Another game ticked off, and unbelievably Hiroshima lost again. We now find ourselves one win away from a second consecutive title. This excitement is so all-consuming that once again, I don’t have a lot to say about the game. At least when it comes to talking about things in detail anyway. Due to his red card in the Emperor’s Cup we had to face Kashiwa without Sung-Ryong in goal so Arai took his place. Oshima dropped to the bench with a slight injury and was replaced by Shimoda. And Abe was back, with Saito making way. Other than these changes it was as you’d expect. Kashiwa came into the game in a rotten league position and you’ve got to think that afterwards they were left hanging on to their J1 life by only a thread. The defeat to us was a blow for them, but probably one they might have been expecting. Jubilo’s 98th minute winner after coming back from 2-0 down with 30 minutes to go must have been a real kick in the guts though. People rave about them being a great team with great support and a great ground. Presumably not so many of these people have attended a match in a sold out away end in rotten weather conditions. Sure, you’re close to the pitch, but it can get pretty punishing if it’s raining or if it’s sunny, as you’re completely exposed. Also, not so much fun if you’re a non-Japanese goalkeeper as Cerezo found out earlier this season. All of this adds to the fun of their always hilarious ‘We’re Kashiwa Stupid’ banner. To amp things up, they decided to cover the Kashiwa part, leaving only ‘We’re Stupid’, which I’m guessing wasn’t exactly the message they were aiming to impart. They also charmingly had a ‘Play Dirty Go Hard’ flag, a message which some of their players took to heart in this game. I’m pleased the worst we have to put up with is ‘Go Sensational’, which at the start of the year felt pretty embarrassing, but when compared to some of the other abuses of the English language on teams flags actually seems quite quaint and charming! Have no idea if the same problem blights the other foreign language flags, but let’s be honest, it wouldn’t really be a surprise, would it? Much like with some of my recent posts, I’m going to just try to mention a few things I noticed from the game and then slip away quietly, eagerly awaiting the coming of the next match.
The result makes us look good, and we played some nice stuff in this game, but I think it probably more accurately reflects the depths that Kashiwa have sunk to. They looked pretty shaky at the back, but maybe this was our great attacking! Up front they had Olunga, who, at least in this game, fitted beautifully into the ‘big lump, with not much else to his game’ mould. Nara dealt with him pretty comfortably I thought. Ito hit the post for them, but aside from that and a few other chances, that was about it for them. After the first goal went in (lovely finish from Ienaga again!), I had a feeling that if they conceded again before half time, they’d probably be on a fast train to J2. And concede again they did, when we scored from a corner! A few seasons ago, that was a really rarity, but I feel that at the start of this year it was something we were doing quite regularly. That definitely dropped off though and I can’t recall the last time we did it. Pleasingly, it was Taniguchi who scored. He’s had a bit of a dodgy time recently with some real clangers in defence. You could say all three goals against Montedio were his fault if you were being harsh, or perhaps also if you were being fair. He didn’t start this game particularly well either, but the goal seemed to give him some confidence and we looked a lot more solid in the second half. You could probably say something similar about Arai. When he’s had his chance in goal he’s done ok, but I think the defeat against Kashima in the Levain Cup was a bit of a low point for him. Nice to have him back with a clean sheet though, and he made some good saves in the game.
As I said, going forward we were looking decent. If it wasn’t for the (unfortunate for us) return of Nakamura in goal for them, I think we would have scored a few more. I can’t imagine he’ll be staying at Kashiwa next year if they go down. We had quite a lot of possession and created quite a few chances in the first half and started the second half by coming flying out of the traps. Things did drop off a bit though. Understandable I guess, especially after the third goal, as it looked unlikely we would lose and could take our foot off the gas in view of the upcoming games. It did seem a shame though as we had some good breaks where there was absolutely no support. A few times a player would speed towards goal with the ball, hotly pursued by a couple of Kashiwa defenders and then the attack would fizzle out with a pass backwards and into our own half. Kengo looked a bit tired in this match and was lucky to last 80 minutes I thought. I guess his versatility and the absence of Oshima meant that he was left on the pitch a bit longer than he might have been otherwise. But it did feel a little like his recent 38th birthday might have had a psychological effect on him. Probably it’s more likely that another long season of being a first team regular has tired him out, or perhaps he was just having a quiet game. One of those four possibilities anyway! One big downside of this game was the injury to Kobayashi. He took an elbow right between the eyes and has apparently broken a bone. Guess this means he’ll either miss the next game or be wearing one of those Phantom of the Opera style masks that have become common recently. The incident was completely off the ball and looks a bit naughty from the Kashiwa defender. He clearly knew Kobayashi was there as he could probably feel him having a little pull of his shirt. The ref and linesman both completely missed it though. To be fair to them, I also did, but as I said at the time, I’m not getting paid to watch the match and they are. Kashiwa weren’t the nicest team. It seems their tactics are to try to kick and elbow their way to J1 safety. After this display, I won’t be particularly sad to see them go down.
In a slight change from my previous positives and negatives, I’ll go for good day and bad day instead. A good day was had by the fans as this is a big step to the title. There was significant excitement even after the final whistle as events in the Jubilo/Sanfrecce developments filtered through the crowd, unfortunately resulting in most people not listening to what Ienaga or Tanuguchi had to say in the post match interviews. I think most of the players had a good day too. Kobayashi wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders in front of goal and his unfortunate injury meant that he had to be replaced just as he was working towards getting some shots on target. Also Kengo was quiet as I said above. But you couldn’t say either had a bad game. The people it really was a bad day for have got to be anyone connected with Kashiwa who now look cooked and Sanfrecce, who seem to be finding a new and original way to flop each week. Their collapse has been astonishing and we shouldn’t forget, (if we win the league), that we’ve had some dodgy results this year and if Hiroshima hadn’t so completely imploded, we would probably be fighting it out for second place. Feels nice to be seven points ahead of them though, particularly after that horrendous decision they got against us earlier this year!
Next up, three matches, of which we have to win at least one to take the title. First Cerezo Osaka away next Saturday. I feel we still owe them a pasting for our horrendous performances when it mattered against them last season. The weekend after, we’re away again, this time to FC Tokyo, who recently have remembered how to win football matches and would be delighted to put the brakes on any title challenge of ours. Then finally a home game against Jubilo, who did us a huge favour in the last game of last season holding Kashima and did us a huge favour this weekend by beating Hiroshima. Three games, one win required. The away game at Cerezo has now sold out, so presumably there are a few confident people around. I’m still not going to jinx anything though. Fingers crossed, and keep it up Frontale!
GK 30. ARAI Shota
DF 18. ELSINHO
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 25. MORITA Hidemasa (Yellow card 28')
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro (Yellow card 45+1')
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
GK 24. ANDO Shunsuke
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for SAITO 76')
MF 27. SUZUKI Yuto (on for NAKAMURA 80')
DF 29. MICHAEL JAMES
MF 37. SAITO Manabu (on for IENAGA 90+1')
There are quite a few contenders in this match to be honest. Nobori was great going forward and at the back, so much better than against Montedio. The middle two of Shimoda and Morita also did a good job. Morita really is a talent and it’s nice to see that he’s not trying so many tricks as he was a few games ago as these never look good when they go wrong and you probably shouldn’t be doing them in your first season proper. Ienaga and Abe did their usual high quality stuff. Abe’s chipped finish after Chinen’s shot was saved was very nice. Arai picked up the defensive man of the match award after the game and he did well too, his ball control and distribution even looking a bit better than usual I thought. But, and I have no qualms about saying this, for me it has to go to…
NARA Tatsuki - not just because I am a Nara superfan, but because he totally bossed Olunga, tidied up after a few players mistakes, was like a rock at the back and did a fantastic goal celebration for our third which I retweeted on twitter. Great stuff! Oh, and believe it or not, apparently he hasn't been booked all season. I should probably check this before posting it, but, oh well...
IENAGA (Frontale) 21' 1-0
TANIGUCHI (Frontale) 33' 2-0
ABE (Frontale) 89' 3-0
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. And we have that extra footage video again at the bottom.