The games are coming thick and fast again, and in spite of the numerous public holidays over here, I’m still having trouble getting these posts done on time. So this is another slightly rushed one. Nagoya seemed to have turned the corner a little in recent weeks, pulling away from the relegation zone, due to them getting themselves in order and signing some good players (Hello Neto!). So this was potentially a trickier game than the league table made it look. It was another decent performance though, with an unchanged starting line up from the 7-0 demolition of Consadole last week. Sure we didn’t score as many, and we conceded, but it’s another win and crucially our neighbours FC Tokyo managed to halt Sanfrecce Hiroshima, with a 1-1 draw, cutting the gap at the top to four points, with us having a game in hand. I still think all the pressure is on Sanfrecce as they have blown almost all of the huge lead they had earlier in the season. Crucially though, that lead is still partially intact, and if we want to win successive titles, we need them to slip up again. At the moment, this seems like it could happen, but we also need to keep winning. I’m probably more confident of the former happening than the latter, but it’s undeniable that we’ve just started to build a nice run. Still, plenty of potential banana skins on the road to the end of the season though, starting with our next two games away against Shonan and Nagasaki, both of whom are fighting for J1 survival and will probably not come at us like Consadole and, to a certain extent, Nagoya did. If we can get through those two games with two wins, maybe we can start dreaming. But, personally speaking, I’m going to keep talking our chances down until the season is over, as I just feel more comfortable this way!
This game looked like it would be similar to the Consadole one. With Kazama in charge, you’d expect Nagoya to play in his normal attacking way. However, they seem to have toughened up a bit in the middle of the pitch and taken their foot off the attacking football accelerator a little. I was surprised by how dirty they were, with quite a lot of nasty little fouls flying in. I should say though, that we were pretty clever with respect to Neto. I love Neto and still think we would be much better off with him rather than without him, but it’s always been true that he does on occasion get a little caught up in the game and lets his emotions get the better of him. Right from the start of the game, Kengo was getting right in his face with some meaty challenges, some of which were possibly fouls… maybe… It worked though as he finally kicked back and got a yellow towards the end of the first half, significantly reducing his effectiveness in the second half. Nice work Kengo! But yeah, Nagoya were playing a pretty smart game with us, not letting us settle but also not pushing up on us as much as you might expect, and a lot less than Consadole had. They were defending in numbers and Langerak was having a good game. Just as I made a note saying that, we scored, so I’ll take credit for it, thank you very much. Our first goal was a beautiful headed finish, in off the post past a stranded Langerak. Unfortunately for Nagoya, the finish came from one of their own defenders and whilst we were making chances, it was pretty generous of them to put one of them away for us. Our second was an absolute screamer from Abe. A really nice goal and two in two games for him. Hopefully he’s about to hit a rich vein of goals. He had a great game, all over the pitch, making a lot of important challenges in defence and always in the right position when attacking. The same couldn’t be said about Kobayashi, who was having a bit of a nightmare, and was apparently not feeling too good after the game due to dehydration. He missed a couple of absolute sitters but did manage to eventually get on the score sheet, although it looked to me more like another own goal at the time. And actually looking at the replays, it still looks like an own goal, but I guess in these cases the striker wants to get it and the defender would probably rather not have it. The encouraging thing about this goal is that it came very shortly after we’d conceded. The goal we conceded was a little unfortunate as Nara missed a challenge and the two defenders behind him didn’t really move. But, scoring shortly after conceding is good from a psychological point of view for us and the opposition. This game wasn’t one way traffic. Sung-Ryong made some good saves and aside from the goal, the defence had a good game. When Chinen came on for Kobayashi he did a good job, winning pretty much everything in the air. At this stage, the game was almost in the bag. Nagoya had to push for goals and consequently were giving us more space than we’d had all game. Abe almost got another beauty when he hit the post from outside the box with the keeper rooted to the spot. It’s really nice to see someone shooting from distance as Oshima doesn’t seem to do it so much recently and long distance specialist Moriya is still injured. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of this game though was the fact that even when two goals ahead we were still pressing the opposition and winning the ball time after time, breaking up their attacks and nicking it off them in their own half too. It seems to be something we’ve got a lot better at in the last two games and I think this is almost certainly contributing to the better performances and results. Let’s hope we can keep it going.
Apologies, this post is a bit rambling and again light on details but I’m running out of time before the next game and right now I’m trying not to change anything in the hope that I’ve somehow hit on a lucky combination of pre-match rituals and blog posting styles that is contributing to us winning and Hiroshima not winning. As long as these results continue, I’ll keep on with these slightly random posts. It’s certainly been a lot more fun to go to games these last two weeks. Of course, every good run comes to an end, but lets hope we can stretch this one for another couple of... months. Is that too much to ask? Next up, a couple of away games, Shonan on Wednesday (our game in hand) and Nagasaki on Saturday. You’ve got to think that we need six points from these two games, but they’re just the type of games that we sometimes tend to mess up. Hopefully though, we can take the confidence we must be gaining and perform to the best of our abilities. Fingers crossed! 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
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
GK 24. ANDO Shunsuke
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei (on for NAKAMURA 78')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for KOBAYASHI 72')
MF 27. SUZUKI Yuto
DF 29. MICHAEL JAMES
MF 32. TANAKA Ao (on for OSHIMA 90+2')
IZUMI (Nagoya) OWN GOAL 20' 1-0
ABE (Frontale) 34' 2-0
MAEDA (Nagoya) 59' 2-1
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 63' 3-1
My Frontale Man Of The Match
This is a bit trickier in the last game where Ienaga was involved in everything and was an easy selection for MOTM. Once again, he performed well and he seems a natural in the Kengo role which he takes up when Kengo is substituted. Kengo did a great job too. Shimoda and Oshima went fairly unnoticed to me, which in recent times I’ve come to think means that they were doing a good job. Sung-Ryong made some good saves when he needed to, but unfortunately couldn’t stop the goal from going in. And Elsinho and Kurumaya seem rejuvenated recently. But for both sheer excitement and also doing the dirty work it goes to…
ABE Hiroyuki - great goal, and almost a great second goal too, but gets it mainly for always being involved, up front and in defence and even when he inevitably gets switched to right wing for the last 15 minutes of the game.
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.