

Kawasaki Frontale 1 - 0 Gamba Osaka

So, we’re still alive. But it’s surely a matter of postponing the inevitable. Kashima’s victory over Urawa the day after our Levain Cup disintegration (a game due to be played this weekend, but moved because of Urawas ACL progress), left us with a seven point deficit with three games remaining for us (and two for them). There's a possibility that we could still take the title, but it's one which is hanging by the tiniest of threads. It’s pleasing that we could keep things alive though, especially after the disappointment of two weeks ago. Personally speaking, I was very happy to have a couple of weeks break. It’s bad enough losing a cup final, but to do it in the lacklustre way we did really diminished my desire for this season and for football in general. But, naturally as the days passed I did find myself looking forward to being able to go to another game. So we were back at the Todoroki again, and playing in the rain again, although nothing like as bad as the game at Kashiwa thankfully. Actually, we shouldn’t forget that there is one title we’re running away with this year. We lead the chart for most games played in the rain. To get all literary on you, it’s hard to ignore that there might be some kind of pathetic fallacy going on here. The rotten weather at Kashiwa coincided with us really losing touch in the title race, (although it was almost certainly those conditions that contributed in a big way). And also in this game, with a Frontale fan base who have been put through the ringer recently, trudging back to perhaps futilely cheer on their team again with consistent drizzle perfectly mirroring the way we’re ending the season. Anyway, enough of the literary allusions.

Finally, after quite a while we were able to field what would probably be considered our best starting 11. Sung-Ryong in goal, Elsinho, Nara, Taniguchi and Kurumaya at the back, Neto and Oshima in front of them, and a front four of Ienaga, Kengo, Abe and Kobayashi. The bench was made up of Arai, Tasaka, Morimoto, Miyoshi, Hasegawa, Moriya and Takeoka, back from a long term injury for the second time this season. Let’s hope he lasts a bit longer before getting injured again this time. Edu was nowhere to be seen, perhaps being punished for his howler against Cerezo. Chinen and Noborizato also disappeared. Perhaps this has something to do with people’s contracts coming to an end and being given a few last chances to show what they can do from the bench. To be honest though, I’m not exactly sure who is out of contract. Perhaps our bench is chosen by who is performing best in training. I hope it’s at least one of these, as I’m starting to wonder if it’s done slightly randomly. Gamba were apparently missing quite a few regular starters, although judging by their form this year, that might have actually been a good thing for them. The first half started quite brightly for us, but with some echoes of the cup final. We were doing a decent job of building towards chances, but were being thwarted by a packed Gamba defence (I don’t think they had a midfield, just two lines of defenders and a striker), and that old Frontale favourite, appalling finishing. We were in control of the game for the most part, but for some reason, it seemed that we were misdirecting pretty much every pass by a metre or so, always behind the runner, who had to check back, or over or under hit, or just plain inaccurate. I was quite impressed with the way we were winning the ball back though. Neto and Oshima were doing a good job in the middle. Damn, we’ve missed Oshima. Damn you Kobe and your pitch! Kengo seemed to be playing as a striker at times with Kobayashi spending a lot of time on the right wing. It was a bit weird, but it seemed to actually be working ok right up until the part where we were supposed to shoot. There were a few clangers in the first half (and a decent amount in the second too, I suppose...). We had opportunities where it looked easier to score which were hit off target. I think we only got one shot out of twelve on target in the first half and that was a Nara header from a corner. Kobayashi looked like the last game had knocked all confidence out of him and every miss seemed to be draining his spirit a bit more. It seems that the formation which was working earlier in the season with Abe up front and Kobayashi on the right had been abandoned. Perhaps it doesn't work so well for Ienaga, but I would have thought it was worth a go. It wasn’t the most promising of first halves, but defensively we were looking good and Oshima in particular stood out for having a real influence on things.

We came out for the second period all guns blazing. Oniki must have said something at half time as we seemed to be going a bit more direct and made some good early chances. Thankfully we were starting to hit the target too. Unfortunately we seemed to have found Gamba keeper Higashiguchi in very good form. He was saving shots in all manners from all of our front players. True, sometimes these shots could have been hit with a bit more power, but you can’t really take away the fact that he was making some good stops. Gamba in response to us turning the screw slightly, seemed to start time wasting. I guess the way they were set up suggested that they were playing for the draw and hoping to snatch something on the counter attack. To be honest, this was pretty much the story for the majority of the second half. We attacked, we shot, he saved, they took an eternity restarting play. In the past I think we would have been confident that it was only a matter of time before we scored. But now we’re scarred. We were attacking a lot better than against we had against Gamba’s beloved neighbours, but as the minutes ticked on and we squandered more and more chances, I started to doubt whether we’d actually score again this season, let alone in this game. But we did. The goal came late and from a corner, which are somewhat surprisingly now a real threat for us. Kengo sent the ball into the box, it was nodded on by Ienaga and Elsinho was able to prod the ball home through the keeper's legs. Tough on the keeper who'd done a great job up until this point, but I guess there's only so long that any keeper can withstand that kind of onslaught and you can't really say that Gamba deserved to get anything from the game given that according to the Frontale website they only had two shots in the whole game. They did however have a shout for a penalty right at the end of the game. It was down the other end of the pitch from me and I haven't seen a replay. We had a shout of our own in the second half when it looked like there was a clear handball in the box. Neither were given though and the game finished 1-0 to us. The scoreline in no way reflected the game, but at least it was more representative than it would have been if they had won and converted that late penalty. But these things do happen in football, so in some respects we dodged a bullet. On we go, praying for a miracle, but probably already aware that it's going to be second place again.

Positives and negatives. Let’s start negative. Whilst we were making chances our finishing was pretty bad in the first half and not quite good enough in the second. Going by possession, number of chances and just by watching the game we really should have won comfortably. Kengo and Kobayashi were again both not really there. But, switching to the positives, we won and that’s the best we could do. As long as we keep winning we have a chance. Defensively we looked very comfortable. Aside from the odd chance, we were snuffing everything out before they got to our box. Oshima was great in the first half but faded a little later on. Neto did his usual good job and Taniguchi and Nara kept things tight at the back. A big positive has to be the fact that we can now finally field our first choice eleven. Conversely, it’s a shame that it’s come a bit too late in the season for us. This was by no means a great performance, but it was a deserved win. A couple of final positives. I haven’t mentioned the ref, which let’s be honest is something of a rarity and my lack of things to moan about in that respect has to be a good thing. And last of all, Kizuru, the fantastic new mascot of Grulla Morioka made a guest appearance up high in the main stand, waddling and waving from some kind of balcony. I’m hoping this means that he’ll be taking over the Japan national team and then Kurumaya might actually get to play a game for them.

Next up, the Wednesday after next, a midweek trip away to Urawa. I really hate that stadium this year. It’s seems all too likely that it could be the place another title hope dies a death. Three times in one year would be a bit much. Although a win for Kashima against Kashiwa next weekend would mean that it’s all moot anyway. It would be heartbreaking if Kashiwa beat Kashima and then we messed it up in Saitama again. I guess we’ve got used to that kind of thing this year though. The Saturday after that we're back at home for the final time this year against Omiya Ardija, which has plenty of potential to be a dead rubber, as they could be down by then and we could be out of the title race. In any case, where there's life there's hope, so go Frontale!


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki

GK 30. ARAI Shota
MF 6. TASAKA Yusuke (on for IENAGA 90+4')
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for ABE 76')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro (on for OSHIMA 87')

My Frontale Man Of The Match
It's a bit weird, as although we dominated the game, it's hard to say that anyone stood out as being above the rest. Elsinho deserves a shout for his goal, Ienaga played well and made a crucial late tackle at right back but also missed a couple of relatively easy chances. So, for that fact that he stood out in a first half that was pretty mediocre for us, I'll give it to...

OSHIMA Ryota - we look a lot better with him on the field. Tackled and passed well and gives us a bit of thrust going forward. Faded a little towards the end, but so soon after his injury that's to be expected. Wish he'd start shooting from distance again like he used to. If only he'd been fit the whole year...

ELSINHO (Frontale) 82’ 1-0


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.

No comments:

Post a Comment