Kawasaki Frontale 3 - 0 Nagoya Grampus
Lovely! This was a nice way for our last fixture for a couple of weeks to go. A 3-0 victory is probably a better result than most of us would have hoped for in this game. Nagoya are the only team to have beaten us in the league this year. It was clear at the time that we were very tired in that game and seemed pretty out of sorts. In this game we looked a bit fresher but probably still had fairly fresh memories of our other 2020 defeat to Tokyo in the Levain Cup in mind. This match was notable for the small matter of us being able to beat our club record of ten wins in row if we triumphed. Even though we’ve been winning a lot recently, I wouldn’t say we’ve been back to our early season form and a few games have been pretty close calls. 3-0 in this game will go some way to putting some anxieties to rest, but much like Hiroshima’s Jofuku said that game wasn’t a 2-0, this wasn’t a 3-0 really. Which is to say it felt a lot closer. But they don’t have a column for feelings in the league table so I’m perfectly happy to just move on and forget about those kind of things! So here's what we might have learnt from this game.
We made a great start in this game, looking really dangerous. Unfortunately we didn’t take any of our chances. We looked a lot more threatening than we had done in recent games though. Sadly that only lasted five minutes and then we were subjected to 35 minutes of tension before we finally woke up again for the last five minutes of the half and managed to put the ball in the net. I guess there are two sides to look at the first half from. For long periods we seemed to be having a lot of trouble getting out of our own half. People must be getting sick of me moaning how defensive the opposition always are. Of course defense is a perfectly legitimate tactic. My moaning comes more from frustration in our inability to break down defensive teams. Basically it seemed that we’d move the ball forwards to the middle of the pitch, leaving only our centre backs in our own half and then would basically pass it sideways, backwards and forwards along the centre line. And occasionally give it away to Nagoya and let them break and shoot. Thankfully their shooting was about as good as ours was. Langerak is often touted to be the best keeper in the league, and this may be true, but the fact that we only hit the target three times suggests that even if he were the worst, there’s still every chance we wouldn’t have been able to score from open play in this half. They only managed one on target though, so you can see what kind of match it was. Admittedly the pitch looked like it might have suffered a bit from the recent heavy rain, but I can’t really say that’s why we weren’t getting things going. The second half saw an identical shot count for us for on and off target and they managed one less, none of which were on target. Nagoya seemed to defend quite well, restricting us to long shots which probably contributed to these stats. But who needs to shoot when…
Set piece kings -
…you can score from a set piece! Three times! Three goals, all from set pieces, two from corners, one from free kick. The first was a very easy finish for Mitoma. Quite what the defenders were claiming for, I don’t know. Right before half time is a great time to score. Well, it’s always a good time to score, but I guess it hits a bit harder immediately before half time. Our second goal came from a Kengo free kick which Jesiel skillfully headed off the defender to fox the keeper. He looked absolutely chuffed to score. I guess so many different players are doing so this season that everyone wants to get one. His second came from a corner. For some reason, it seems that we often concede when we are waiting to make subsitituons. Perhaps there’s a potential new piece of football wisdom in saying that a team is vulnerable when players think they might be about to come off. A common existing one is that you should never make a sub when you are defending a corner. They did and we scored, proving that it’s possibly not a good idea. I’m taking half the credit for the goal as I said we’d score as I’d spotted the subs being made. Kengo’s corners had been pretty ropey in the first half so maybe that’s why he went for a short corner instead. Strangely this meant that when the ball was returned to him he had to cross it with his left instead of his preferred right foot. Lovely delivery though and more delight from Jesiel and some weird chest bumping celebrations from most of the team. On the replay they camera cuts to a smiling Oniki, immediately reaching for his magnet board. Perhaps he was going to replay the goal by recreating it using his fingers on his magnets, hopefully making the sound effects to himself too.
Starters and subs -
Normally I start with this but it doesn’t seem so important in relation to this game somehow. We knew that Kobayashi probably wouldn’t be available and today we found out he’ll be out for 6-8 weeks. No Oshima again so he still seems to be suffering from some kind of injury. Haven’t heard anything though so maybe that’s not so serious. I suspected that we’d see Yamamura get a go up front with Kobayashi unavailable and we did. Although only for a few minutes. It’s probably a good time for us to have a two week break seeing as we’ll have to work on our plan B before the next match. Whether that plan B is Miyashiro or Yamamura I don’t know. Also whether Oniki will start Damiao in every game, I don’t know. I think I said before that we have no shortage of players who could probably play a similar role to Kobayashi up front. Yamamura could be crucial though in giving us an alternative Damiao-type player to win the ball in the air. Interesting times certainly! Up until the 87th minute we had only made one change, I guess with one eye on the upcoming two weeks off. If the starting line-up go 3-0 up I guess there’s not much reason to change anything. Was probably useful to use the remaining subs to run down the clock a bit at the end. Of course I loved Ienaga’s always hilarious fake run off the pitch. The legend shouldn’t be hurried. He does things in his own way and in his own time. When FC Tokyo’s SBO (stupidly bearded one) Leandro did it recently it was disgusting, but when Ienaga does the same thing, it’s great. Maybe I should start referring to Ienaga as the WBO (wonderful bearded one).
Other bits -
Nagoya seemed to get a bit dirty towards the end of this match. I think Kanazaki was very lucky to not get sent off for his challenge on Kurumaya (I think), but I haven’t seen it back so maybe I’m wrong. Half time fireworks kind of ruin social distancing, especially if they are set off behind the most populated stand. There was an announcement to not move from your seats, but if you were in the back stand and stayed in your seat you could basically only watch them the big screen. Talking of the big screen, it went dead briefly in the first half, which at the time I noted down as a notable incident. Guess there were a lot of sideways passes in that first half. The ref in this game was a rarely seen one, Takayama. I don’t think he had a great game. I remember Damiao getting sandwiched by two Nagoya players and somehow conceding a foul which was a bit weird. He also got right in our way at one stage and was berated by our players for doing so. The most interesting thing about this ref though was the fact that he kept doing weird little double whistles for everything. Interesting… And finally, a mystery is perhaps solved. I had long wondered who kept shouting NO FOUL all the time. As I first noticed it in games against Nagoya I thought it was Ficcadenti. Then decided maybe it was Langerak. But then I heard it in another game too so thought that maybe it was Sung-Ryong. In this game it became clear that it is at least 2 of those 3 as it was heard during attacks at both ends. Not sure how useful it is, but it’s interesting what you can hear when there’s no singing. Maybe…
So, next up, our mortal enemies FC Tokyo. How we’d love it if we could get some revenge on our other conquerors this year. The SBO will be back for them so I hope he has a stinker and finally gets one of the many red cards he’s deserved and swerved recently. We smashed them in the league at their place but they really did a job on us in the Levain Cup. Hopefully tactical wizard Oniki will come up with an idea to allow us to wallop them again. A bit of extra shooting practice might go some way towards this. The players will apparently have a little break before then, which I guess they deserve after their exertions so far this year. Hopefully we’ll come back from that break banging rather than hungover (mentally I mean, not literally, but hopefully not literally either). We currently need five more wins to win the league. By the time we play again, depending on results that number might have decreased. Cerezo and Gamba are still our nearest rivals so I’m sure we’ll all be paying close attention to those games. Even though we don’t play for a while and perhaps the 100% guaranteed motivational effect will have worn off by then, I’ll still close with my usual sign off. GO FRONTALE!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 4. JESIEL
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 25. TANAKA Ao
MF 14. NAKAMURA Kengo
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO
FW 18. MITOMA Kaoru
GK 27. TANNO Kenta
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro (on for NOBORIZATO 87')
MF 8. WAKIZAKA Yasuto (on for NAKAMURA 70')
FW 19. SAITO Manabu (on for MITOMA 87')
FW 20. MIYASHIRO Taisei
FW 30. HATATE Reo (on for IENAGA 90+1')
FW 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 90+1')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
Some decent performances even if we were a bit blunt at times. Mitoma seems to be getting back to how he was a few months ago. Tanaka had another great game. I don’t like to be obvious and follow the goals but as it’s fairly unusual for a defender to score twice in a game and we also kept a clean sheet, it’ll have to go to….
JESIEL - scored twice in the game and also kept a clean sheet.