Wednesday 29 May 2019

Vs Oita Trinita (away) 26/5/19 - J League match 13

Oita Trinita 0 - 1 Kawasaki Frontale

This game has to be one of our longest away trips of the season. For some reason I always seem to like the longer away trips the most and this was another good one. It was my first time to visit this stadium and it took me back up to 100% complete for the current J League teams’ grounds. It was a nice stadium, pretty big but unfortunately with a running track which looked surprisingly knackered, nestled in the green hills that seem to surround Oita city. The ground wasn’t very full, but I guess this is caused by them having a stadium a bit too big for their current needs given that they have yo-yoed from J1 to J3 and back in recent years. There was a surprising lack of awareness of the team in places in the city we went too before and after the game with locals asking us what was going on. Perhaps the upcoming rugby World Cup has made people forget about football and Trinita. Once again there was a large amount of mixing between the two groups of fans. I guess that going forward I should probably comment when this doesn’t happen as mixing seems to be more common than segregation recently. I don’t know if this is just for friendlier teams, but once again, it’s very welcome. This was actually their second highest crowd of the season, only being eclipsed by their home game against local rivals Sagan Tosu. With FC Tokyo losing on the Saturday, this gave us a real opportunity to put some pressure on them at the top. We’ve been waiting for the wheels to come off for them and admittedly this is only one defeat, but perhaps, and hopefully, this could prove to be the start of some rotten form for them! Our other top five rivals, Oita (obviously), Nagoya and Kashima all lost on this match day. So this should go down as the perfect football weekend for us. I’d love another one of them this weekend too please if it’s not too much to ask. So this blog post is going to be all sunshine and flowers, right? Well, maybe not, but I’m not going to moan much. Here are the significant things we might have discovered from this match.

Oita here to stay? -

Oita have been one of the big surprises so far this season. There were some thoughts that maybe they were in a false position but I think they did a pretty good job against us. If they had a bit more luck with their final ball they could have really given us some big problems. The game started with both sides being pretty cagey, but once things settled down it was Oita who were having the better chances, at least up until that final pass or shot. Lots has been said about Frontale old boy Shun Takagi being crucial for them and he certainly was an important element of their defence, combining his keeping with sweeper like defensive play. However, I think we were obviously aware this was going to be the case and Leandro Damiao did a great job of pressuring and pressing him every time he got the ball. Our goal didn’t come from this hassling though, but the hassling definitely stopped them from being too fluid at the back. I wonder if we might have had more success if we’d been playing with two up front as then there would have been much more pressure on the back three and Takagi. Obviously we would have been lighter in midfield where Oita presumably would have had the extra player, but perhaps as defending champions in reasonable form we should be forcing our play on them rather than adapting to their system. But they were at home, and they were above us in the table so perhaps it made more sense to revert to our usual old 4-2-3-1. And we did win, so can’t complain about that. But yeah, I kind of hope that Oita aren’t in a false position and that they can keep on doing well this year. They seem like a nice club and I really enjoyed this away trip so would love to repeat it next year.

New ref, tiny linesman -

The pregame team announcement was exciting for me as it was accompanied by what I thought was the name of a new ref. And it was! This was Kasahara’s first J1 game and I thought he had a pretty good one. One ridiculous decision in the game was an offside which was totally missed by one of the tiniest linesmen I have ever seen, who was laughably behind the play. Short legs perhaps. Obviously this has nothing to do with the ref though, as it’s not his job to make those calls. Something slightly weird in this game was the fact that two Oita players made absolutely horrible challenges on Frontale players resulting both times in injuries to the fouling player. On both occasions I would have expected at least a yellow for the challenge, but perhaps they escaped due to being down injured on the pitch for a long while afterwards. In any case, if the worst I can find to moan about is a couple of yellow cards not being given, you’ve got to say it was a pretty decent J1 debut for the ref. I wonder if he was called into action because of the suspension of the ref in the Urawa/Shonan game. Whatever the case, he did a better job than a lot of the established refs do who we see messing up week after week.

Significant selections, (or rather omissions) and confusing substitution

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this game was the team selection and the subs. For different reasons though. The selection was significant in a few aspects. Ienaga was back and whilst he took a little while to get going and from time to time did his overly complicated fancy touches that didn’t come off because he wasn’t quite up to speed, he had a decent game considering his injury lay off. After getting an assist in Sydney, Maguinho kept his spot and scored his first goal. I think it’s pretty even with regards to whether he or Mawatari should start at the moment. Maguinho seems more attack minded but Mawatari seems to be one of our better set piece takers. A difficult choice for Oniki. On the striker front, I think all of Leandro Damiao, Chinen and Kobayashi are fully fit now. As he did earlier in the season, in this game Oniki stuck with the player who had been scoring goals. Whether this means that Damiao will now be dropped as he didn’t score in this game, we’ll see. I don’t think there can be any justification for playing Kobayashi up front by himself at the moment, as I still feel this isn’t his best position, and we’ve currently got two others who deserve a shot at that spot. If we're playing a front two it's a different matter. Perhaps given that Kobayashi was coming back from injury this selection wasn’t as significant as it could have been, but in any case, it was quite brave of Oniki to start with Kobayashi on the bench. Equally brave was the complete omission of Kengo from another squad. Since he has been back from injury he hasn’t even made the bench. Personally speaking, and setting emotion aside, I’ve got to say I agree with this too. Kengo seems to have dropped off significantly since last year and hasn’t played particularly well this season. But he, like Frontale as a whole, seems to be a slow starter every year. Perhaps he’ll come into some form in a while, but while Wakizaka is playing as well as he is it would seem a bit stupid to replace him with someone who might not do so well. I guess the final piece of possible selection bravery was continuing with Noborizato ahead of Kurumaya. I’d say this one is another close call. Kurumaya was terrible earlier in the season and Nobori has done a decent enough job of taking his place. As I didn’t see the final ACL game, I can’t comment on how Kurumaya did in that game, but I would have thought Kurumaya must be due a run out in the league soon, even if it’s just to give Nobori a rest.
So this all sounds like I am in full agreement with Oniki for once. Some agreement, I’d say, but not full agreement. The subs in this game were really weird. Or at least the middle one was, where Maguinho was replaced at right back by Kurumaya. I don’t know if Oniki is on some long term mission to play players out of position to give them practice in unusual situations, but it was weird to see the very left footed Kurumaya come on at right back, particularly when Oniki’s favorite right back sub Suzuki was on the bench. Now Suzuki has to deal with the fact that not only does it look like he’s not going to be played further forward as he might prefer, but also that he’s fallen down the pecking order in the position he’s been moved to, being surpassed by someone who is playing even more out of position than he was. I have my suspicions that it might have been one of those pretty weird two-step substitutions that both Oniki and Kazama seem to like, with Kurumaya coming on for Maguinho and then a bit later Suzuki replacing Nobori with both of them reverting to their normal sides. Perhaps this was the plan but it was then disrupted by Wakizaka having to be replaced due to what looked like cramp. In any case, it seemed a bit of a risky change to make with only a one goal lead away from home against a team above us in the table. But I guess it worked, so let’s put it down to me not understanding football. As long as we keep winning I’m prepared to look stupid every week.

Double pitch invasion - 

Finally, by far the most significant aspect of this game was the fact that we had plastic bags invade the pitch on two separate occasions. It was strange because it wasn’t even particularly windy. Kasahara managed to put his foot on one, pick it up, shove it in his pocket, presumably to recycle later, without losing track of the game. Further props to him! 

So that was that, a crucial yet quite uninspiring victory. Another job done game, rather than a beautiful footballing masterclass. We’re now in second and with Oita playing FC Tokyo next, we have the potential to make up some more ground. However we’ll have to beat Urawa, who, as bad as they are playing, seem to have a habit of disrupting us at important times. They have just sacked their manager so will be hoping for the new manager bounce. I will keep my fingers crossed that this doesn’t apply when the new manager is the same person as the last caretaker manager. Long may chaos reign with them, and let’s hope we can give them something more to moan about. After that we’ve got a couple of weeks off due to whatever prestigious competition the Japan national team is involved in this time that only Morita has been selected for. Seems a bit confusing that it’s him, or at least that it’s only him, as he’s probably been the weakest link in that position all season so far, but good luck to him anyway. We all know he’s a good player even if he hasn’t been showing it much this year. Let’s hope we can sign off for our little break with a nice win. Go Frontale!


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya

GK 21. ARAI Shota
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro (on for MAGUINHO 68')
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for WAKIZAKA 79')
MF 19. SAITO Manabu
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 66')
DF 27. SUZUKI Yuto

My Frontale Man Of The Match

Sorry, I left this a bit too late to write this post so I'm not sure who I decided was man of the match. I think it might have been Hasegawa, but can't remember why now. Taniguchi was good too. As was Wakizaka. So rather pathetically, I'm going to give it to...

HASEGAWA Tatsuya, TANIGUCHI Shogo & WAKIZAKA Yasuto - Don't ask me for details though.


MAGUINHO (Frontale) 28' 0-1



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