Now that was a lot of fun! And what an unexpected treat it was too. There were plenty of doubts in my mind in spite of the demolition of Shonan last weekend. It’s undeniable that Shonan were in a pretty bad place and played pretty terribly. Kashima looked like being a far sterner test. But as it turned out, they were just another team turning up to get a pasting from us. I feel that Kashima are a bit of a bogey team for us. Nowhere near Cerezo level, but bogey enough. Apparently, according to the J League online forum the Kashima fans think that about us too. And judging on this game they are right too. At this stage of the season, results are much more important than the performances. If we’d got a few better results during our rotten patch we’d still be in contention. As it stands, it looks like we could end up missing out by just a few points giving us plenty of what ifs to stew over in the off season. But this wasn’t a league game, so we could approach it with some abandon. I certainly seemed to be enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. At the end of a pretty dodgy first half I was in a buoyant mood for some reason. Perhaps it was the fact that both teams were playing a bit rubbish. Probably it was more to do with the fact that Nishimura was Nishimura-ing it to the max. I’ve never seen so many bad decisions in one match. Normally it this would infuriate me but for some reason I found it hugely entertaining. I hadn’t even been drinking! Half time saw the introduction of a beer and a couple of goals in the second half contributed to a very fine night indeed. Here’s we might have learned from this game.
Well, I dunno anymore... -
Still don’t get what Oniki’s thinking with the line up but I’m just going to go with it for the rest of the season in order to stop myself losing my mind. I don’t know if he knows what he’s doing either, but from now on I’m going to treat every unique and confusing selection as a puzzle to put some thought into. This was a real hodgepodge of a first team reserve mix, but recently, I guess that whole concept of first team has got a bit confused so who really knows? Arai continued in goal, we again went with the centre back pairing of Kurumaya and Taniguchi, but decided to play a right back at right back! Leandro Damiao got his usual random cup run out and Kengo got his usual cup game rest. Probably the big news was the Return of Oshima to the bench. Hasegawa and Wakizaka got to start the game instead of being subbed on. The early withdrawal due to injury of Mawatari meant that Kurumaya was able to switch to left back, Nobori going to the right and Yamamura going back into the middle. Although Oniki did initially attempt to play Yamamura at right back, ever desiring of one more tinker. This change seemed to make things a lot more positive for us. Who’d have thought that Kurumaya would play better at left back, eh? Oshima replacing Shimoda also had quite an effect. Hokuto has been great recently I think, but Oshima gave us all a real lift. We seemed to actually be attacking with some intent. If only we’d had him for the whole of the season. I used to say that the sign of Oshima having a good game was the fact that you don’t notice him. I’m not sure this is true now though, as the boost he gave the fans and players was very obvious in this game. Long may that continue!
Kashima, champions elect? -
It seems to be a widely held belief that Kashima are going to power on for the title now FC Tokyo have relinquished their lead. From this games showing, I’d say that if that were the case, it shows the weakness of the other teams rather than anything great about Kashima. Aside from their early goal, which our defence could probably claim an assist for, such was their contribution through giving away time and space, they were pretty ordinary. After they scored they were time wasting, which was pretty ridiculous ten minutes into the game. They were on top for a decent part of the first half but seem to have taken a page out of our book when it comes to possession not being turned into chances. Their goal was their only shot on target according to the stats. It’s a mark of Nishimura’s insanity that we picked up two yellows and they only got one. Leandro probably should have been sent off for a dodgy tackle after he’d already picked up a yellow. (I would say this though as I still hold grudge against him for not returning the ball to us after we put it out for an injury in a game one or two years ago. The fact that we nicked it back of them and went and scored was lovely justice, but won’t stop me from thinking Leandro is a bit of an idiot). I’m pretty sure we should have had a penalty but the lack of a DAZN replay of the game means that I can’t check. They looked a real mess towards the end of the game and we could quite easily have got more. Sogohata looked dodgy in the extreme. Uchida was getting rinsed by Hasegawa and later Kurumaya, over and over again. It was lovely to watch. Kashima fans lamented that we don’t have any injuries, and whilst it’s true they have plenty, we are one bad tackle on Taniguchi away from having zero centre backs. The thing is, neither team particularly shone, at least not for 90 minutes. Our middle three were woeful for the first 25 minutes or so. There was a lot of squandered possession from both teams, lots of misplaced passes, but unusually for once, we seemed to be fairly clinical with our finishing. It’s lovely to score three against Kashima. Fun fun fun fun…
Morita finally scored! He has a song! It’s quite catchy but has some potentially tricky lyrics for me. He looked like a changed man after it went in. Leandro Damiao seemed determined to score with an overhead kick. Never have I seen a player attempt to set himself up for one so many times in one game. One was pretty powerful and on target but sadly Sogohata didn’t fumble that one. Damiao had a great game I think. If he’d managed to score that would have made things ridiculously fun! I hope that Oniki was watching closely, as it’s not all about goals. He definitely deserves to start the next game, which presumably means that he won’t. If he ever got a run in the team, who knows what could happen. Even the referee’s ineptitude was fun. I don’t know if they ever drug test officials, but I think Nishimura would test positive for some kind of hallucinogen. I really needed this game (as well as the Shonan victory). It reminded me that football can really bring joy and that it doesn’t always have to cause teeth-gnashing frustration. Lovely! Whether I still feel this way on Sunday evening, who knows. I guess the highs can evapourate as quick as they appear. Fingers crossed.
Quite enjoying these shorter blog posts and I suspect most readers are too. Next up, the return leg. Who knows what the team will be? Who knows if the game will go ahead due to the typhoon? (Bet it will, to a tiny crowd, as the fan’s experience and travel possibilities seem to always be the last things taken into consideration). Who knows if we’ll be able to hang on and get to the final. Let’s not forget that we threw away a bigger lead against Urawa in the ACL a few years ago. Hopefully we can pick up another win and then who knows what might happen for the rest of the season. Wins breed confidence, and that’s something we desperately need and are in danger of getting. Let’s hope it will be as much fun as this game was. It was a blast!
GK 21. ARAI Shota
DF 17. MAWATARI Kazuaki (Yellow card 30')
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
MF 41. IENAGA Akihiro
MF 28. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (Yellow card 30')FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
MF 8. ABE Hiroyuki (on for HASEGAWA 76')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota (on for SHIMODA 79')
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo
FW 20. CHINEN Kei
MF 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya (on for MAWATARI 37')
MORITA (Frontale) 27' 1-1
WAKIZAKA (Frontale) 82' 2-1
ABE (Frontale) 85' 3-1
(Three lots of highlights again, probably pretty much all the same again)