Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0 - 2 Kawasaki Frontale
2020 is the football year that keeps on giving! We now have done the double over both Cerezo and Sanfrecce which is a pretty good achievement considering our usual record against these teams. This wasn’t exactly plain sailing though and in some ways resembled the away game at Cerezo in the fact that, ignoring the score, it wasn’t an easy victory. Hiroshima gave us a good game and their manager Jofuku said in his post game interview that this game was never a 2-0 game. Unfortunately for him, that’s exactly what the result was and as unlucky as he might count his team, we scored twice and they failed to score. Sure they hit the bar, but so did we. I don’t think they can consider themselves hard done by with regards to the officials as this was another one of those pleasant yet rare games where I don’t remember anything from the ref. If I think that the ref had a good game this sometimes suggests that things went our way. But the fact is, in this game, I don’t remember any contributions from the officials at all. Perhaps Hiroshima fans do and will feel the need to bring them up, but as far as I’m concerned an anonymous official is a good official. We weren’t back to our early season free scoring best though, and the late second goal definitely added a shine to the scoreline that doesn’t really reflect the way the game went, but it was another decent win and one more game to tick off in pursuit of the title. If my calculations are now correct we need to win six more games and then the title is ours. Gamba, Cerezo and Nagoya are still officially our closest challengers with FC Tokyo being closer points wise, but having played more games. It seems unlikely, (and perhaps impossible if they play one another), that all of them will win all of their remaining games, but I’m not going to get complacent and it’s not done until we’ve done it. But things are looking good for us. Here are my bullet points on this game, this week with very boring titles. I guess I used up all of my creativity in the last post.
Team selection and team selections going forward -
Once again Oniki did a bit of a shuffle in this game. There were no Taniguchi or Oshima in the squad, which was something of a surprise, but I suspect that he had one eye on this weekend’s game against Nagoya. Yamane was back in the line up and I don’t think he had a particularly good game, particularly in defence. Definitely his side was the one that Hiroshima seemed to be attacking the most. Whether they were targeting him, knowing that he gets forward quite a bit or whether that was where their best attackers were, I don’t know. But we definitely looked vulnerable there. I can understand Yamane coming back into the team as he’s had a pretty good season, but I think Diogo can feel a bit unlucky to be getting as few games as he is, especially considering he was in the J League team of the match day after what was for Frontale, a pretty uninspiring result against Sendai. Perhaps he stood out as the rest of the team were pretty average. I hope he will be used a bit more in coming games. It’s a very nice dilemma to have as last year Oniki seemed to not like both of our right backs, whereas this year his decision is coming from a more positive place. Again, I thought Yamamura did a good job and Jesiel reached the usual high standards we’d expect from him. The big question going forward is up front. Leandro Damiao got a bit more time on the pitch than we might expect in this game, perhaps as Kobayashi might have been distracted by the fact that his wife gave birth the day before the game. I don’t think the fact that Damiao left the pitch on a stretcher is a worry, as I feel like he just wanted to be carried off rather than walk. He had been knocked about a bit during this game so maybe he felt like a bit of a sit down. The big worry is Kobayashi, who had to be changed after only 3 minutes after pulling up when sprinting for the ball. I wonder if perhaps that is the last we have seen of him this season as it looked pretty bad. This leaves us a bit short up front with possibly only Damiao and Miyashiro as our fit strikers. I would say though that most of our attacking midfielders could play there too. I wouldn’t mind Hatate, Mitoma or Saito giving it a go. And don’t forget Yamamura who played up front to good effect from Cerezo in the past. It’s a real shame for Kobayashi and on the surface a bit of a worry for us, but perhaps a good opportunity for some others to show us what they can do. Mitoma has struggled a bit on the left recently and has been drifting infield so perhaps giving him a go as a central striker could be good. I’d definitely like to see him running at defenders through the middle as he definitely likes to shoot. We’ll see anyway. I doubt we'll get any information about Kobayashi’s injury unless it’s serious, so I suppose no news is good news at the moment.
Shooting and performance -
As I’ve said above, this was not a vintage performance from us. Our shooting still looks a bit dodgy and in recent games we seem to have lost a bit of our cut and thrust. During this match, we saw periods where we were back to our ponderous last season form, with lots of backward and sideways passes. This is probably due the number of defenders that Hiroshima were playing, but given that Tokyo, Sendai and Hiroshima have all used a similarly defensive minded gameplay against us, (admittedly to varying success), it’s something we’re probably going to have to get used to. None of these games showed us at our best and I think we’re going to have to work out a way to break through eight or nine player defences as we’ll definitely be facing them again I think. In the same way that I felt Kobayashi has been unlucky with his finishing in recent games, I think Damiao was in this one. We hit the woodwork again and he had quite a few chances where things didn’t quite fall for him. Presumably he’ll be called on again soon so hopefully his luck will improve. He did look delighted to score again though so hopefully his desire for more delight will result in plenty more goals. We shouldn’t forget that Hiroshima had chances in this game though. And right up until the final moments of the game it looked like being another squeaky 1-0 win. It’s nice that even with us trying to run down the clock a little, we were still alive to a goal scoring opportunity. Mitoma finished well and I think he’s becoming a bit more impactful again which is a good thing to see. We defended pretty well but Sung-Ryong was fairly busy in this game and made some great saves when called upon. The game stats were fairly even, so maybe we can consider ourselves lucky, or maybe we can put it down to good defending and (occasional) clinical finishing.
Other stuff -
Not a great deal in this section this time. In the first half the ball or the surface seemed a bit weird as both teams were losing control quite a lot. It felt a bit like they were playing with one of those super bouncy balls that kids like so much as it was boinging off in random directions at great speed. I didn’t notice it so much in the second half so maybe something had changed. It was interesting that Ao went for some new headgear in this game. I guess the cut to his head was a bit deeper than we might have thought. This game he went for something approaching a do-rag, perhaps hoping to channel the Wire’s Omar in his midfield tenacity. I’m looking forward to where he goes next. In a fairly short career he’s had a fair bit of on pitch adornment as he rocked the phantom of the opera look last season too. Oh, and we had something quite unusual in this game. I can’t remember the last time I saw a Frontale player do a complete fresh air kick, but Wakizaka did one and it felt quite refreshing, although presumably caused us to lose possession. There’s something quite nice about seeing our sporting heroes do something that we can relate to.
Next up Nagoya at home. The only team to have beaten us in the league this year so hopefully we’ll be out for and get some revenge. This game was the tenth in a run of victories and we became the first team to have two ten-wins-in-a-row runs in one season. It was pointed out that our record is looking like it is repeating itself too. We started the season with a draw, won eleven then lost one. As we've done the same since, if we want to make it perfect we need to win against Nagoya and then lose to FC Tokyo. But we owe them some revenge too, so I’d settle for killing symmetry and getting back to the five goal winning margins. (Messed this up a bit when I posted it. It was a ten match winning run before the Nagoya loss and it's a ten match winning run now. Yikes! Guess that means if we repeat, we'll be losing again to Nagoya. Damn... I'll leave it as it was though as the sentiments still stand). Fingers crossed and GO FRONTALE!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 4. JESIEL
DF 34. YAMAMURA Kazuya
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 6. MORITA Hidemasa
MF 8. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
MF 25. TANAKA Ao
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO
FW 19. SAITO Manabu
GK 27. TANNO Kenta
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 82')
FW 18. MITOMA Kaoru (on for WAKIZAKA 55')
FW 20. MIYASHIRO Taisei (on for KOBAYASHI 85')
MF 22. SHIMODA Hokuto
FW 30. HATATE Reo (on for SAITO 55')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
Attacking wise, in spite of finding some slight goal scoring form again we didn’t dazzle so I’m looking further back for this. The defence did pretty well and Nobori’s cross for Damiao’s goal was a peach. But given that one other player was called upon so often I think it’s only fair that I bypass the defence and go straight to him…
Sung-Ryong JUNG - saved us on numerous occasions. Has perhaps gone slightly under the radar as the defence has either been solid or has gifted the opposition unsavable chances but this was definitely Sung-Ryong’s game. His contributions on the ball also have given us a big advantage when playing the ball around at the back. Bravo!