Monday 23 April 2018

Vs Kashima Antlers (home) 21/4/18 - J League match 9

Kawasaki Frontale 4 - 1 Kashima Antlers

Aaaaahhhhhh. What a difference a win makes! Particularly if it’s against a team that always tends to beat us in crucial games. This was a long overdue result and a very welcome one. Long overdue, not because we’ve been unlucky and deserved a break, but more that we haven’t got going this season yet, and although yesterday’s scoreline flatters us, a thumping handed out by us couldn’t have happened to a more deserving team! Admittedly, Kashima haven’t been doing particularly well this season, and they have a lot of injuries, and they outplayed us for at least half of the first half, so this might not be quite the statement of intent that some may consider it to be, but let’s just enjoy the moment and the welcome confidence boost that this should give us.

It was a nice sunny day at Todoroki and we had a full house with the game being a sell out (but still a couple of thousand under 'capacity', I guess due to the seats cordoned off to segregate the supporters. Kashima had turned up with quite a few fans and some new ridiculous ‘Spirit Of Zico’ flags. In the past I have always enjoyed these slogans as they sound a little like a tribute to a dead club legend rather than an ethos. The Brazilian flair suggested by the slogan also jars a little with Kashima’s usual fouling, counter-attacking ugly football. I enjoyed it even more this year after seeing a documentary demonstrating the wonder of the ‘spirit of zico’, when he spat on the ball after a penalty was awarded against his team and received a red card. Yeah! That’s the kind of thing we should all be celebrating, eh? Their time line-up was light on Brazilians, what with them being injured, so we were unable to see the detestable Leandro. They still had plenty of nastiness in their line-up though with the equally detestable Kanazaki and Suzuki up front and Ogasawara in midfield. They got a few boos from our fans. Their fans returned the compliment when that year recap thing we show before the team announcement rolled on to 2017 and showed us celebrating our league win. It was quite funny to be honest. I should restate, in case you hadn’t realised, and if you hadn’t, I’m surprised, that I really don’t like Kashima. As our team was announced, Fronta and Cabrera showed off some new mimes for the various players. I’ll try to get them on video next time as they were really quite entertaining.

Our team was as expected, with the only really changes to what we would consider our first eleven being Morita in for the once again injured Oshima, and Chinen in for the still injured Kobayashi. Oshima really is quite unlucky with injuries. Hope he recovers soon. Sung-Ryong was wearing his red keeper’s kit for the first time. I’m not sure if this prevented Kashima from wearing their normal red. I hope so! Within the first couple of minutes, we were treated to a couple of nasty fouls from Kashima, who clearly were going to start as they intended to continue. Plenty of opportunities for me to have a good grumble and boo and shout at the ref, who on this occasion was Araki. Since I’ve started tagging the refs on these posts, it’s easy to look back and see what blunders a particular ref was responsible for in his last appearance in one of our games. On scanning the post I was heartened to see that in our previous encounter with Araki, (Shonan at home earlier this season), I didn’t seem to have mentioned the ref much at all. And to be honest, apart from letting Kashima get away without bookings for some dodgy fouls and a slightly baffling yellow for Taniguchi (haven’t watched it back though, so I may be remembering inaccurately), he wasn’t actually so bad. I thought he was giving them everything, but I think the Kashima fans thought he was giving us everything so I suppose that evens out. Anyway, he at least appeared to know the rules of the game. Satisfyingly, we were a goal ahead not long into the game. I’d like Ienaga to be able to claim it, but he clearly was crossing the ball. It was a lovely finish from the Kashima defender who stuck out a leg and powered the ball past his own keeper. Justice! Much like the game last year when the dastardly Leandro didn’t give us the ball back after we put it out of play for their injury, we won the ball back and went and scored. Lovely! We were in complete control. Chinen was causing them problems, Kengo was masterfully spreading the ball around and Neto was dealing with anything that was coming at us. After recent games though, it did feel like we really needed another goal to settle ourselves a bit. Sadly, instead of getting this extra cushion after 15 minutes of trying, either we took our foot off the gas or they started actually trying to play football instead of kick lumps out of us. For the rest of the first half, it was more a matter of not conceding than scoring again. The momentum had totally swung in their favour, and if it wasn’t for some resolute defending from Nara and Tanuguchi we could have thrown away another lead. There was a bit of a ruckus around the half hour mark with nasty little Yuma Suzuki shoving over Ienaga. Nara got ‘up in his face’ as I believe the phrase goes and Suzuki bleated to the ref before Ienaga kind of flicked his shoulder at him, getting a yellow card. Seems that some Frontale fans on the internet are mad at Nara for doing this, although presumably not at Ienaga. Suzuki completely escaped punishment for the shove, which might explain the disbelieving expression on his face, but I think that was more as a reaction to the fact that the ref hadn’t sent off the entire Frontale team. He’s clearly the kind of player that opposition fans hate, but sometimes in those cases, you’d like to have him on your own team. With Suzuki, I’d be very unhappy to have him on our team. Keep well away please! Their front two of Suzuki and Kanazaki have got to be right up there if you’re looking for the most irritating attacking units in the J League. Somewhat bizarrely, in spite of the ball running off the pitch for a goal kick and Suzuki clearly fouling Ienaga, the ref restarted play with a drop ball. No idea why. They were clearly in the ascendancy and we needed to see things out till half time. Which we did thankfully. Their attacks kept coming and we were clearing the ball, but clearing it straight back to them and then back to step one and repeat. Would have loved a bit of possession to slow things down a little but we weren’t able to hang on to the ball for very long. Goal kicks were being sent long rather than us building from the back. Perhaps it saved us from making a blunder and presenting them with a chance, but it did mean that more often than not, we were just returning possession to them. In any case, we made it through to half time and could have a little sit down and hopefully avoid a half time team talk like the one against Ulsan.

Bizarrely, none of their subs were out at half time. I guess there were some kind of strategic talks going on in their changing room. Not sure if it did much good though, as we scored within two minutes of the restart and it came from the slightly unlikely right boot of Neto. It was some lovely work from him and shows that when he shoots a bit closer to the goal he’s a lot more accurate. He’s now our joint top scorer this season, along with a couple of other goal scorers from this game. This goal really knocked the stuffing out of Kashima. I guess a lot of their half time plans were left in tatters by conceding again so early on. Their defence started to look really shaky. They weren’t doing much better up front. Suzuki committed a horrible foul against Nara, clearly ‘revenge’ for the first half, elbowing him in the back of the neck and knocking him to the floor with no attempt to play the ball. Still no yellow. Seems he is some kind of protected species. We were still coasting on the confidence we’d gained from the goal and playing some nice stuff, but were missing a few good chances. And it looked like we might be made to pay for it as they got a goal back from a free kick. It was a little unfortunate as it took a big deflection of the wall, wrong footing Sung-Ryong, but I suppose they did give us a goal in the first half, so we shouldn’t grumble. So it looked like we might wobble again, but thankfully we restored our lead almost immediately, with a horror show back pass being seized on by Kengo and calmly finished through the keeper’s legs. Cue Kengo’s BKB celebration and Neto spraying him with water. Judging by this and his shoe-shine celebration in a previous match, Neto seems to have been watching a youtube compilation of humourous and memorable goal celebrations recently and is now attempting to try out some of his favourites. He reprised the spraying water one when Okubo scored too. This third goal was the most crucial of the game, as it must have totally deflated Kashima. I’m really pleased we could respond so quickly as more often than not, it’s us who concedes immediately after scoring. So, a hammer blow to Kashima’s hopes of getting anything from the game and another nice little confidence boost for us. I’m not sure the game was totally over at this stage, but gave us a huge lift. Ten minutes later, Okubo was on for Chinen. If ever a game was made for Okubo, this was the one; against big name opposition who had come with a bit of a physical game plan and were in a bit of a state at the back. One of his first actions on the pitch was to be fouled by Kashima’s international centre back Shoji, who picked up his second yellow and was consequently sent off. The first yellow was picked up in the first half for a high boot on Ienaga who was racing past him. The second was a big body check as  Okubo was about to pass him and run through on goal. He can’t complain about either really. But if there was any doubt about how the game was going to end, this really extinguished it.  And then Okubo added to the lead to put the game either further beyond doubt. It was a lovely team move with us stretching play right across the pitch. Okubo appeared to be fouled, went down clutching his face and then made a 'quick recovery' and a great run to be able to finish nicely from a clever pass from Ienaga. And Neto did his soaking thing again. The final ten minutes saw Ienaga get a well deserved rest after being replaced by Saito and Kengo get a rest after being replaced somewhat bizarrely by Takeoka. The outcome of these subs was that Elsinho pushed up into midfield and Abe was playing in the Kengo role and seemed to be doing a great job of it, although you have to remember that we were playing ten men and their spirit was somewhat broken, to say the least. There were still chances coming and it seemed that everyone was trying to set up either Abe or Saito, who are both still to get their first goal and probably need one soon to really get going. Sadly neither of them managed to, and sadly we were unable to pile any more humiliation on Kashima. But, all in all, a pretty good day at the office.

It seems churlish to talk of negatives when you beat Kashima 4-1 so I’ll stick to some more general comments. This was a great result and one which we needed much more for our confidence (which looked to be rock bottom), rather than for the points and the league position. I feel pretty positive now that we might be able to finally get something going this season. Hopefully this positivity will carry on for a while, preferably for the rest of the season, but maybe that’s too much to ask. I’d say that Oniki has tweaked things a little tactically. We looked a lot more willing to go more directly for goal, at least on occasions anyway. In the previous few games it seemed that this was to be avoided at all costs, but now of there’s a chance there to have a shot, people are giving it a go. Of course, goals breed confidence and also if we’re winning, the opposition need to actually try to play a bit, giving us further chances to score. I just wish we’d got an early goal against Cerezo and Hiroshima. And Sendai. And Yokohama. Although the first two were the ones where we could have done with the opposition trying to attack more rather than defending doggedly in numbers. This scoreline clearly flattered us. We were having a lot of trouble stopping them for a lot of the first half. But to our credit, we did stop them. Their goal was unfortunate, but we shouldn’t worry too much about it as these things happen. It was the least they deserved for the sustained pressure they put us under in the first half. Naturally, I’d rather they hadn’t got it, but at least we can say it was an unlucky one to concede. There were some big performances put in by quite a few players and everyone played their part. We should remember though, that not everyone is going to play like Kashima did against us, and that we still probably need to come up with a way to beat teams who might be more interested in defending in numbers and hoping for a draw or to sneak a win with a goal on a fast breakaway. So, yeah, it was great to beat Kashima 4-1, but let’s not get carried away as this was clearly a day when things were going well for us and we rode our luck at times. We had a lot of shots. Lots of them were on target. We scored a lot of goals. I’m all in favour of that! Let’s keep the confidence up and keep on with these kind of performances.

Next up we have the potential banana skin of Sagan Tosu away on Wednesday evening. Cheers J League for that wonderful piece of fixture scheduling. They’re a team that we do tend to have trouble against, and at the moment they are near the bottom of the table, (another common ingredient for a bad performance from us). Last year’s away game against them was the scene of an amazing comeback and was maybe my game of the season. At least from the point of view of excitement. This year, I have decided to try one of the many shochus they have available. Makes a change from the usual pre-game beer I guess. Presumably, I will have even less notes than usual after that. And then, another potentially difficult away trip, Kobe on Saturday. Apparently, they’ve sorted out their horrible pitch, but I’ll believe it when I see it. So we’re going to be spending quite some time on planes and trains in the next week. I hope we can also spend quite some time celebrating some goals and victories and get a little run going. Go Frontale!


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo (Yellow card 51')
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki 
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 25. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro (Yellow card 29')
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki

GK 30. ARAI Shota
FW 4. OKUBO Yoshito (on for CHINEN 75')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya 
DF 17. TAKEOKA Yuto (on for NAKAMURA 89')
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
MF 37. SAITO Manabu (on for IENAGA 84')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

No shortage of potential candidates in this match. The defence did well, Neto was his usual match controlling self and got a nice goal, Kengo is still defying his age but at the risk of starting to repeat myself it’s really got to go to…

IENAGA Akihiro - another storming performance with a nice assist for the fourth goal and made the first one too. A constant danger for us and gets back to defend as well. Nice powerful shoulder flick on that rotter Yuma Suzuki too!



MISAO (Kashima) OWN GOAL 5' 1-0
EDUARDO NETO (Frontale) 47' 2-0
NAGAKI (Kashima) 64' 2-1  
NAKAMURA (Frontale) 65' 3-1
OKUBO (Frontale) 81' 4-1


The Frontale youtube channel usually has longer highlights provided by DAZN, but given that a previous 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.

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