V-Varen Nagasaki 1 - 2 Kawasaki Frontale
This will be a pretty short post as I think I’ve said before that I don’t particularly want to write much about games that I haven’t attended. This was the away trip I was most looking forward to this year, and we were all booked and ready to go before the monster typhoon intervened. You could say we’re quitters, but with a cat at home, we couldn’t really risk getting stranded in Kyushu, as I believe quite a lot of Frontale fans are as I write this. Putting aside those stranded fans’ feelings for a moment, I was quite pleased this morning to find out that our gut instinct had been right, and we wouldn’t have been able to get home. I’m still gutted I missed the game though, as the way things stand, we might not be visiting Nagasaki next year. Hopefully, they can get a run going and escape relegation. Things are pretty tight down there, but V-Varen are bottom, so obviously have most to do.
After the disappointment of Wednesday’s performance and result against Shonan, this was a welcome, and crucial return to winning ways. Once again, we were in the slightly fortunate position of playing later than Hiroshima, so were no doubt boosted by the fact that they lost again, knowing that we could potentially go top if we won. I was wondering how Oniki would respond to Wednesday’s game. I’m still not really sure what happened there to be honest, but I think it was just a combination of us still not knowing how to best play against super defensive teams and plenty of our players concurrently having an off day. Dropping Shimoda and Abe seemed a bit weird though, but I’m not trying too hard to understand Oniki’s decisions now as he clearly knows a lot more than I do about football and us sitting top of the table makes it difficult to criticise what’s going on without sounding slightly insane. Surprisingly, we switched to two up front with Chinen alongside Kobayashi, I guess to combat the increased numbers of defenders. If only he’d thought of that against Gamba! It all seemed to work anyway, as we cruised through the first half scoring twice, well in control. I don’t know if we thought the job was done by half time or whether Nagasaki sticking the big man on up front threw us, but we were woeful in the second half. But we hung on, in spite of conceding a late goal, and took the three points back to Kawasaki. Not the most exciting of games, but an effective result and given that we’re now sitting on top of the pile, I think we’d all take six more lacklustre wins. But now we are leading, we’re the target. Hiroshima’s form has been pretty bad recently, but dropping behind might just give them the kick up the backside they need to get back in gear. And I can’t say with confidence that I think we’re going to win the rest of our games this season! It has certainly got interesting now though, and we managed to avoid falling foul of any clangers from Tojo, back refereeing us for the first time since that Hiroshima game ‘offside’.
Next up, Kashima away, who unfortunately have just moved into third place, so now have something to play for. We just have to hope that still being involved in four competitions means that even their moneybags squad gets a touch thin and they gift us the three points. The game is sandwiched between the first leg of their ACL semi-final and the first leg of their Levain cup semi-final. Who knows where their priorities lie, but the league is the competition they have the least chance of winning, isn’t it? I’m sure they’d be happy to derail our chances though, given what happened last season. We go into this game without Ienaga, who somewhat foolishly picked up a late yellow for kicking the ball away and now will miss a match due to accumulated bookings. Probably could have done with having him play as, with a few exceptions, he’s been great recently. It doesn’t seem popular with Oniki, but I think we could play Kobayashi on the right and maybe continue with Chinen up front or play one of the many attacking left midfielders we’ve got up top. Or even Akasaki as I know Oniki likes to get players involved against their former clubs. I guess he’ll probably go with Suzuki on the right, but personally speaking, I’d like to see Kobayashi out their again as he always looks dangerous in that position. Fingers crossed that the interminable post match coach journey back from Ibaraki is a positive one! 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 14. NAKAMURA Kengo (Yellow card 64')
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro (Yellow card 89')
MF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
FW 20. CHINEN Kei
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
GK 24. ANDO Shunsuke
MF 6. TASAKA Yusuke
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki (on for NOBORIZATO 71')
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 27. SUZUKI Yuto (on for CHINEN 75')
DF 29. MICHAEL JAMES
MF 37. SAITO Manabu
CHINEN (Frontale) 35' 0-1
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 41' 0-2
JUANMA (Nagasaki) 90+3' 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.