Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Vs Consadole Sapporo 26/10/19 - Levain Cup final

Consadole Sapporo 3 - 3 Kawasaki Frontale (AET) (4-5 on penalties)

Well, what can you say about a game like that? This was an exiting but nerve shredding way to pick up our third title in three years. If we were being honest, I think most of us would have picked the Levain as the title we were least interested in winning. Whilst my priority was the league, and that hasn’t exactly gone to plan, I was quite up for a Levain cup win. We have history in this competition and it’s a history that needed to be put to bed, after plenty of losses in the final. But finally we have our hands on the trophy, even if we only had to beat three teams over five games to win it, (and we only actually won two of those five). But this is not time for moaning! Let’s celebrate this trophy, our first proper cup title, as the Super Cup doesn’t really count, does it? I’ll keep talk of the game relatively brief and instead just make a few more general observations on what we might have learned from another trip to the Saitama stadium, but one which ended with plenty of people hanging around rather than scooting for the station as soon as the final whistle blew.

2017 again...almost -

This game looked dangerously like it would turn into a repeat of the 2017 final against Cerezo. Again we conceded an early goal, although this time not quite as early. Again it was a bit disappointing, although the ball bouncing off the post and then off Arai into the net wasn’t as disappointing as poor old Edu losing the ball and basically putting an opposition player through on goal. After the early goal Consadole definitely did what Cerezo did; sat back, waiting to hit us with a long ball fast break and generally wasted time. Thankfully we were able to get back level just before half time which meant that Consadole had to try to be a bit more positive and that we wouldn’t be seeing a carbon copy of 2017. It seems a bit unfair to compare Consadole to Cerezo, who are totally boring and very efficient. But the normally more swashbuckling Consadole were a bit dull for most of the first half. We were well on top apart from when (and shortly after), they scored and we hit the bar and post several times. Leandro Damiao, making a rare start in an important game seemed to be doing his best Kobayashi impression, missing countless chances, although as I said above, he was denied by the woodwork on a few occasions. He seems destined to be a Frontale nearly man. He seems to score a decent amount of goals given the time he spends on the pitch, but aside from the Super Cup, it seems that when he scores, we have a disappointing result. He looked gutted to be taken off, and I wonder if it is a sign that maybe he is reaching the end of his time with us, and he wanted to sign off in style. I certainly wouldn’t blame him as things aren’t really going as anyone might have expected. In this game things weren’t quite falling for us, although we were clearly in the ascendancy. It was a bit of a shock to see us take the lead in a more balanced second half. What came as no shock was the fact that we managed to throw away this lead and effectively finished another game 2-2. I’m getting so sick of that scoreline. Fair play to Kobayashi and Kengo for their contributions from the bench. Shortly before Kobayashi’s first goal I commented that once again the subs had made almost no difference. Well done me for the reverse jinx. I guess in a funny way this game was closer to 2017 than we might have thought. In both games we conceded early and late and had lots of possession and lots of huffing and puffing without causing much danger in between. The crucial difference this time was that we managed to put the ball in the net twice in the 90 minutes, and what a difference that was!

VARse -

Still hate it. Sure, now we get to celebrate our goals twice; firstly with great exuberance which quickly turns into doubt and worry, then secondly with some relief, but with most of the excitement removed. And I can’t say I have any problems with any of the decisions it came up with in the game, but I hate the fact that it seems that players seem to be able to whinge to the referee who has made up his mind previously but then decides to refer to the video. ‘No goal! Offside! Handball! Foul! Any of the above. Check for them all please.’ Clearly it’s early days in the implementation of it, and I dearly hope, but severely doubt, it will be booted out of Japan before it has time to take root. Perhaps the big VAR talking point in this game, and the only occasion where the initial decision was actually reversed was for Taniguchi’s red card. For me, the shocking thing about this decision was that the ref didn’t send him off straight away, as I thought it looked like a sure thing but instead a yellow was given. It was referred we thought for whether it was inside or outside of the box and it came back outside and a red. I don’t know how the ref thought it was outside and not a red. I wonder how much free rein is given to the VAR ref. Are they allowed to suggest things that the ref hasn’t noticed? Possibly I’d know the answer to this if I’d done any research, but since when has it been a good thing to be well informed? Far better to whinge on inaccurately and interminably, eh?

Avante... oh... -

Every time we sing Avante at the end of a game with a slender lead it makes me nervous. Particularly this season, when we are wont to concede weakly at any time and on numerous occasions. On this occasion it was again embarrassing to be singing our victory song and have the opposition equalise and take the game into extra time. To be fair, at that stage Sapporo were throwing everything at us and getting corner after corner as we desperately held on. And Sapporo’s corners were a hell of a lot more dangerous than our corners, which more often than not failed to clear the first defender. Extra time, most of which was played with us down to ten men was unsurprisingly open. There was no question that we were attacking a lot more, probably given that we were trailing and needed a goal. Still Sapporo looked dangerous on the counter attack. But we should take great heart in the fact that we battled so hard and continued to play so well with one player less. All in all, it was a fairly even game, but I’d say that our play with ten men meant that we deserved the victory. Of course, I'd say that...

Penalties -

I don’t think many people like penalty shoot outs, but you cant deny they are exciting. Particularly when you win. This shoot out, like the game itself swung backwards and forwards. I was pretty impressed with the standard of our penalties. Kobayashi has missed quite a few for us and when he stepped up first I was a little anxious. But he did the business in some style. As did Yamamura and Kengo. Poor Kurumaya, who must hate big games at this stadium after his red card against Urawa in the ACL was a bit unlucky managing to hit the bar when if it had gone even one centimetre lower it would have looked like the ballsiest penalty ever. If a player blasts it wide or high it's a bit annoying, but if they hit the woodwork, you’ve got to feel for them. Ienaga stepped up to take what we might have hoped would be the crucial and winning penalty but instead it was to keep us alive. He finished beautifully too. Then enter Arai, although of course he’d already been involved, and had come close to stopping a couple of the Consadole penalties. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. He’s spent a lot of time in the shadows of Sung-Ryong, but recently he's been in the team and although we continued to leak goals incessantly, Oniki has kept faith in him. His two saves made him the hero in this game. (Hasegawa's penalty between these two saves was also excellently taken, I should add). But Arai’s second stop made him the talking point and rightfully so. I will again take some credit, as I called the fact that Shindo would miss the final penalty. He looked very nervous, and the little look back to his teammates before he started his run up suggested to me that he wasn’t that confident. You could say we deserved to win the shoot out as two of their penalties featured that absolute rotter of a stop start run up, which let's be honest, seems to be against the rules of the game, but people seem to get away with. Whether these heroics will lead Arai on to be our number one next season, who knows. I think Sung-Ryong will be leaving us as he probably doesn’t want to be sitting on the bench, and from our point of view, if that’s what we have planned for him, we could probably invest his wages better elsewhere. It will be a shame, as I like him a lot and I think he likes us too. He’s been a great player for us, but I fear that his time in Kawasaki might be coming to an end. Perhaps Oniki is looking towards an entirely Japanese squad next year. He certainly seems to prefer Japanese players. Oh and finally on the matter of penalties, check out Nara in the photo below (which I nicked from twitter, sorry). Perhaps some people actually do enjoy penalty shoot outs after all.

So, deserved champions, at least from my biased point of view. Whichever way you look at it, this was a great game for neutrals. I think fans of both teams would have preferred something a bit less exciting and more comfortable, but we won, so we can enjoy the fact that it was a nerve-jangler. More difficult to enjoy the excitement when combined with a defeat of course. Next up... nothing really. The league is over for us so we’re really just playing out our remaining fixtures for fun. Of course we could try to battle for an ACL spot and I think we have a decent chance of getting one. It would probably help us retain some of our big name players. Although, no one ever really seems to want to leave (apart from the Brazilians! For some reason...). I wouldn’t mind some Levain group games to see some of the fringe players a bit more, so I guess I’ll be satisfied either way. Hiroshima at home next and the potential return of Rhayner. Dunno what will happen. I’ll be there though, cheering as usual. Go three star Frontale! (three title stars I mean, not three stars like a hotel).


GK 21. ARAI Shota
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo (Red card 96')
DF 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro (Yellow card 115')
MF 28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki

GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 3. NARA Tatsuki
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo (on for WAKIZAKA 64')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for ABE 90+1')
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
DF 26. MAGUINHO (on for OSHIMA 100')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

For 120 minutes this was nailed on for one player. The penalty shoot out makes the decision a bit tougher, so let’s cop out and give it to...

ARAI Shota and IENAGA Akihiro - the former made two crucial saves at the most crucial time in a shoot out. Amazing! The latter had one of his best recent games for us, involved in everything dangerous that we did and energetic till the end. Bravo to both of them!


SUGA (Consadole) 10' 1-0
ABE (Frontale) 45+3' 1-1
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 88' 1-2
FUKAI (Consadole) 90+5' 2-2
FUKUMORI (Consadole) 99' 3-2
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 109' 3-3

Frontale) 1-0
LOPES (Consadole)
YAMAMURA (Frontale) 2-1
(Consadole) 2-2
NAKAMURA (Frontale) 3-2
FUKAI (Consadole) 3-3
Frontale) 3-3 (hit bar)
FERNANDES (Consadole) 3-4
Frontale) 4-4
ISHIKAWA (Consadole) 4-4 (saved)
Frontale) 5-4
SHINDO (Consadole) 5-4 (saved)


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