5 - 2 Cerezo Osaka
This was probably the best I've felt all season if I’m being honest. As nice as it was to get one over our Tamagawa rivals at their place, this was the game that we really needed to win to put an ever lengthening rotten spell to bed. And put it to bed we did, and in fine style! Cerezo came into this game having conceded six goals in their ten games. We so nearly doubled that tally in one match. Damn, that would have been nice… Apparently they have the best defensive partnership in the league and we smacked five past them. Of course this is glossing over some details which might perhaps colour the picture slightly but I’ll mention them further down in the post (maybe…). What I will say in this intro is how lovely it was to see ‘the best defender in the J League’ have a shot nutmegged through his legs by Mitoma for our fourth goal. I’ve had a big problem with Jonjic since he did a horrendous bit of play acting to get someone sent off. The fact that I can’t remember who or when probably suggests that it was a while ago and maybe I should have got over it by now. But I haven’t! Nor have I forgotten their smash and grab against us in the Levain Cup final or the numerous times they’ve bored the points out of us in recent years. Yeah, I know that pride comes before a fall so you can all blame me when we lose our next game, but I really felt like we’ve owed Cerezo a pasting for a long time so let me enjoy it while I can. The fact that this game coincided with a week when I’m on antibiotics so can’t drink is unfortunate. But it was definitely useful with regards to my productivity on Thursday. So, let’s rattle through this post picking out a few points rather than going into painstaking detail about goals which you can just watch on the highlights video. Here we go!
Best defence in the league -
I don’t want this post to come off as some kind of big gloat about us getting revenge. Let’s be honest, the reason we hadn’t beaten Cerezo for so long has got more to do with them working out how to stop us than any bad luck or misfortune on our part. I feel like for most of the first half it seemed like this was still going to be a problem for us. Sure, the way Cerezo play may not be so appealing to the neutral but it is efficient, particularly against us. I would say we knew right from the start how they were going to play when they launched a long ball forward from the kick off, but to be honest, we knew this before the game and until now have been unable to do anything to counter it. At times it looked like they were playing a formation which was something like 8-1-1 but when they managed to get the ball and moved forward they did it pretty dangerously. And we didn’t exactly help ourselves with some pretty ordinary defending at times. Jesiel’s slip for their first goal was unfortunate. Likewise Kobayashi’s pinpoint assist for their second, which rivals Damiao’s own goal against Kashima in the generosity stakes. Nobori looked very exposed in this game and he definitely needs a rest. I’m not sure what Kurumaya has to do to get a start as Nobori has looked off the pace in the last few games. Bizarrely Nobori's best moments happened near the end of the game when he seemed to be spending a lot of time right in front of goal, almost scored, and in trying to do so set up Damiao. He certainly wasn’t helped by the fact that Hatate was the only player ahead of him and he was very focused on the attacking side of his game. But it didn’t seem to be a problem that we were having on both flanks. Perhaps the reason Kurumaya, and to a lesser extent, Yamamura won’t get so many starts is because of their ‘versatility’, or in other words because they are our only back ups for central defence, an area where we are woefully short of numbers. This versatility means that they will probably more likely be on the bench where they can cover two different positions. But I think the time has come for Kurumaya to get a few games. The midfield was pretty wasteful too at times and there seemed to be a general problem for our players in dealing with either the conditions or the ball or something. If this had been an away game, naturally we’d be talking about the length of the grass, but presumably the grass wasn’t our problem as we'd cut it ourselves. We seemed to be slipping and sliding and mis-controlling and mis-passing a lot. The ball seemed really bouncy too. I haven’t got a clue what’s going on, but it was slightly reminiscent of the Consadole game in that we made plenty of errors but then seemed to improve in the second half. Attack is the best form of defence though perhaps. And confidence breeds confidence. Or something like that. Whether we now know how to play Cerezo, I’m not sure. Maybe the run that we’re on at the moment and the confidence that brings with it and the chances we’re putting away might mean that even when a team is controlling us for large parts of the game we can blow them away with relentless attacking. Maybe… But definitely plenty of reasons to be cheerful!
An eye for one particular detail only -
It’s fun to be able to moan about refs again. Although I’ll temper this with the caveat that it would not have been much fun if we hadn’t won this game. Okabe was a new name to me so we seemingly haven’t been under his ‘control’ in a game for a while or at least since I started noting referees. Apparently he’s made a few horrendous blunders resulting in some gardening leave in the past. I’m not sure he made any massive clangers in this game but he seemed to lose control of the match and indeed of his senses for long periods. One thing he was very keen on was having free kicks taken from the exact right spot. Less keen on playing the advantage or making correct decisions. I felt like the bad decisions were going both ways so I’m not saying anything was unfair. I guess he got the big decision right which was our penalty but he did perhaps deny us another when Mitoma went down in the box in the second half although it seems that Mitoma does go down quite easily. The penalty he gave was ridiculous though from a Cerezo point of view. It was totally unnecessary for them to give it away and you could say that it really changed the momentum of the game. Ienaga was heading away from goal and was chopped down, the defender getting nowhere near the ball. It was pretty comical really and helped us all on the way to the...
Descent into insanity -
This game went really nuts near the end and I have to say it probably added to the excitement. Cerezo attempting to chip Sung-Ryong when he came racing out a bit too slowly and the ball bouncing on to the top of the bar and over was lovely. The fact that they almost scored an own goal with a firmly hit backpass with the keeper out of position was also amusing. Slightly bizarre was the fact that Cerezo seemed to be turning on the tricks and showboating a bit in the last 10 minutes. Wouldn’t normally associate that with a team losing 5-2. Ienaga after a brief spell out of the team being rested or possibly injured (who knows? That’s the way things are I guess) was back to his usual confident self, shrugging off defenders, almost wafting them away as if they were minor irritations. One of the reasons I love Ienaga, aside from the fact that he just seems to be getting better and better, is his attitude. Last season, (I think), I tweeted about how much I enjoyed his fake run to take a corner which was possibly intended to waste time. Last night after being told to hurry up to take a corner he rushed, placing the ball clearly outside the circle and took a quick one, presumably knowing that he would 100% be told to retake it. These kind of things would really irritate me if he was an opposition player, but as one of our heroes it’s great to see hm using every tiny bit of the experience he’s picked up in his career to thoroughly entertain us. I feel like his corner routines are almost like those easter eggs people put on DVDs. Something for those who are paying particular attention to really enjoy. In a way it’s even funnier that there was clearly no need for us to waste time and the pointlessness of the action made it even better in my eyes. What a guy!
Spreading it around -
Undoubtedly the story of the season so far has probably been Mitoma’s rise. Undeniably his performances have given us a huge boost. Whether we would be playing the same way without him, I don’t know. I hope we won’t have the answer to this question soon, but with the European league vultures seemingly picking up anyone and everyone recently and Mitoma’s personal desire to play overseas it seems like it might happen. I’m a bit torn to be honest. I don’t want our players to leave us but I don’t want them to have their dreams thwarted. In the past perhaps we’ve been lucky with players apparently either not being approached or not wanting to leave. I don’t know why this has been the case but I’d love it to be because we’re just a nice club that people want to play for. To be honest, I’d be furious if he left on a loan turning into a free transfer though as seems to be the case with lots of other players who’ve left Japan. He’s certainly something special, particularly from the bench at the moment. Whether this is an intentional ploy from Oniki, trying to shield his young star from others’ attentions I’m not sure. It would be equally understandable if it were from a tactical point of view, as his impact from the bench has turned quite a few games. Probably… Or maybe it’s just that we turn things up in the second half. Who knows really? You’ve got to say that we were much better in the second half of this game. Since the restart, he’s taken part in nine games and has scored eight goals. Pretty phenomenal. And he really offers something that we don’t seem to have in other players. But then Hasegawa was also on fire before his injury so maybe we do have that elsewhere. And Manabu definitely has that in his locker even if he hasn't shown it much yet in his time with us. All of the praise coming Mitoma’s way is well deserved though, and whilst I hope we don’t have to see if we can cope without him, I wonder if the fact that we’re spreading the goals around so freely suggests that we might be ok. (In case you were wondering, in all competitions, Kobayashi - 9, Mitoma - 8, Damiao - 6, Hasegawa - 5, Ienaga - 4, Oshima - 3, Tanuguchi, Yamane, Wakizaka - 2, Kurumaya, Tanaka, Hatate - 1). One man doesn’t make a team, but he certainly helps make a team a lot better! But Kaoru, if you’re reading this for some English practice, I’ll put it out there that I’d be delighted to teach you English if you want (and I am actually a teacher) and you know, it would be much better to leave us after blowing away the J League for one season whilst studying English hard, wouldn’t it? (please…..). The English teaching offer also extends to any readers too. Corona times eh? Reduced to begging for work on my own blog...
So, next up we have another game against Nagoya, this time away in the league. They, along with Sagan Tosu are the only team we’ve failed to beat this season, and the 2-2 draw with them in the Levain is still very fresh in the memory. Hopefully that game will have taught us a few lessons about how we should be playing against Nagoya. Perhaps it has taught them a few lessons too though. We’ll certainly have to do a lot better than we did in that game if we want to keep this amazing winning run going. After that it’s away to Kobe in the league the following Wednesday. To be honest, both of these games could really go any way so fingers crossed. Go Frontale!
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 25. TANAKA Ao
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
MF 8. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 30. HATATE Reo
GK 27. TANNO Kenta
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro (on for NOBORIZATO 91')
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa (on for HATATE 75') (Yellow card 78')
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO (on for KOBAYASHI 75')
FW 18. MITOMA Kaoru (on for WAKIZAKA 61')
FW 20. MIYASHIRO Taisei (on for IENAGA 91')
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
My Frontale Man Of The Match
When you beat a big old bogey team by three clear goals, scoring five in total, there are obviously some good things going on. But it was by no means an easy ride for us and even though we were leading when this player came on, it probably still has to go to…
MITOMA Kaoru - really changes games when he comes on. Scored again! Set up another goal too. Even if he doesn’t play particularly well, his introduction gives such a huge lift to the rest of the team that we seem to be transformed. Please let us keep him a bit longer. Or a lot longer ideally.