Friday, 1 December 2017

Vs Urawa Reds (away) 29/11/17, J-League match 33

Urawa Reds 0 - 1 Kawasaki Frontale

The season is fast drawing to a close. Our limp Emperors Cup exit to Kashiwa means that we’ll be done pretty early this year. Whether that will be with our first ever title or with another couple of second places to add to the disheartening stash of them we must have stowed away somewhere in the bowels of the Todoroki, only time will tell. Wednesday night was another crunch game, needing a win to set up another crunch game for Saturday. It would be fair to say that we don’t have a great reputation for dealing well with crunch games, but this time we prevailed, perhaps in the interests of making any failure on Saturday just that little bit more painful. But it was third time lucky at the Saitama Stadium this season and our fight continues to the final match of the season. As far as Saitama Stadium experiences go, this was for the most part pretty much as expected. Urawa seem to still be obsessed with highly camp and hugely naff pre-game music, whilst at the same time still trying to perpetuate a hardmen hooligan image with their Union Jacks (anyone know of any actual connection they have with the UK apart from a love for the worst aspects of English football in the 80’s?). The one big difference though was that their usually awful support (sing very very loudly for five minutes then spend the rest of the game booing), after the usual highly suspect start of reserving their biggest boos for our only Korean player, actually were cheering their team on. Perhaps they were still on a high after their unlikely but I guess I have to say deserved ACL victory. The few Urawa fans I’ve spoken to have said that they’d quite happily give us the three points if it meant that we stop Kashima from taking the title. I’m not saying this is an accurate representation of the majority of Urawa fans views, but perhaps it wouldn’t be that surprising, given that they had nothing to play for in the league any more. Of course you wouldn’t expect this to be echoed by the club itself. But, as it turned out, it seemed that the fans seemed pretty keen to beat us, whereas the club were maybe not so convinced, fielding a significantly weakened team, with a few of their big names on the bench just to keep things respectable. One last thing that should be mentioned pre game is that there was a significant tribute to Arthur Maia with his song being sung on a few occasions and his shirts in evidence on the bench and in the crowd.

Once again we were finally able to field our best eleven. It wasn’t exactly convincing against Gamba but it did the job, and the same could be said about this performance. Once again Oniki persisted with Kobayashi up front and Abe on the left and once again Abe wasn’t as effective as he is when he plays up front. I think he’s still trying to find some form after his injury. Kengo seemed to be playing pretty far forward, almost looking like the front man at times. We dodged a bullet early on when Sung-Ryong pulled off a great save from a close range shot. Urawa were really pressing us and consequently Oshima and Neto’s opportunities to get forward were limited. It was a pretty lively opening with chances at both ends. Urawa really weren’t taking theirs though. On 15 minutes we went ahead and it was through Kobayashi. I’m sure Koroki, sitting on the bench was delighted to see him equal his tally in the scoring charts. Sugimoto is still a couple of goals ahead though. Ienaga made the goal wriggling past a couple of Urawa defenders right on the edge of the pitch and then putting in the perfect cross for Kobayashi to slide the ball home from. It was a pretty exciting moment and almost certainly the highlight of the game for us. Great work from Ienaga, although he was helped by some absolutely hopeless defending by Urawa. Cue 80 odd minutes of hanging on, something which we haven’t proved particularly good at. Oshima and Neto picked up a couple of early yellow cards. No idea why Oshima got one and the replays I’ve seen don’t seem to help me much. Neto’s was more understandable. I think he took the ball but maybe also took a bit too much of the player at the same time. The ref wasn’t bothered by (my new favourite Urawa hate figure) Nagasawa’s elbow to the throat of Oshima in the previous challenge though.  Urawa seemed to have free range to kick us all over the pitch. I’m going to go easy on the ref though as I’m sure people are getting sick of my moaning and also by the look of some videos of an incident in the second half he might have really given us a let off by not awarding a penalty. The first half wasn’t great, but we were looking reasonably solid. Nara was doing a good job at the back and whilst they may have had more of the ball and more chances we had the goal and the crucial lead.

The second half started with no changes to personnel or the pattern of the game. They were still on top but failing to seriously trouble Sung-Ryong. We were under the cosh though and whilst we weren’t reaching ACL levels of desperate defending, we were at times resorting to sitting back a bit too much and waiting for counter attacking opportunities. It was a bit of a dangerous strategy, especially given that both Neto and Oshima, who were having to do a lot of defending, were both on yellow cards. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that we’re picked up a few double yellow red cards recently. This was how the majority of the second half went. Urawa attacks being dealt with pretty well by Taniguchi and Nara and us having the occasional breakaway counter attack. We had opportunities, but they clearly had the better ones. I was surprised to see that according to the stats Urawa only had one more shot than us. It felt a bit more like an onslaught, but perhaps we were mostly cutting out the attacks before they had a chance to shoot. It was far from comfortable though. Our second half subs seemed to be done with an eye on running down the clock. Nobori on for Abe, (who was perhaps tiring a little) on 78 minutes and then Tasaka on for Kengo, and Morimoto for Kobayashi, both in injury time. Unlike in the ACL we were able to see the game out though and consequently set up a final day of the season cliff hanger. It was a far from pretty game to watch, but it ended up being an effective performance. I’m not rushing to watch the highlights, but I’m enjoying the three points.

Positives and negatives. The fact that we’re still alive going in to the last game of the season has to be the most important thing. Kashima have what is not an easy game against a Jubilo team who have an albeit slim chance of qualifying for the ACL. Hopefully it will provide them with enough of an incentive to cause an upset. I guess the other big positive has to be the relative defensive solidity we showed. I’m not saying things have changed particularly, but we did the business, on this occasion at least, through decent performances from Nara, Taniguchi and Sung-Ryong who made one great save and a few  more routine ones. Things didn’t exactly work perfectly at the other end of the pitch and we weren’t exactly blessed with chances in this game, but I think perhaps the circumstances overshadowed the performance. Not going to go too deep with any negativity, but it wasn’t exactly a convincing performance, not showing the kind of things we’ve been able to do at other stages this season. 

Next up, Omiya at home, tomorrow. I’ve pushed things to the limit a little with getting this post out on time before the next game but if you’re reading this I guess I managed it. I think on a few occasions this season we never could have imagined that we’d take it to the final day. I wish it was in our hands, rather than us having to depend on Jubilo, but if we manage to pull it off, I can’t imagine we’ll be complaining much. For the final time this year, GO FRONTALE! 


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO (Yellow card 29')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota (Yellow card 15')
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki

GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 2.  NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for ABE 78')
MF 6. TASAKA Yusuke (on for NAKAMURA 90+1')
FW 9. MORIMOTO Takayuki (on for KOBAYASHI 90+4')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro

My Frontale Man Of The Match

Like I said above, it wasn't a particularly stand out performance up front, but the defence did a decent job. Somewhat counter-intuitively, but somewhat in keeping with what I've just said, I'm giving it to...

IENAGA Akihiro - did really well for the goal, putting in the perfect cross for an easy Kobayashi finish, but I'm giving it to him for the fact that on numerous occasions in the second half he made crucial defensive contributions deep in our own half. I don't feel that kind of thing is usually associated with him, so well done Aki!

KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 14’ 0-1


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.

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