Friday 4 May 2018

Vs Urawa Reds (home) 2/5/18 - J League match 12

Kawasaki Frontale 0 - 2 Urawa Reds

A quick warning, this is a post full of unrelenting moaning. Sorry.

Oh, woe is us, (hmmmm...). Our run is over in pathetic and limp style. Our keeper is banned for the Tamagawa ‘Classico’ at the weekend and the confidence we managed to scrape together from some decent performances is totally gone. People may try to use the busy schedule as an excuse, but the fact is, all the teams have the same schedule, and our real problem is that we still don’t have any kind of plan B with regards to either tactics or personnel. In the interests of my own sanity, I’m not going to dwell on the details of the match too much if I can help it. Rest assured, the sooner I don’t have to think about this rotten performance against one of my most disliked teams the better. Coming into the game, things were looking bright. We once again named our first choice eleven, although they didn’t play like it, and were on a run of three straight wins. The ground was pretty full and for once we’d restricted the amount of space we gave them. I remember that previously we’ve always given them too big an allocation, diluting our home advantage. There were a couple of Urawa shirts in our line to go in which was a bit weird, as our line is season ticket only and very much in the Frontale end. I’m pretty sure that in Europe this wouldn’t be allowed, and although the Japanese football environment is a lot more pleasant, I’d say all bets are off when the wannabe hooligans of Urawa are visiting. As expected their fans booed the entrance of our keepers. I’m sure just because they were the opposition, right? And nothing to do with the fact that one of them is Korean... To be fair to them though, they were a lot more interested than usual. They even sang for some periods of the game. Normally they only seem to boo. They weren’t as loud as they can be though. Maybe because it’s Golden Week or maybe because semi-continuous support takes a bit more effort than a loud song at the start and then half-hearted booing of all the opposition’s possession. 

Right from the start it seemed clear that they’d done their homework, pressing us high up the pitch, preventing us building out of defence as we always do. The middle of the pitch was the battleground, and we were coming up short. We were given no time on the ball, but this has been the case in other games and it doesn’t always bother us. But in this game we were a mess, finding it impossible to hang on to the ball and with plenty of passes going astray. Even so, the game was fairly even at this stage, with the action swinging from end to end with no real quality on show from either team. Then they scored. It was a very sloppy goal to concede with loads of space for their player in our box. Taniguchi and Kurumaya both missed opportunities to put in a challenge and it was a relatively easy finish. Their game plan was paying off and they kept at it. We needed to score but we’re still toiling away with the sideways and backwards passes, going nowhere and gifting them opportunities and the ball with our sloppiness. The goal definitely affected us. Before it we looked nervy and after we looked a real mess. I can’t understand how when we had the ball there was no space at all and yet when they had the ball there was acres of it. It really looked like they had four or five extra players on the pitch. I probably should mention the ref, who was Kimura. He’s an irritating ref, the kind who wants to show how much of a great guy he is by not booking anyone. Makino got away with what I considered to be two clear yellow card fouls in the first half. He made a couple more bad ones in the second half too and he really should have been off the pitch long before we were down to ten men. But no, keep the game flowing and all that. Kimura looked like he was about to give us a penalty at one stage but perhaps bottled the decision running towards the Urawa fans. Looking at the replay, I reckon he could easily have given it as Kobayashi got shoved to the ground by Endo, who was so busy shoving he missed his header. But not given. So, all in all, a terrible first half. Urawa totally bossing us around, and us with no answer.  I’d been calling for Oniki to change things from around fifteen minutes but he didn’t. Unsurprisingly it seems he isn’t listening to the annoying whinging guy in the stand. I’d say our first half was summed up by the often quoted phrase which is something along the lines of ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting the result to be different.’ So, something of an insane first half from us. 

Second half starts, no change and some more insanity. I wasn’t particularly expecting subs, but a change in focus wound have been nice. Clearly the playing it out slowly thing wasn’t working for us, so why didn’t we change it? The only times in the game when we actually looked like we had some kind of control over ourselves and the game were when we were attacking. I know it’s not the way we play, but we really needed to go a bit more direct, as we have done at times in recent games, but for some reason, we kept on with the same unsuccessful plan. Then we were two goals down. Koroki was clearly offside in the build up, but we don’t seem to be getting these decisions recently. It was another terrible goal to concede with too much space for them and complete disarray in defence. Oniki reacted by bringing on Saito for Abe. Not sure why he didn’t do this at half time if it was on his mind. Then five minutes later Okubo on for Kengo. These changes did spur us on a little and we started to build up a bit of momentum. But the finishing was non existent and Urawa seemed to have those extra players on the field again. This momentum was killed by Nishikawa faking a lengthy injury before being able to miraculously carry on. But we managed to get something going again, but still not to the point where we were actually having shots on target. Makino was still kicking lumps out of our players with no punishment. Oniki made a third and slightly bizarre substitution, taking off Neto and bringing on Morita. Not saying Neto was playing too well to sub (in truth, no one was), but 69 minutes is pretty early to make your final change in a game you’re chasing, especially given that this sub was a straight swap in the defensive midfield area. And this sub backfired immediately with Sung-Ryong getting sent off. Nabbout looked like he was offside in the build up so maybe we shouldn’t have even got to the clumsy foul. He was heading away from goal with cover coming back in the middle when the foul was made so you could make a claim for a yellow, but the foul was so high and he was so far from the ball that there’s no way we can complain. So, down to ten men, keeper sent off and Nara moved into goal who actually did a decent job. You could make a claim that we might have played better with ten men. Nara was so far out and playing as a sweeper, that we didn’t really notice the reduced number of players too much. There were a few nervy moments though, but he made some decent saves. I’d say Oniki choosing him for the keeper’s position was probably the one thing he did right tactically in the game. Now with the seal broken on his card pocket, the ref decided to hand out a few more. Saito got one for what may have been his first foul. Makino was still under his protective bubble though. The noise in the stadium was pretty impressive. Maybe we should put a defender in goal more often as it really seemed to get some of the clapping only fans singing. And we toiled and tried, but still couldn’t shoot and the remaining time drained away, probably thankfully given our keeper situation, with no further goals. A 2-0 defeat to a team who’d played awfully most of the season so far, but had out-thought and out-fought us. Back to the drawing board. Although that drawing board still only has the one sheet of paper on it.

Let’s dispel any thoughts of positives, nothing was good about this game. We were tactically monosyllabic, completely unadaptable to a team stopping us playing the way we wanted to. You’ve also got to wonder about our confidence on the whole. We’re defending champions, we’re third in the league to their fifth bottom, playing at home and still they come and bully us into submission. Once again too many players didn’t show up in this game. Kobayashi, Kengo, Oshima, Neto all were well below par. Elsinho looked tired, Ienaga was a totally different player to the one he’s been recently. Some of our defending was pretty questionable. We couldn’t pass or shoot. We dominated possession in both halves yet only managed three shots on target in the whole match and I can’t remember their keeper having to make any particularly difficult saves. We’ve all come away from the match slightly excited by the fact that our centre back played in goal and we didn’t concede. Better not to think about the previous 70 minutes when we were total rubbish. Sung-Ryong will now be banned for at least one game too. Let’s hope we’ve got an easy game next where we can get back on track. Oh…

Next up we have FC Tokyo at home. This is a match that we can lose heavily even when we’re in fantastic form and they are struggling. With them having one of their best starts to a season for a while, we can only hope that the form book is turned upside down, this time in our favour. After that, a whole week off before our next league game, away to Kashiwa the following Saturday. To finish, instead of my usual upbeat cheery nonsense, I’ll just apologise for this lengthy and tedious whinge. Sorry!


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG (Red card 70')
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 4. OKUBO Yoshito (on for NAKAMURA 57')
MF 25. MORITA Hidemasa (on for EDUARDO NETO 69')
MF 37. SAITO Manabu (Yellow card 76') (on for ABE 52')

KOROKI (Urawa) 15' 0-1
KOROKI (Urawa) 50' 0-2


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.

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