Thursday 5 April 2018

Vs Shanghai SIPG (away) 4/4/18 - ACL Group Stage Match 5

Shanghai SIPG 1 - 1 Kawasaki Frontale

So, we were out of the ACL before a ball had even been kicked in our fifth game. Whilst the ACL was not my top priority this season, it’s still hugely disappointing to go out in such a limp way. Given that he had to name his line-up before we knew we were out, I was unsure how Oniki would treat this game, given the tiny chance of us being able to go through to the knockout stage. Should we throw in the towel and name a second-string side? Or would we give it a go with a full strength team, pretending that we still had a chance? The team selection reflected the former but the performance suggested the latter. As I watched the game in the Hub Harajuku I’m not going to write much about it. There are clearly advantages to watching on TV, for example, you can be sure about terrible refereeing decisions and notice when players leave the field due to injury (apparently Nobori did last game and I decided to concentrate instead on bashing Oniki for the sub). However you definitely don’t get a real feel for the match. Therefore, I won’t waste words telling you what you’ve probably already seen with your own eyes. I’ll stick to the few observations I have and of course a few digs at our manager.

Firstly, credit to him, Oniki gave a lot of recently unfamiliar names a run out. Nara and Edu were both back from the wilderness and into the centre back positions, Takeoka made his first start in ages, Tasaka was back and was captain, (presumably now forgiven for his Super Cup missed tackle), Hasegawa and Chinen made rare starts. There were also some interesting names on the bench. Suzuki and Akasaki made it there for the first time. I can understand Kurumaya being played if Nobori is injured as we don't really have any other options there. It also made sense to play Okubo as I think he'll be back on the bench on Sunday. Moriya probably had to play given the lack of options in the defensive midfield position and of course Morita was going to be involved somewhere, this time alongside Moriya, and he did a good job too. It was a bit weird though to see Sung-Ryong in goal. If he’d got injured in what was pretty much a dead rubber it would have been a disgraceful selection. Thankfully he didn’t. As has become all too familiar recently, the subs were weird. Why bother bringing on Neto and Elsinho and risk them getting injured. I can understand why they were on the bench, as there was an albeit slim chance of us needing a result. But 15 minutes from the end with us already out of the competition, why risk them? Suzuki would have been a natural replacement for Tasaka so if he was good enough to be on the bench, why wasn’t he used? It does seem sometimes that we have players on the bench only to make up the numbers, who have no chance of actually getting on the pitch. It was great to see Akasaki get a go, even if it was probably too late for him to be able to have any impact. Probably should have put him on earlier, although it would have been tough on Chinen who’d done a creditable job up front.

It was a weird game, we totally bossed Shanghai in the first half but almost went in a goal down after they were awarded a dubious penalty. It looked like a dive to me, but I can understand why the ref gave it. Thankfully, Frontale old boy Hulk decided to blaze it over the bar. I believe the ball is still rising actually. Shanghai once again looked pretty normal, in spite of the huge amount of money they spend on wages for their world superstar foreigners, (well, Hulk and Oscar anyway. Elkeson spent the majority of the game looking like a peeved hamster and not doing much else, so hopefully they don’t pay him so much. Although obviously, he did score…). If we hadn’t spent the first couple of group games sitting back and waiting for something to happen, rather than playing our usual game, we could have done a lot better in this group. Ulsan’s hammering of Melbourne shows just how poor our results against our Australian opponents were. Shanghai came into the game a bit more in the second half, but we still had the lion’s share of possession, if not chances (how familiar a story that is). Their goal was unfortunate and a few players could have done better. Our goal was a nice finish from Chinen, but too little too late, especially considering the chances we had squandered earlier. I also don’t understand why, at the end, we weren’t trying a little harder to win the game. We literally had nothing to lose.

To briefly sum up positives and negatives, we had some decent performances from Morita, who almost made us a goal with a lovely driving run into the box, and Edu and Nara at the back, who for the most part dealt with a moneybags attack pretty comfortably. Kurumaya was a little less prominent than usual, as maybe he has been recently, but of course it’s hard to tell when he was being played out of position. Okubo didn’t really make a case for him filling the Kengo role in his absence. Was nice to see Takeoka back and Akasaki get his first game time. Negatively speaking, I don’t understand what we were trying to do with our game plan and our subs were kind of pointless given the situation we were in. On the whole though, it probably has to go down as a decent enough result, given that this is our second string playing what I guess must have been our toughest game in the group and they got our best result so far. I think this says more about the low level of the other performances than any good points about this one though. Who knows what Oniki will do against Yokohama on Sunday? Oh, actually, we probably all know what he’ll do. Revert to the starting line up that did so well against Hiroshima... Please excuse my sarcasm. I’d probably do the same to be honest, but we really need to step the performance up a few notches otherwise we’re going to have another derby disappointment. I also reckon we should sneak Saito on to the bench, just for a laugh. We always have at least a couple of players on there who stand about half a percent’s chance of getting on the pitch, so why not make one of them Saito for Sunday for the sake of mind games.

As mentioned above, we’re away at Yokohama in the league on Sunday and this is followed up quickly by a home league game against our recent times nemesis Cerezo next Wednesday. The games are coming thick and fast so hopefully we can get into our groove sooner rather than later. Hopefully, right from the start of the game on Sunday actually. Come on Frontale!

GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 19. MORIYA Kentaro
MF 25. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 6. TASAKA Yusuke
MF  4. OKUBO Yoshito (Yellow card 71')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya

GK 30. ARAI Shota
FW 9. AKASAKI Shuhei (on for CHINEN 86')
DF 18. ELSINHO (on for TASAKA 77')
MF 21. EDUARDO NETO (on for MORITA 74')
MF 27. SUZUKI Yuto
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro 

My Frontale Man Of The Match

I’ll leave this again for this match. As I mentioned above, there were some solid performances, but no-one really did enough to earn the huge honour that is my man of the match award. I promise I’ll get this going again soon, with some ‘hilarious’ and ‘amazing’ photos too.

Shanghai) 68’ 1-0 
CHINEN (Frontale) 74' 1-1


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