Vissel Kobe 2 - 2 Kawasaki Frontale
Well we dodged a bullet in this game really, didn’t we? After an appalling first half with every player looking knackered and a totally static defence we were somewhat fortunate to go in at half time only 2-1 down. I had been hoping that we would ring the changes for this game and give some players some long overdue rest. I was also hoping that we’d get back on track with a thumping win against what must be one of the least likable teams in Japan (if you're not a local or a big-name-player lover). We didn’t and we didn’t. The first part perhaps slightly due to the fact that the team had stayed in Nagoya since Sunday and travelled from there to Kobe so I guess our options were slightly limited. Although to be honest, it’s not exactly thousands of miles away is it? So we probably could and should have called for some reinforcements from Kawasaki on Monday morning. Instead we stick with the same 16 again and did a little shuffle of the starting members. It didn’t work, and perhaps for the same reasons it didn’t work on Sunday against Nagoya. Some important players are clearly knackered. Unfortunately these are the positions we have little to no cover in. I have no idea what Oniki is going to do for next weekend’s game against Shimizu but even if it involves playing some of our excess of quite short, left-sided attacking players at centre back it will be a welcome relief for Taniguchi and Jesiel who looked lead footed and half asleep. And you can’t blame them really. From the start of the year I’ve been saying we’re light at the back and now it looks like the problem is really raising its head. Obviously I take no joy in saying this but if we started with Kurumaya and Yamamura at centre back next weekend I think it would be an improvement. I think Diogo needs to start again. I guess we have a problem at left back as Nobori has recently looked pretty off the pace and if Kurumaya is going in the middle that doesn’t leave us with many other options. I’d hope it’s a totally different back four though. Even if that is not a good idea for the Shimizu game, I think it’s crucial looking forward to the next few punishing months of games. The fact that we looked steadier when we were playing Morita at right back and Kurumaya in the middle today says a lot I think. Jesiel is our best defender I think but he looked injured in the last game and a rest will do him good. We’ll probably start with the same four again though.
I wouldn’t say the problem was all at the back though. The midfield too. And up front. Knackered players everywhere. I know everyone has to deal with the same schedule this year (although actually, if you want to be a pedant you could correctly say that we have in fact played more games than anyone else in August and six of them have been away from home). But we clearly haven’t been rotating as much as other teams, (even though we have been rotating a lot more than I thought Oniki would, so credit to him for that). Whether it was a deliberate tactic to build up a decent points haul early on at the cost of running our best players into the ground I’m not sure. I hope not as this seems a bit dangerous. But yeah, the chickens are coming home to roost and two pretty poor performances in a row should hopefully cause a bit of a rethink. I don’t really want to single players out as we’d been doing great until Sunday but there were poor performances all over the pitch in that game and in this game. Of course we can’t win every game, but we equally probably shouldn’t go from being so rampant against Cerezo to so limp against Nagoya and Kobe.
We certainly weren’t helped by either the pitch or the referee though. Kobe’s pitch used to be notoriously shite but when they splashed the big bucks on Iniesta I guess they felt like it should be at least playable to suit him. Perhaps it was unfortunate for us that he was injured in this game as maybe if he'd played it probably wouldn’t have been so slippery. Players from both teams spent an inordinate amount of time on their arses in this match and the ref even went for a slide too. You’ve got to think it was a tactic, and a legitimate one but it definitely didn’t help us (as you'd expect from a home team tactic). Also the ref clearly bottled some big decisions, having his hand in his pocket on his yellow card to book a Kobe sub until someone shouted ‘he’s got to go’ at which point the ref seemed to realise that he’d booked the same player shortly before and just gave the foul. Kobe aren’t a pretty side to watch when it comes to tackling. Or at least they weren’t in this match. I can’t profess to watching them when we aren’t playing them so maybe I'm wrong. And of course I’m biased, but there were some pretty dodgy tackles that escaped punishment. Much like players are getting fatigued, it figures that the refs are too, and recently we’ve had a couple of refs that we have rarely if ever had since I’ve started noting refs’ names on blog posts. My interpretation of this is that we’re scraping the barrel. And perhaps because of this some of them are reluctant to give decisions that could be controversial and get them some more gardening leave. But anyway, don’t think that I’m blaming the ref or the pitch for this. We were shit and we were lucky to draw. We didn’t even get the two gifts that Kobe give to every team they play. Namely at least one moment of madness each from Iikura and Dankler. In fact in this game it seemed that Sung-Ryong was channelling Iikura and we were more likely to get the ball lobbed into our unguarded net.
I’ll pack a few brief points into this last paragraph. Lovely goal from Hatate and very pleased for him that he got it. Damiao should have been on earlier I think as he did a great job of running at Iikura and hassling him and if he’d had a bit more time I reckon he would have eventually caused an ‘Iikura chance’. The Kobe crowd were much more lively than it usually is when we go there. Oh… it was tacky horrible recorded crowd noise being pumped in. Kind of appropriate for Kobe perhaps. The noise was probably recorded at a Barcelona game. (I’m really going to get moaned at for this Kobe bashing. I remember someone once criticised me for being biased towards Frontale which to honest is the whole point of writing your own blog about your team I thought… oh well). In this game I noticed for the first time that Daigo Nishi looks a bit like a seven year old boy with a moustache and beard penciled on. He must have an epic skincare routine. And finally a comment that if the all over the place second half is anything to go on, we’re going to be getting some really ragged games as this intense season continues. Not exactly something to look forward to, but I guess it’s in some way quite exciting.
Next up we have Shimizu at home. I have a sneaking suspicion that we might see a certain Mr. K. Nakamura somewhere for that game. And we could certainly use his experience and calm head right now. I’ve said what I think should happen with the line-up, but as usual with me, I haven’t been specific so I can easily complain whatever happens. After the disappointment on Sunday, this game brought more disappointment but some relief when we totally snatched a point from a very dodgy performance. We now need to get back on the horse against Shimizu. I predict an Issaka Zain hat trick and a centre back pairing of Fujishima and Harada Koki. Plenty to look forward to. Fingers crossed we can get back into some kind of shape. Go Frontale!
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 4. JESIEL
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 11. KOBAYASHI Yu
FW 30. HATATE Reo
SubsGK 27. TANNO Kenta
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa (on for WAKIZAKA 46')
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro (on for JESIEL 55')
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO (on for TANAKA 66')
FW 18. MITOMA Kaoru (on for YAMANE 55')
FW 20. MIYASHIRO Taisei
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto (on for HATATE 86')
Not a great deal of candidates here so…
OSHIMA Ryota - nice goal and seemed to be one of the few players in the team who could pass and stay on his feet in this game.