We’re only one game back into the restarted season and I’m already running the risk of not getting a blog post done before the following match. The schedule this year is pretty hectic. Presumably that’s why we decided to crash out of the ACL early. Must be, right? It was good to get back into league action though. Particularly after last week's disappointing cup game against Mito. The team selection for our league games will always be more representative of what Oniki considers to be our best team, so now we have a bit more idea of how our midfield will look post-Neto. I guess it will come as no surprise that Morita will be taking his place. Thankfully, my hero Nara was back where he belongs, alongside Taniguchi, for his return to his old hometown team. Any line-up surprises were probably on the bench. I’m pleased that Oniki actually put a replacement centre back on there this time. It now seems that Michael James is his preferred third choice. The writing is probably on the wall for Edu, who I think has been unfairly blamed by Oniki in the past at times, but seems to suffer from making one big and sometimes costly mistake per match. He looks destined to spend the rest of the season playing for the reserves. I’m not sure an injury would even get him back into the squad. The other big surprise was the absence of Moriya. Shimoda was the bench replacement for that position. But at least this time the bench made a bit more sense than at Mito.
It’s always nice to go to Sapporo and this time we got to go to their second stadium, which I think I enjoyed more than the Sapporo dome. It’s interesting to watch a game inside in a baseball stadium, but given that this was summer, and the weather was much nicer than in boiling hot Kanto, it was great to be outside. Of course there was a running track though, and the pitch seemed to be even further away than usual. Given the slightly limited viewpoint, the lateness of this blogpost and the Sapporo Classic on tap at the stadium, the details in this post may be lacking somewhat. But I guess you can watch a video of the game if you’re into details and that kind of thing. You probably come to this blog just for the moaning, right? You may be disappointed with this post though, as I had a fun time and consequently haven’t got too many moans this time. The game was pretty exciting and was quite open from the start with chances for both teams. We were defending well though, with the two centre backs and the keeper doing a good job of keeping Sapporo at bay. Morita was also doing well (I still miss Neto though...) and it was nice to see Oshima back on the pitch. Morita did pick up an early yellow card though. It looked a bit harsh from where I was but to be honest I couldn’t see much. The weird thing is, they were showing a lot of replays on the big screen in the stadium. These replays clearly, and amusingly, showed up bad decisions from the referee on several occasions. This time the ref was Iemoto, who has been decent for us this year. I’m not sure I’d say he had a good game, and apparently both sets of fans thought he’d favoured the other team, but we did win again with him in charge, so I’m not going to complain. We were moving the ball around quite nicely but occasionally over complicating things up front and over playing it in the middle and almost getting caught out at the back at times. The Consadole fans were annoyingly booing all our possession. I’m not sure what effect this kind of thing is supposed to have. It annoys me, but I’d imagine it probably makes the team in possession enjoy the possession all the more. We managed to put a stop to this booing and go into halftime a goal to the good though. I’ve seen the goal referred to as a PlayStation style goal and I think that sums it up quite nicely. Elsinho got the ball on the right and dribbled infield past player after player towards the box before his shot squeezed in under keeper. The keeper probably could have gone a better job of stopping it, but I’m glad he didn’t. So a decent first half, with chances for both teams, a high percentage of which were on target for us. Promising!
Sadly, half time brought the realisation that Sanfrecce were winning comfortably against Gamba who’d received an early red card. And also our local rivals Yokohama were destroying our friends Vegalta Sendai. Not the best first half scores from the other matches to be honest. Someone has to stop Hiroshima soon. Let’s hope it’s Neto at Nagoya this weekend. Statistically the second half was quite similar to the first. A decent amount of chances for both teams with us having the edge in terms of possession. We scored again early on into the second half and it was through Kobayashi, who looked pretty good throughout the game. It was a nice move and a great finish, cutting back, losing the defenders and curling the ball into the corner. This meant that Consadole really had to start doing something and they gave it a decent crack. Most of their attacks seemed to be coming down their left, with Jay being a constant menace in the box. The ref was making some slightly bizarre decisions and there was a possibility that they could have had a penalty in the first half. The ref didn’t give it though (excellent decision, I’m sure...). Iemoto seemed to perhaps think he’d got that decision wrong, (probably saw the replay on the screen), and for the whole of the second half gave them pretty much everything to try to even things up. They had to get a goal to get back into the game and this opened things up for us to pour forward at times. Ienaga had a couple of lovely chances that he was unlucky with. He was really putting in a shift though and again showing how important he is for us this year. Oniki made a couple of changes, Nobori on for Kengo (!?), Ienaga moving into the Kengo spot and Abe and Nobori changing wings a couple of times (I think... or perhaps it was just a bit of a confusing mess). Five minutes later he brought on Suzuki for Abe, who’d just missed a glorious chance to put us three up, sliding to meet a cross and putting it just wide. Now Nobori could stick to the left and Suzuki could go on the right. I don’t know why Oniki didn’t make the two changes at the same time. Perhaps he was expecting the first change to do the business, or perhaps he wanted to run down the clock a little. To be honest, we did almost score during this spell, so perhaps he’s a tactical genius! The removal of Kengo meant that Ienaga was now on the corners and I really really enjoyed the contrast between his fatigue defying lung busting bursts up the pitch to shoot just wide, with the utter exhaustion displayed when he had to go to take a corner, tiny steps, head hung low, legs wobbling like he’s just finished a marathon. Great stuff! And will probably be just as good an Ienaga image as his shoulder flick at Yuma Suzuki, which was well worth him getting a yellow card for. We looked to be seeing the game out without too many worries when they got a free kick on the edge of the box from a Nara handball. Felt a little harsh to me as he was jumping and turning at the time, but I understand why it was given. Sadly they scored from the set piece, (with a tiny hint of offside although I haven’t checked it), and we were unable to take away a clean sheet from the game. A shame as we’d defended pretty solidly for the most part, and Sung-Ryong seemed back to his old self. We’d probably brought the five minutes injury time on ourselves, and we really shouldn’t have played on much further after their goal. I didnt need the couple of nervous minutes that were played. But we saw them out in spite of an early start to our victory song and a few heart in the mount moments, and took home the three points. Lovely!
Positives and negatives. Not so much in the way of negatives this time. It was a good result against a decent team. Perhaps the other J League results are the negative. Big positives were the defensive solidity for the most part of the game and Sung-Ryong being on hand when the defence was breached. Kobayashi seemed a lot livelier than he was against Mito and took his goal well. Hopefully he can get a run of goals going. Nice dribbling from Elsinho too! And another big positive were the Consadole fans, (aside from the booing...). They were very helpful after the game when we were debating how to get back into town. One even offered to share a cab with us. If you’re reading this, see you at Todoroki!
Next up we have Nagasaki at home tomorrow in the league. After that we’re away at Shonan the following Saturday. So, a couple of teams towards the bottom of the table. We normally struggle in these games, but we can’t afford to drop any points right now. Fingers crossed for six points from these games and a big ZERO points for Hiroshima against Nagoya and Urawa. Go Frontale!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 18. ELSINHO
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 25. MORITA Hidemasa (Yellow card 8')
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (Yellow card 63')
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (Yellow card 63')
GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for NAKAMURA 77')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 27. SUZUKI Yuto (on for ABE 82')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
Tricky one, given that there were a lot of decent performances, particularly at the back. For the fact that it looks like he's coming back into form and the well taken goal, I think I'll give it to...
KOBAYASHI Yu - worked hard, made chances and scored a cracker
ELSINHO (Frontale) 42' 0-1
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 52' 0-2
TOKURA (Consadole) 90+5' 1-2
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.