Kawasaki Frontale 1 - 1 Urawa Reds
Damn, this was annoying. Plenty of fans of opposition teams would no doubt have been delighted by our last minute capitulation against Urawa on Saturday. I can’t deny that if this had happened to one of our rivals, I would have loved this. However, when it happens to your own team, particularly when you’re playing a particularly unlikeable rival, it really stings. Perhaps this has contributed to why it has taken me a little while to get round to writing this post. Although the fact that our next game is not for a couple of weeks has taken the pressure off a bit with regards to getting a post done before the next game. Now we go into this break with a bad memory very fresh in the mind. We had the opportunity to give Tokyo something to dwell on over the next two weeks if we’d got things back to a four point deficit. Instead, they managed to extend their lead over us in this round of matches. And our other noisy neighbours Yokohama caught up with us on points. Still a long way to go in the league and FC Tokyo have a tricky period coming up with a lot of away matches and their talisman almost certainly due to depart for Europe. But this was another chance missed, another figurative opportunity blasted wide. Another metaphorical awful shot deflected into our goal by our defender. Here’s what we might have learned from this game, and be prepared, there’s going to be a fair bit of moaning.
Confusing team selection (again) -
Discussion of this point is unavoidable and it seems to be coming up in every one of my blog posts recently. Once again I want to stress that I know nothing, I just have my opinions. And it’s my opinion that it doesn’t make sense to play a left back at right back. When Elsinho left at the end of last season it was always going to leave a big hole to fill. I’m sure I’ve pondered before on here on why we’d let one of our best players leave, a player who was in consecutive J League teams of the year. We replaced him with a couple of potentially interesting new players. I thought Maguinho did well in the Super Cup. I also thought that Mawatari did well when Oniki dropped Maguinho immediately after the Super Cup. It was clear that Oniki didn’t trust or rate Maguinho as when Mawatari got injured we saw Morita and Suzuki playing at right back. With Mawatari back from injury it seemed that we had returned to some semblance of normality. But then Maguinho was back in the team for the long ACL away trip to Sydney and then seemed to have won the spot back again. Quite what Mawatari had done, I don’t know. But Maguinho was doing well and he scored against Oita where we also kept a clean sheet. Clearly this wasn’t enough for Oniki who late in that game replaced him with Kurumaya who retained the right back spot for the start of this game. Maguinho was back on the bench. Oniki seems to have a bit of a thing for playing Kurumaya out of position ahead of players who naturally play in that position. Although he started the season poorly (and let’s be honest, most of the squad did), he is still our best left back. Nobori has done a good job recently, but probably could do with a rest. But no, he continues to start. The real absurdity of this selection was the fact that Nobori has played at right back in the past, so the obvious thing to do would have been to swap them round. Well the really obvious thing to do would be to play a right back at right back, but it seems we’re never going to do something so predictable! In the end Kurumaya did ok, but he’s painfully left footed and it was obvious what he was going to do every time he got the ball. I feel Urawa definitely targeted him. And although they were probably equally as confused with the selection as we were, they seemed to work out that it was a weak point in our lineup quicker than we noticed it. Well, quicker than Oniki noticed it.
Aside from this selection, one other notable thing was the return to 4-4-2, Oniki apparently being unable to not play Kobayashi up front. I’m surprised he didn’t drop Damiao, as he seems to enjoy doing this. Instead the two played up front together, with Damiao pressuring the Urawa defence and keeper and Kobayashi not really doing much. He’s not been good at all this year and this was another dodgy game for him. Kobayashi’s usual problem of needing three or four shots to get his range is probably still there, but the problem now is that he gets only three of four shots a game, so sorts out his range just in time for the final whistle. He definitely plays better when he has to do things instinctively. If he thinks too long, it never seems to work. It probably would have been better for him to play him on the right and Ienaga in the middle with a 4-2-3-1, but like I said, Oniki won’t for whatever reason play him there. Wakizaka, one of our best players of recent games, and the player who is probably keeping Kengo our of contention right now dropped to the bench and never made it onto the pitch. We did alright in the second half, but we didn’t do well enough. Apparently in his post game interview, Oniki was more upset with the fact that we didn’t score a second than the fact that we conceded a deflected goal. Thing is, you decide the tactics, don’t you, Oniki and we always seem to play to hang on to a one goal lead instead of looking for more. And you failed to make any significant changes to the team or the tactics for the majority of the game and when you finally did, you made it in a bit of a confusing way.
It ain't over till we've conceded -
This game takes us up to 20 matches in total this year. In one quarter of these matches we have conceded in the 89th minute or later. Of course this is going to happen occasionally, but to have it happen once every four games is a bit much. Three times this has changed a disappointing but possibly useful draw into a loss (Shanghai away, 89’, Ulsan away, 90+1’, Gamba home, 90+1’). Twice it has changed a victory into a draw (Yokohama away, 90+5’, Urawa home, 90+5’). I’m not going to moan too much about the ref adding on four minutes and them scoring in the fifth of four minutes as this thing always seems to happen. Is there something in the rules to say that you don’t blow up and finish the game until the ball is in the middle of the pitch. Pretty sure there isn’t, but it always seems to happen that way. Not sure why he might have felt like adding a bit more time though as there were no substitutions or injuries in injury time. Substitutions are actually my big beef with Oniki in this game and in previous matches too. I know I always moan about his substitutions, but I seem to remember once moaning when we were chasing a game, about him doing two subs a minute after another, effectively killing some of the precious remaining time we had left. In this game, with us leading he decided to do a double substitution, replacing both of the forwards in the 87th minute. I know time wasting is not a very nice aspect of the game, but it seemed totally ridiculous when we were leading to make two subs at the same time. When we concede with the last kick of the game, you’ve got to think that if he separated the subs even by a minute Urawa might not have had time to score. He also seems to favour us taking the ball into the corner flag with about five minutes to go if we're winning, so he clearly is aware of the benefits of running the clock down. Quite why he didn’t use the subs as a legitimate opportunity to do so, I will never understand. Please someone explain this to me as it’s driving me nuts. Yeah, we don’t have the Kazama ethos anymore of attacking right up until the final whistle, which might also explain why we are turning single goal leads into draws, and draws into losses. However, he can’t really lament us not being able to score a second goal when pretty much everything he does when we are leading points towards protecting what we have, rather than getting any more goals.
Urawa wankery and refereeing no-cardery -
I think my feelings on Urawa are pretty clear, but in the past my ill feeling has been pointed more towards the significant wannabe hooligan/borderline racist element of their fanbase. As per usual in this game, they booed their hearts out, focusing in particular on Sung-Ryong, Kobayashi and bizarrely Eiji Kawashima who appeared before the game. Strangely they are still applauding Kurumaya. Still no idea what’s going on with that. In this game though, they also sang quite a lot, which in spite of what most people say, seems to be pretty rare in games against us. The real wankery on show came from their players in this game. Perhaps due to their ‘new’ manager and his Yakuza-esque image, they seem to have gone very dirty. Time after time bad tackles were rewarded with nothing more than a free kick. It took an eternity for them to get their first yellow card and when Ugajin got that, it probably should have been his third yellow. Add to this the fact that Maguinho was booked for his first foul after he came on, and you’ve got to ask some questions. After our enjoyable game with what seemed like a pretty good ref last match, we were back to the usual J League weak officiating. They kicked us around the pitch and got away with it. Makino seems in real life to actually be a reasonable kind of guy, (much to my disappointment as his panto villain image is a lot of fun). But on the pitch he’s a bit of a toerag, arms around Taniguchi’s throat and then a knee in the back as he walked past after the foul was given. There was a ridiculous amount of ref haranguing too, which went unpunished. How I long for the day we get another rookie ref who actually seems to put the rules of the game into practice instead of having his own agenda.
Doom and gloom and gloom and doom. These posts are lots of fun to read aren’t they? Perhaps I’m still sulking about throwing away a win in the last minute, but there’s only so many times we can be ‘unlucky’ before we start to look at why we are being ‘unlucky’ so often. The overall performance was alright, but you can’t call it much better than alright when you consider how we dominated the game in the second half but only managed to score once. I feel like I’m constantly repeating myself in these blog posts, which might also suggest that we’re making the same mistakes over and over. If you’re looking for some optimism, perhaps you could say that some of the players did a reasonable job, but the problem is that we’re failing to finish off the very good chances we’re making. Ienaga’s late miss was a costly stinker. Kobabayshi’s toils have been mentioned above. Damiao only seemed to have one chance but he did at least put it away. Lovely passing, turning and control are all well and good but if they don’t create goals then we might as well be watching one of those ball juggling street football displays rather than an actual game. I criticized Kubo a few weeks ago, or rather people’s awe at Kubo, saying that he’s all very nice but there’s no end product. Now he’s scoring and assisting for fun and we are still beautifully possessing and failing to put away chances. Or he perhaps ‘was’. If he leaves FC Tokyo and their form collapses, perhaps that’s one bright spark we can find during this international break. Other than that, I’m going to just grumble away to myself which is good for you, as it means you won’t have to listen to me!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 4. JESIEL
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
GK 21. ARAI Shota
MF 19. SAITO ManabuFW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for KOBAYASHI 87')
DF 26. MAGUINHO (Yellow card 81') (on for KURUMAYA 78')
MF 28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
DF 29. MICHAEL JAMES
MF 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 87')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
I dunno, a lot of average performances and some below average ones. If I had to pick someone, maybe it will have to be…
HASEGAWA Tatsuya - Another decent game and was a real threat down the left. Sadly, most of the time there was no-one there to put the ball in the net. Presumably Oniki will drop him for the next game and play Kurumaya in his spot.
LEANDRO DAMIAO (Frontale) 54' 1-0
MORIWAKI (Urawa) 90+5' 1-1