Kawasaki Frontale 5 - 0 Shimizu S Pulse
Back on track hopefully! This game was almost fairytale-like in how everything turned out. At least from a Frontale point of view anyway. I imagine any Shimizu fans watching wouldn’t feel like this was much fun as this was the second time this year we’ve put five past them. Whilst in the Levain Cup game they were able to get a consolation goal, in this game the clean sheet was very important for us, particularly given the players we had playing at the back. Oniki had done the unthinkable, which also happened to be exactly what I thought he should do but never thought he would do. There was a significant shake-up in the team with plenty of players getting well deserved rests. Here are a few bullet point thoughts about this crucial victory
Bouncing back but with different players -
After the twin disappointments of our loss to Nagoya and our draw against Kobe this was a crucial game to get us back on track. However, given our performances in those two games I thought that as important as getting a result was, it was probably more important to give some players a rest. I hoped that Oniki would change the whole back four and plenty of the other players too and I’m delighted to say that he did. I really do think that this could be a new Oniki we’re seeing now. In previous seasons he hasn’t really reacted to problems or mistakes and has instead ploughed ahead with the same players tactics and formations. But he clearly could see the fatigue that was apparent, particular on Wednesday. Before the game I was pleased that it was Yamamura and Kurumaya at centre back which, to be honest, is something I never thought I’d say. Two players playing out of position is not exactly ideal, but compared to the totally wiped-out Taniguchi and Jesiel playing there, this was a very welcome sight. Also Yamane was given a break for only the second time this year and we once again had a look at Diogo Mateus. It seems we don’t have many options at left back, particularly when the option at left back is being played at centre back, and Nobori once again looked a bit tired in this game with some of his touches and passes, but judging by the amount of time he spent in the opposition’s box, I think physical fatigue is not so pressing with him. With a first time back four in place it was lovely to get a clean sheet. I’m not sure how effective the group would be against a better team as Shimizu didn’t offer a great deal to be honest. But in their defence, Kurumaya and Yamamura looked pretty solid and tidy. I hope that there can be a bit more rotation in these positions in the future as we definitely need to have cover there. Further forward, Morita was handed the captain’s armband and the anchor role and I thought he did really well. He seems to have eliminated some of the over-complicated parts of his game and just did everything really well. No fancy passes conceding possession! Perhaps it was the armband that did this but whatever it was, it was really encouraging. Shimoda again had a decent game and alongside him it was something of a surprise to see Hatate start in midfield. I felt Hatate played in a similar way to how Ienaga does when he drops back into the midfield. He seemed to have quite a free role and the fact that he scored twice and in quite some style when playing further back shows that this might be another position that suits him. Ahead of them we had a front three of Miyashiro, Damiao and Manabu. I was desperate for all three of them to score as I feel they all really could do with a goal. Sadly only Damiao did, but the other two didn’t not do it through want of trying. Manabu had more shots than anyone else and came close on plenty of occasions but something always went a little wrong. I feel for him, but I think he did enough to show Oniki that he is still an important player for us. Both Manabu and Miyashiro probably need that goal to settle the nerves. It can’t be easy to play as a front player and see Hatate and Mitoma smacking in goals for fun whilst you still haven’t put the ball in the net. Fingers crossed their goals come soon and then everyone can relax. I felt Manabu and Damiao combined pretty well to be honest and with a bit better finishing both of them could have scored a few. Definitely pretty encouraging though.
Shimizu woes -
But we were playing a Shimizu team that were pretty generous in defence. I like Shimizu and I admire the fact that hopefully they are giving their new coach some time to implement his new style with them. We do somehow seem to be like kryptonite to them. They gave the ball to us and in doing so gave goals to us on a few occasions. They seem to concede a lot of goals and we’ve been scoring a lot so perhaps the scoreline wasn’t a huge surprise. But like I said, I hope he is given time. I think Shimizu is a club that doesn’t have the resources of Yokohama F Marinos so playing the same kind of football without being able to buy every available J League player is going to be tough for them. Also, you can’t say the original Marinos system is working wonderfully for them this year either. Shimizu have scored more goals than all of the teams surrounding them at the bottom of the table but the problems are clearly at the back. It can’t be much fun for their defence to get smacked so I feel for them. Particularly for their keeper who was only playing his second game of the season. It always interesting to see someone with a high shirt number playing and when the opposition keeper is wearing 39 you’ve got to think that he probably isn’t first choice. Unless that’s how old he is, (it isn’t). He didn’t look particularly comfortable on the ball which could be a problem considering the way they play, but our hard press and his defenders’ mistakes didn’t help him much. But good luck to them for the rest of the season (apart from our away game there of course), and I hope they persevere and use this no relegation season to blood in their new system.
Kengo effect -
I had a funny feeling that we’d see Kengo in this game (see the last blog post for proof), and I think I was not the only one. Certainly the fact that the comedian who Kengo’s 2020 goal celebration is based on making a pre-game appearance suggests that the club knew he would be playing some part in this game. I don’t think we ever could have imagined that we’d see that celebration so soon though. And it almost happened with his first touch and probably would have happened if Kobayashi hadn’t accidentally blocked Kengo’s shot. The way we’ve been paying this season up until recently suggested that Kengo might have some trouble finding his way back to the pitch. But it probably worked our perfectly, as after a few dodgy performances and with some different players playing he was able to rejoin the match day squad and impart some of his knowledge and experience. Based on the limited match time he got in this game I’ve got to say that I think he still has what it takes. He seemed so cool on the ball and his passing and positioning was great. He even went in for some big tackles too so clearly he has no psychological hangover from his injury. I think he’ll be very useful for the rest of the season. Perhaps he might not have the legs to start many games this year (although knowing him, he’s probably still super-fit and could do so if necessary), but with five substitutions available this season he will hopefully have plenty of opportunities to come on and exert some control over games that we are struggling in.
Any other business -
A quick round up of all the other little points that I can’t cram in elsewhere. The ref in this game was called Shimizu. I call foul! But he was playing in Frontale blue and black. They call foul! He did seem to have forgotten his cards and was extremely fond of a drop ball, but I don’t think I have much to moan about with him. Something weird happened early on in the second half when it looked like Damiao was being subbed for Kobayashi. For some reason as Damiao was walking off the pitch the change was canceled and Damiao got a reprieve. I have no idea why or what was going on. Do you? Oh, and one final thing on subs. I’m not sure we had to make all of our changes in this game. Perhaps it would have been better for Taniguchi to not come on. If he’d got injured in the five minutes he was on it would have been a real blunder. But my trust in Oniki, which wavered slightly when I saw the line-up for the Kobe game is fully replenished after seeing this game’s starters so I’m not going to question him one bit. In Oniki we trust…
Next up Kobe again, this time in the Levain Cup. At their place on their horrible pitch again. I saw Marinos fans moaning about the pitch yesterday and have had Gamba and Sendai fans also chip in with complaints about it so it’s clearly not something they did especially for us. Makes me like them even less to be honest. Although I can’t deny that after seeing Marinos fans delighting in our recent crappy results I enjoyed seeing Kobe stage a late comeback against them. The tournament is a straight knockout now, so we could have got a better draw considering last Wednesday’s game and our Emperor’s cup game against them last year. But in a way, we can’t say that we don’t know what to expect having played at the same ground only a week previous. Apparently Kobe put out a similarly strong team against YFM as they did against us last week, so read into that what you want. Maybe they are not taking the Levain Cup so seriously this year. Perhaps they will play the same players again attempting to channel Oniki’s ‘keep-playing-them-till-they-drop’ strategy. Fingers crossed we can progress and continue our defence of the most desirable competition in Japanese football. After that it’s off to our noisy neighbour’s place in Yokohama next Saturday. They’ve been pretty inconsistent this year, but don’t you just know that they’ll pull themselves together to ruin our day? Hopefully not. Two wins in these two games would of course be very useful for our progress in those competitions, but would also feel like a very satisfying bit of revenge against two teams that have done a job on us fairly recently. Fingers crossed, eh? Go Frontale!
DF 17. DIOGO MATEUS
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 30. HATATE Reo
SubsGK 27. TANNO Kenta
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo (on for NOBORIZATO 87')
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 77')
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo (on for HATATE 77')
MF 25. TANAKA Ao
Seems to always be either no shortage of players or no players worth giving this to. Today it is the former. Hatate’s two goals were great, the defence looked solid, Diogo again showed how his crossing brings something very different to our game, Damiao and Mitoma scored again. So many players to choose from. Kengo kengo’ed. I’ll give it to…
MORITA Hidemasa - think this might have been his best performance in a Frontale shirt. Totally solid, great passing and tackling, the captain’s armband seems to raise him to greater heights. And especially good for him as his pitch time has been a bit limited this year but when called on he’s doing the business.