Friday, 15 March 2019

Vs Sydney FC (home) 13/3/19 - ACL Group Stage Match 2

Kawasaki Frontale 1 - 0 Sydney FC

We won a game!!! It feels like it’s been a while and I’m glad we finally broke our run of draws. But it wasn’t exactly a convincing performance. But the result is a step in the right direction. I’m going to try to keep this a brief post as the games are coming uncomfortably quickly at the moment and it’s making it difficult to keep up with blog posts. What’s undeniable is that we needed this win badly and that was evident by the big celebrations from the players and the fans at the end. This was a result with a significance that I guess outweighed the flatness of the performance. Hopefully it will help us kick on a bit now and get started properly in the league against Gamba at home on Sunday. Fingers crossed anyway. Here’s what we’ve learned from this game:

Today's favourite 11 -

After some confusion over possible rotation against Yokohama and some very real doubts over what our priorities are and what Oniki’s first choice team is, this line up further muddied the water. Kurumaya dropped to the bench. Was this due to his recent questionable form or was he being rested? Who knows… If you looked to right back, you might think there was some kind of resting going on, as Mawatari, who definitely seems to be Oniki’s favored option in that position dropped out of the squad after completing 90 minutes against Yokohama. But as this was after he seemed to have been injured in the previous game against Shanghai, I was all in favour of giving him a break as he’s done well so far and we don’t want anyone picking up a long term injury. However, his place was, in my view, illogically given to Morita. I don’t know what Maguinho has done to Oniki, but after a couple of promising early performances he seems to have now completely dropped out of contention. Is he going to be this season’s Edu? I hope not! Right back clearly isn’t Morita’s best position, and I don’t know why he’s being played there with Maguinho and Suzuki being much more natural options. Aside from these changes at the back, the other notable change was Kengo being moved back alongside Ao and us apparently reverting to a 4-4-2 with Kobayashi up front, Hasegawa on the left and Ienaga wherever he wanted. But it felt more like the usual formation with Kobayashi on the right and Ienaga in the Kengo role to me. It looked like a line-up that could do Sydney quite some damage but it didn’t really turn out like that.

Blame the pitch and the balloon -

After a bright start with Damiao forcing a decent save out of the Sydney keeper (who people praised, but I wasn’t so sure about. More to come on that shortly), we quickly reverted back to playing the useless football we played for large periods of the first three league games. Our passing was horrible. It looked like the ball had been replaced by a balloon, with relatively simple passes skewing off at weird angles. I know when we pass badly we usually moan about the pitch. I heard some complaints about the Yokohama pitch, which for some reason affected our passing a lot more than it did theirs. But this was a home game for us, so I have no idea what we can blame for our inability to move the ball around. Sure it was a little windy, but unless the wind was a ground level hurricane, we can’t really blame it. I always feels guilty about singling people out for bad performances (but I guess it doesn’t usually stop me doing so), but once again Morita wasn’t at his best. Neither were Ienaga, Kobayashi or Kengo. I don’t understand why everyone might be having rotten games at the same time. Is there something going on behind the scenes? Is it just a lack of confidence due to our flat start to the season? Aside from a few glimpses of decent football, this was pretty plodding stuff. Sydney didn’t look any better, looking like they’d come to play for the draw and perhaps snatch something on a counter attack. If they’d watched any of our previous three games they could probably have expected that we’d gift them a goal sooner or later. But they didn’t really trouble us too much. Think they only had two shots in the whole game. Conversely, we had plenty of shots, but to be honest, to call them shots is being a bit generous. Some of the ‘fantastic’ saves the Sydney keeper pulled off required him to catch the ball, moving at back pass speed, at perfect height without having to move his feet, which he did with aplomb! And that was when we actually managed to shoot. Once again, it was all a bit ponderous, with us trying to work the ball into a position where we could pass it over the line.

ExSAITOment -

The change many of us were calling for in this game did finally come. When I say the change we were calling for, I really mean the introduction of Manabu. I don’t think Hasegawa did anything wrong in particular, but the game was begging for a bit of exSAITOment (hmmmmmm…. does that work?). He duly supplied it within two minutes of coming on, slotting the ball home. He was named man of the match, and whilst I would usually rail against someone playing for ten minutes getting that honour, presumably just because they scored a goal, I think he fully deserved it. He managed to score!!!! And he does seem to lift both the crowd and his teammates when he comes on. And there wasn't a wealth of other options. I don’t know why we don’t play him more often. Surely we could use him a bit more centrally too as another option, getting the ball to him to run at opposition defences. He must be wondering why he joined us given the lack of playing time he’s had so far. Think we have to get him more involved this year as he can’t be too happy with, at best, sitting on the bench. You could probably say this about a few other players too, but it does seem that even with this talk of rotation, there are still some un-rotatables. I still think Oniki picks the players first and then tries to fit them in to his formation after.

Wahey! Boom, boom, boom, boom _________________ -

This wasn’t the biggest attendance, but it was a decent one, considering it was a week night game with a bit of an early kick off. Somewhat reflecting the quality of what was going on on the pitch, I’d say it was a bit of an underwhelming night for the supporters too. This resulted in something that I don’t think I’ve ever seen. I think a rival group to the regular Kawasaki Kazoku started a chant! Not hugely exciting, but it seems slightly noteworthy. I do wonder why we sometimes stay quiet aside from a little jeering and some drum rolling when the opposition has the ball and passes it back to their keeper. It seems that people don’t like to make any noise unless it is a noise sanctioned and started by the call leaders. Was nice to see something starting almost naturally. The Kazoku do a great job, and I understand that if the game is dull it’s difficult to be excited, but if we believe that our support helps the team, we shouldn’t just confine it to when we have the ball.

Japan/Australia ACL love in -

Finally a couple of less Frontale focused points. After seeing some nice interactions between Melbourne Victory and Hiroshima fans at the previous days game on twitter, it was nice to see that the A League and J League love in continued. Sydney left us a nice message in their changing room and there was seemed to be some good feeling between the fans walking back to station. I don’t know how many fans Sydney actually brought with them, and how many were people actually living in Japan, but it’s always good to see fans integrating nicely. Contrary to what fans of some clubs might think, (including some in the J League), you don’t have to hate the opposition with every part of your being. Of course it’s easier to say that after a win, but I hope I’d be able to feel it in defeat too.

Mullet! -

What a haircut that was! Have no idea what’s behind it and whether it is a post modern interpretation with an ironic wink or just a good old fashioned shocker of a mullet, but wow! Hats off to you Rhyan Grant (see, he’s even wild with his spelling of his name!). Definitely hats off, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to see the full effect of that cut.

So, next up Gamba at home. Hopefully this win will give us a bit of confidence. Even if it was a thoroughly average performance, it was a win. If we can now do that in the league, we might be able to get a bit more optimism flowing and we might even see a few more goals. Gamba have scored quite a few and conceded quite a few so far so it should be an exciting game. (Presumably now though, it will be another 0-0 draw).  Let’s get the league campaign and title defence properly started and hopefully stop people talking about Yokohama and get them talking about us again. Go Frontale!


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya

GK 21. ARAI Shota
DF 7 KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 19. SAITO Manabu (on for HASEGAWA 81')
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 64')
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 27. SUZUKI Yuto (on for MORITA 61')
MF 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya

My Frontale Man Of The Match

Yeah, I know it’s stupid but I’m going to give it to... 

SAITO Manabu - took a shot, scored a goal, made (almost) everyone happy.


SAITO (Frontale) 83' 1-0


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