Kawasaki Frontale 2 - 2 Melbourne Victory
Here comes the doom and gloom. Another ACL game and another limp performance. It was pretty underwhelming for the first 89 minutes and after that, right at the end, we got exactly what we deserved. I’ve got no particular desire to dwell on this performance, but in the spirit of the blog and the usual overreactions I specialise in, I’m sure this post will be interminably long. Sorry.
This game was effectively a must win. Oniki shuffled the pack a little. I don’t know what this suggests from a priorities point of view. Kengo and Chinen dropped to the bench and were replaced in the starting line up with Noborizato and Abe. It seems that Edu’s injury could be more serious than we thought as he didn’t even make the bench. That spot was taken by Moriya. It also seems that Michael James is quite a way down the pecking order as we didn’t have any central defensive cover on the bench at all. Sung-Ryong is also apparently still injured. Maybe we can get some attacking midfielders in to cover all these positions… I had a bad feeling before the match that we were going to get a shocking refereeing decision in this game. I’m not sure there was anything so shocking, but once again we were treated to a weak and inconsistent display of officiating. Right from the start the ref was being ignored by pretty much everyone. From a free kick he paced out the distance for the wall, stood with his arm out, no-one moved and he just walked away. I’m not particularly bothered about a metre or so, but it doesn’t exactly give out a very good impression of control. Melbourne seemed to have come to kick lumps out of us and they proceeded to foul their way through the first half with no censure from the ref. They were trying to pass the ball around a bit, but were giving it away a lot. The weird thing was, we seemed to be sitting back and letting them get on with it. I don’t understand what we were supposed to be doing tactically. These kind of patient and hands-off tactics didn’t work against the two much better teams we’ve faced so far in this competition and were totally inappropriate against Melbourne. It’s got to go down as a tactical gaffe from Oniki. Which you also have too say about our formation. Ok, if you want to play Nobori and Abe, why not put Abe up front and Kobayashi on the right, rather than play Abe completely out of position for almost 90 minutes? I feel for him as he did a great job last year and doesn’t deserve to play his limited game time on completely the wrong side of the pitch. As I always say, I think we play much better when it’s Abe up front and Kobayashi on the wing. Better than when Kobayashi is up front and Abe is on the left. However, Kobayashi up front and Abe on the right has now proved to be by far the worst of all of these variations. Unsurprisingly, Abe had a pretty quiet game. You’ve also got to wonder if Chinen might have been a good player to start with given the physical nature of Melbourne. But Oniki either thinks that he didn’t deserve to start after last Friday against Shonan or he’s being saved for Gamba on Saturday. I’m no expert, but whatever way you look at the selection in this game, it looks pretty dodgy. Anyway, back to the game. It was a pretty underwhelming first half. We had some early shots, but so did they. It was clear pretty early on that they are the weakest team in our group, although I guess some might say that is actually us, and with the way we’re playing at the moment, it’s hard to argue against that. We were sitting very deep and not pressuring them at all. But as I said above, they were kindly giving us the ball a lot of the time so maybe this wasn’t so much of an issue. When we had the ball we were in total control. Playing it around with ease. Right up until we hit the invisible wall they had apparently erected on the edge of their box, at which point we passed the ball back and forth and occasionally hit a shot high over the bar or wide. Kurumaya had a good early chance but unfortunately it dipped right into the keeper’s gloves. We did make the breakthrough though and it was a first goal of the season from Elsinho. It was a nice move and would surely signal the start of the onslaught, wouldn’t it? No it wouldn’t. Much like against Shonan we didn’t move on from our goal and let them get one back only eight minutes later. I say let them get one back, but the truth was we gave them the goal. Their corner was headed by Kobayashi onto Taniguchi and past Arai. Calamitous stuff, but unlucky I guess. This gave them some confidence and they really upped their kicking and fouling game. The ref was still oblivious though, and when he did spot something, found that he had left his cards behind in the changing room. There was only one team really playing in the first half. We’d dominated on shots and possession but went into half time level. Instead of pushing on from our first goal, we dithered and then handed them a goal. Hmmmmm.
The second half started with a bit of possession for them. We were dithering still. They had clearly been told to target Neto, who after a shaky start was really bossing things in the middle of the pitch. On several occasions he was smacked into by a Melbourne player but all credit to him he didn’t react. Neither did the ref for the most part. After a few minutes we settled and not long after that we were ahead again. It was a lovely team goal which finished with Kobayashi crossing the ball for Nobori to poke home. Surely this time we’d move on and put the game to bed? No, we wouldn’t. And whilst we continued to make chances, (well six chances anyway, which isn’t exactly thrilling, but compares quite favourably to their one chance in the whole of the second half), we were allowing them a lot of possession and perhaps consequently didn’t score again. I guess the telling statistic is that out of our six chances only two were on target, whereas they had a 100% shots to shots on target success rate. I’m not sure if their penalty counts in the shots on target column, but it’s clear to see that they weren’t really causing that many problems. Kobayashi, aside from the cross for the goal was having a dodgy evening again. I know he always needs a few chances before he can take one, but at the moment he must be running through several goals worth of missed chances without managing to get the actual goals. Nobori was playing a lot further forward and much more centrally than his position suggested. Abe was still toiling away, not so effectively, well out of position. Finally the ref found his cards, after a series of nasty little fouls on our players. We shouldn’t be surprised that people are doing this against us, as it usually seems to stop us pretty well. Late on in the game, with Taniguchi shepherding the ball back to Arai, their striker shoved him into our keeper, potentially injuring both. No card for that, naturally… But Neto did get one later on, naturally… We were totally in control of the game but instead of going on to score another goal, we were slowing things down. Sure, under Kazama we probably would have carried on attacking, scored three more and conceded another two. Oniki has changed that kind of cavalier style, which is probably a good thing, but when we are so far on top in a game with only a single goal lead, we have to be trying to get the extra cushion of another goal. It seemed inevitable that if we tried to hang on, we’d concede a late goal giving us no time to come back. And so it was to be. The preamble to this was us using our subs to kill time, rather than to freshen things up and get a third goal. On 82 minutes, Kengo came on for Abe. Have no idea why. Surely the aim of leaving Kengo out was to give him a rest? So why bring him on for the last ten minutes? I reckon Okubo would have been a better option, as he’s probably more likely to grab a goal in this situation. On 88 minutes Hasegawa was on for Nobori. Why was this so late? Hasegawa also could have caused their static defence some problems. Nobori had done a decent job, but is almost always replaced around 65-70 minutes, apart from in this game. And then as our final sub, Chinen on for Neto, was being prepared, we gave away what was a very soft penalty on the 90th minute. Nara slides in for a tackle, pulls out of it, but the striker is already on his way down before any contact is made. I understand why it was given, but I feel for Nara and it was clearly a penalty that was won rather than given away. And that was it, 2-2, although Arai got a hand on it. Two leads thrown away in different circumstances, a real failure to take advantage of our dominance and pretty much an end to any remaining ACL hopes. 2018 hasn’t started quite as well as 2017 finished, has it?
Positives and negatives. Positives first, the second goal was quite nice. That’s it. Negatives. The big one has to be Oniki in this game. Bizarre team selection, bizarre tactics leading to what unfortunately is becoming an all too familiar frustrating result. The 3-0 away at Iwata is really papering over the cracks of what has been a pretty bad start to this year. Three rotten ACL games, an awful Super Cup match and a lacklustre draw against Shonan. It really seems like he is floundering at the moment. I hope he can get things together and we can start putting some decent performances together. It seems that he normally likes to drop a player for making a mistake in a game (Edu last year after the Levain, Tasaka after the Super Cup this year, Nara from the same game). I’m not sure what he’s going to do after Nara gave away the late penalty. We are so so so bare in the central defence area that surely he won’t do another punishment benching, will he? We didn’t take advantage of totally bossing this game. Melbourne looked like they might be one of the weakest teams we’ll face this year, but we drew. The own goal and penalty were unfortunate, but we brought them on ourselves. We didn’t take our chances, and we sat back when we should have pushed forward. In both this and the Shonan game we failed to kick on from our goals. I think in both games we could have won by two or three goals if we’d just kept the pressure on after scoring. Of course, we don’t want to be so excited after a goal that we let them equalise immediately as we have in the past, but shouldn’t retreat into total cool-down defence and let the other team off the hook. Sure there were other things that didn’t go right in this game and there were some underwhelming performances, but sorry Oniki, this one’s on you, I reckon.
Next up we have Gamba Osaka at home on Saturday. Gamba haven’t won for 16 matches. Please don’t let them break that run this weekend. However, it feels horribly like this might happen at the moment. After that we’re away in Melbourne for what is pretty much a nothing game for us. Sure we still have a chance if we win our next three ACL games, but as that would require us winning our next three ACL games, I have my doubts. Let’s hope we can get out of this fuzz soon.
DF 18. ELSINHO
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO (Yellow card 78')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
GK 30. ARAI Shota
FW 4. OKUBO Yoshito
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo (on for ABE 82')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for NOBORIZATO 88')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for NETO 90+4')
DF 25. MORITA Hidemasa
My Frontale Man Of The Match
Because of the result, really not much to write home about in this match, but for the sake of giving it to someone, I'll give it to...
EDUARDO NETO - Maybe his best game so far this year, but then again, he has started pretty badly. Did well to stand up to a lot of attempts at provocation and did a solid job.
ELSINHO (Frontale) 28’ 1-0
TANIGUCHI (Frontale) OWN GOAL 36’ 1-1
NOBORIZATO (Frontale) 55’ 2-1
GEORGE (Melbourne) 90+3’ (PEN) 2-2