Jeez, where to start with this one. There was way too much action to be able to go into any detail about particular goals. There were so many of them that it was at times difficult to gather thoughts in between. This was a fantastic game to watch apart from those moments when human compassion kicked in and my thoughts inevitably turned to the opposition players and fans. It’s never nice to get beat and it’s always horrible to get thrashed. This game seemed to be something of a perfect storm contributed to by a few notable aspects which I’m going to break down into bullet points rather than try to construct any kind of coherent narrative out of what was just a really exhilarating blur. Bit of a cop out I know, but I’m a little baffled as to whether this is us showing our true colours or a real freak of a result in a bit of a strange season. Anyway, here we go.
- Finally we’re back to playing players in their best positions, and covering absent players with players who play in the relevant position rather than trying to put bigger name square pegs in round holes. I was delighted to see both Nara back alongside Taniguchi and Shimoda get a chance alongside Oshima. Kurumaya was much improved back at left back too. This is the first game in ages where I can have no gripes about any of Oniki’s decisions. Sure there was a bit of shuffling done when Nobori replaced Oshima, but the game was already won by then, and the confidence surging through the team meant that we could probably have put Abe in goal and Sung-Ryong up front and still kept the scoring going. Bringing on Tanaka was exactly the right thing to do in the situation and he got a great reception coming on, and the place really erupted when he scored. Can’t say anyone had anything near a below par game. They were all great. When a few players are in bad form, well, that’s life I guess. But when the majority of the squad is out of form, you’ve got to think there could be something going wrong behind the scenes. Which brings me on to my next point…
- Morale has seemed so low in recent games. Elsinho has looked uninterested, Nara’s few appearances saw him lacking his usual enthusiasm. The end of the last game against Kashima was a real low for us I think. The support had been great, but the performance terrible. We’d been dismantled by a side who have been pretty inconsistent this season. Perhaps this result caused some behind the scenes soul-searching or clear the air talks. Whatever happened, and maybe nothing happened, this game saw a team who were all playing for each other and giving 100%. The start was pretty ragged from a few players, but they were bailed out by their team mates. Of course team spirit is going to be boosted by a goal fest, but even in the early stages it seemed to be back after a bit of an absence. The reactions when Shimoda and Tanaka scored were great with big celebrations on the pitch, the bench and in the stands. Whether this boost in spirit is a reaction to this last game, a reaction to some ‘discussion’ within the squad and management or down to to people once again playing in their favoured positions I don’t know. But it’s very, very welcome!
- Poor Consadole probably played exactly the way we’d want a team to play against us. We should probably bear this in mind before getting too carried away. They are very much in the minority in this league, being a team who want to actually play positive football and we’re gong to have to try to recreate this performance against teams who will sit back and occasionally hoof the ball long. Their pressing of us in all areas of the pitch caused us quite a few problems early on, but also allowed us to start picking them off with counter attacks. The start of this game was nuts. Both teams were really going for it and there were plenty of chances at both ends. They could have taken the lead early on when the ball looped into net but Tokura was given offside (I think…or maybe it was a foul). If he hadn’t challenged for the ball which was already going in (I thought), and hadn’t fouled Sung-Ryong, the game could have been a lot different. Once again, poor Consadole, as they also seemed to be facing us on a day when everything we hit was on target and rebounds were coming straight back to us (see Ienaga’s goal, give him a second chance and he’ll make sure it goes somewhere you can’t stop it).
So a big victory. Seven goals, seven different scorers. Everyone wanted to score (especially Elsinho, who kept running into goal scoring positions right till the end of the game. A big change in his demeanour from recent matches!). But there was no greediness and everyone was playing for the team. This has really helped out our goal difference which was quite some way behind Sanfrecce’s but now is right up there. The fact that we knew Sagan Tosu had beaten Sanfrecce must also have given us a boost before the game. Everything seemed to fall into place and we should enjoy it, as these kind of things don’t happen very often. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that there was an earthquake in Hokkaido the previous week, which can’t have seen Consadole turn up in perfect condition for this game. But unlike in previous encounters where we’ve sat back when one goal up, we kept playing, and scoring, right till the end. Hopefully this performance will give us some belief that we can go on and take the title. The belief has been lacking in many quarters recently and this should really give us all a bit of confidence. Hiroshima are still six points ahead (with us having a goal in hand), but you’ve got to think that the pressure is back on them now. They’ve slipped up significantly (again), and we have emphatically taken advantage. Let’s hope we can keep it together! Next up, another team who could potentially try to take the game to us and attack, Nagoya Grampus at Todoroki next Saturday. In a way, I hope they do, and I hope that we can perform like this again! Go Frontale!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 18. ELSINHO
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro (Yellow card 45+1')
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
GK 24. ANDO Shunsuke
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for OSHIMA 52')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for KOBAYASHI 73')
MF 27. SUZUKI Yuto
DF 29. MICHAEL JAMES
MF 32. TANAKA Ao (on for SHIMODA 84')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
With so many good performances and so many different goal scorers this could be tricky. I felt Abe ran him close with his excellent tracking back and defending and a cool finish for his goal, but it can only really go to…
IENAGA Akihiro - Totally bossed this game. Had a hand in pretty much all of the goals. After a few anonymous performances, (and being totally missing from the second leg against Kashima), he is back to his best in emphatic style. And he looked pretty cool…
IENAGA (Frontale) 28' 1-0
NAKAMURA (Frontale) 30' 2-0
ABE (Frontale) 40' 3-0
SHIMODA (Frontale) 57' 4-0
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 58' 5-0
CHINEN (Frontale) 86' 6-0
TANAKA (Frontale) 90+1' 7-0
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.