Kawasaki Frontale 0 - 2 FC Tokyo
Damn… Once again we’ve hit a bump in the road but unfortunately this time it’s a game in a knockout competition. In some ways this game is reminiscent of the Emperor’s Cup game against Kobe last year where we just didn’t turn up, (at least that’s how I remember it), and all the hard work we’d done in previous rounds was undone by a pretty crappy performance. At least in that game we managed to stage something of a comeback, whereas with this game we could still be playing now on Thursday evening and I don’t think we’d have scored yet. Let’s be honest, there can’t be many people who aren’t Frontale fans that are disappointed about this result. Things have been going our way this year and there’s nothing more fun than a bit of Schadenfreude. This was a bad night for Kanagawa in this competition with Yokohama F Marinos also going out in apparently similar circumstances ie. plenty of possession and shots compared to the opposition but no actual goals. Probably the one saving grace for both Frontale and Marinos fans is that even though their own team are out, at least their local rivals are too. Although it doesn’t work out so well for us given that our other local rival knocked us out. I am somewhat conflicted emotionally about this result. Obviously I should be grown up and congratulate FC Tokyo on doing a job against us. But there’s obviously that whole thing that we lost to such horrible anti-football tactics from a team that contains, in my opinion, some proper arseholes (Leandro, Mita, Artur Silva in case you were wondering). But the fact is, we didn’t deserve to win and I can’t even blame the ref much so I’d probably better just get over it. I feel a little guilty actually as at the end of the game I spotted someone sitting behind me who had managed to control himself throughout the game but was almost certainly an FC Tokyo fan who shouldn’t have been there, pointed my finger at him and outed him to my wife. I can be pretty sure that he was an FC Tokyo fan as I’m not sure any Frontale fan would have been taking a photo of the final score and looking not really pissed off. He did also react like he’d been busted. If the guy is reading this, I’d like to apologise for being a bit petty. But he shouldn’t have been there and he did win and got to see the game so he's probably not bothered about being spotted after the final whistle. But yeah, I feel stupid. Football has quite a control over our emotions and I guess we wouldn't really want it any other way. Anyway, let’s get this over and done with. Here are my bullet points, today powered mostly by disappointment.
Architects of our own downfall -
I mean, I’m sure it wasn’t just me who knew that Leandro was going to shoot every time he stood over a free kick. Their first goal, which definitely changed the shape of the game, was a bit of a disaster. Jesiel, who had a pretty dodgy game in my opinion, gave away a totally unnecessary free kick and the stupidly bearded one put it in the net, with a bit of help from Sung-Ryong. Even as someone who rarely watches other team’s highlights, I know he’s scored loads of goals direct from free kicks so quite why we weren’t better prepared for it I don’t know. FC Tokyo only had six shots in this game and I’d say that most of those moves leading to those shots resulted from us giving them the ball. I haven’t seen a replay of the second goal and to be honest, I’m not searching it out, but as far as I can remember it was a classic smash and grab fast counter attack ending with a shot that was actually on target. If only we’d worked out that it's easier to score if you get shots on target we might have done better! Tokyo did a job on us and played like teams did last year and as we were misfiring, (actually is there a stronger word than that? I think misfiring has at least some semblance of kind of doing the right thing. With misfiring at least some firing happens. It was more a case of us forgetting that we needed bullets. Maybe we also forgot the gun…), we weren’t able to take advantage of the possession we had. There were only 17 shots in the whole match if the stats I’m looking at are correct. We managed 11 to FC Tokyo’s 6. Only six of our shots were on target. (That’s the same amount of shots on target as we managed to score goals in the last round). To be honest through, I can’t remember the Tokyo keeper having to make a save really. Certainly not a meaningful one. When we hit the post in the second half I think we knew, if it wasn’t already abundantly clear, that we weren’t going to get anything from this game and so it proved to be.
Nishimura and FC Tokyo rotters -
Goddam this guy. He’s a joke. There are a load of crappy refs plying their trade in the J League but Nishimura never fails to bring his incompetence right into focus. I always feel he’s determined to show his individuality when he takes charge of a game, which isn’t really what you want from someone who is supposed to be following a strict set of rules. It has been something of a feature this season that refs seem to be letting a lot of rough play go and Nishimura at least followed this without trying to make himself the centre of attention. Artur Silva is a foul personified. I can’t remember him actually doing anything in the game apart from hack players down. He put an early one in as we broke and got away without a card. And then another, and then another. And then he got a warning. And then did another and another. I seriously think he fouled more than he passed. Diego Oliveira, who I surprisingly don’t mind, (particularly surprising given his utterly horrific penalty run ups, but he seems to be a nice enough fellow), made a few dodgy late challenges too. But he did seem to be playing left back for long periods of the game. Guess there were only actually four different positions Tokyo players were playing though, right back, left back, keeper and central defender x 8 (check the photo above). It did seem to be a tactic of Tokyo though to try to rough us up a bit and we weren’t helped but the always arseholey Nishimura. We should know how to deal with it though and for whatever reason we couldn’t in this game. The thing that annoyed me the most is the totally predictable inevitability of it being one of our players who picked up the first yellow. Totally justified, I admit, but if you compare it with what Tokyo had been allowed to get away with before it was a bit of a disgrace I thought. It was almost as if Nishimura gave out the warning and then carded the next foul even though it was a different player and a different team. Please retire soon you useless bastard. I felt like we should have had a penalty late on in the second half, but with so little highlights available for Levain games and my total aversion to trying to remember this game any more than I have to, I don’t know if I was right or not. Leandro, what a wanker! Aside from having the temerity to score twice against us and my lingering dislike of him from a few incidents when he was playing for Kashima, he really took the piss when he was being subbed and Nishimura was more than happy to supply that piss (yes, I know that doesn’t really work). Of course he was going to waste time, as FC Tokyo had been doing for most of the match after taking the lead. Nishimura decided the best way to prevent him wasting any more time was to walk with him to the edge of the pitch. Leandro’s diagonal walk turned into an increasingly shallow arc and I swear he started actually started bending back away from the touchline at one stage. The final straw for Nishimura was when Leandro decided he needed to tie his bootlaces about a metre from the line. He was yellow carded, but let’s be honest, a yellow card for time wasting is pretty much pointless as a second is never given for the same offense, particularly if the player is wasting time leaving the pitch. I’d love to see a goalie get a yellow and then a second yellow for time wasting. I think Nishimura is probably the kind of attention seeking guy to actually do this, but I bet he won’t. Anyway, I’ll finish up this paragraph by stressing that Nishimura and FC Tokyo time wasting and foul play weren’t why we lost. That was totally down to us. But it does feel good to vent.
Going forward -
We’re out and we only have ourselves to blame. We need to make sure we win at the weekend in the league against Sendai though. Sure, we had a brief wobble earlier in the season which we managed to bounce back from, but there was something about the manner of the defeat in this game that makes me slightly worried. Certainly fatigue is playing a part. Jesiel looked really off the pace. Kobayashi had another very dodgy game. Mitoma, who seemed to be playing in the midfield towards the end of the game didn’t really do anything again after briefly showing some brightness when he came on at half time. I know Tokyo were defending in numbers, but we were utterly toothless every time we got near their box. Wakizaka too. Yamane looks knackered. Oniki has to change the team drastically at the weekend I think. Not in the name of dropping players due to them playing bad, but just to freshen things up. Recently we’ve settled into playing pretty much the same line up every week with just Kobayashi and Damiao changing up front. Perhaps even Sung-Ryong needs a rest too. Of course it would look really stupid if it backfired, but I think we need to go with something like Tanno, Diogo, Taniguchi, Yamamura, Kurumaya, Tanaka, Shimoda, Kengo…. the front three is a mystery, but I think Miyashiro should be in there. Maybe start Mitoma instead of saving him for the supersub role which has more often than not recently been more like super subdued. I wouldn’t mind seeing him play on the right actually and see what happens. We definitely need to be a bit less predictable. I imagine our future opponents will have watched this game and have got some ideas on how to stifle us. If we don’t gift them a lead we might not have the same problems we did in this match. You’ve got to admit though that immediately before both of the goals and for long periods of this game we were totally on top and then had the stuffing knocked out of us by their goals. If you don’t score when you’re on top it will be very difficult to do it when you’re wobbling. Who knows how Sendai will approach this game, but we can’t let one defeat turn into two, or a draw even, and let a glitch turn into a wobble and then a collapse. Runaway leaders don’t have a good record of hanging on to their lead in recent J League seasons. It would be perhaps the most dramatic of all the collapses if we threw away the position we are in right now. So, a pretty crucial game on Saturday…
Normally here I would write about our next game, but as I’ve done that already I’ll just once again say that we messed this up royally and only have ourselves to blame. But let’s hopefully put this behind us and get back on track. FC Tokyo will be back at Todoroki at the end of the month so hopefully we can get some revenge in that game and show that this was just a blip rather than the first crack in a spectacular self demolition job. We can’t win every game and we have been spoilt recently. I’m sure opposition fans will delight in this result and perhaps also the whinging nature of this blog post. I don’t believe we are entitled to win the league or have any kind of superiority complex. It’s just that the joy our football has given me this season makes such an underwhelming performance pretty difficult to process. Anyway, I’ve forgotten about this game. Never mention it again please. Definitely no deep rooted sulking here. Definitely not. Come on 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 8. WAKIZAKA Yasuto (Yellow card 23')
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO
FW 19. SAITO Manabu
GK 27. TANNO Kenta
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota (on for WAKIZAKA 46')
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 65')
FW 18. MITOMA Kaoru (on for SAITO 46')
FW 20. MIYASHIRO Taisei (on for YAMANE 77')