Kawasaki Frontale 3 - 2 Gamba Osaka
The heady thrills of a silent stadium on TV -
Football is back and, due to the state of emergency, so are crowds limited to 5000. I’m sure that in the stadium there might have been a slight wash of excitement at various points, but watching this game on TV, I found it quite hard to focus at times. 5000 crowds means no drums but we do seem to be able to do some kind of rhythmic clapping so perhaps the latest research has proved that unlike soldiers marching in step over a bridge, people clapping at the same time isn’t a danger to everyone involved. We’ll find out whether it is as flat an atmosphere as it sounded on TV next Friday I guess. Although given that we only managed to get tickets in the main stand, it might be hard to tell. Let’s hope that the state of emergency is lifted on March 7th and we can get back to at least 10000 crowds and just a bit of atmsophere as soon as it is safe and possible.
MITOMA SHOOTING!!!! (said in the style of a Japanese TV commentator) -
We have been firing in goals galore in our preseason games. I’m never sure if this is a good thing or not as preseason form often bears little relation to how teams play when the real stuff starts. But we did start this game in kind of exciting fashion. Perhaps taking a cue from our Kanagawa neighbours YFM, who after winning the league in 2019 started the next season in pretty haphazard style, we started this game looking good going forward (up until it came to shooting) and looking pretty dodgy at the back (until it came to conceding). All of the excitement without any of the goals! After an absolute howler of a miss from Taniguchi after Joao Schmidt was unlucky to not open the scoring with a header from a corner, we did kind of get ourselves together a bit and managed to score twice. It will come as no surprise to discover that it was Mitoma with both goals, who seems to have not got too disheartened by not being able to move overseas yet. So far so good! Damiao even was trying to the overhead kicks again. However, judging by the second half, it seems that we are equally capable of conceding goals in quick succession as we are of scoring them. This was never a comfortable game for us, but I guess at least that makes things exciting. Anyway, this is getting dangerously close to talking seriously about the game so I’ll move on.
New year, new players -
This game gave us an opportunity to get a look at some of our new players. We had a new guy called Tanaka playing in the number 25 shirt… oh hang on, it’s just Ao, whose face seems to have changed again. Apparently he’s also growing still which isn’t something you can normally say about players who’ve spent a couple of years as an important member of the first team. Joao Schmidt was perhaps the biggest of the signings and it looks like he’ll be slotting into that Morita-shaped hole in the team. I thought he looked like he had settled in already which was nice, but he shouldn’t get complacent. There have been quite a few singings in recent years who went straight into the team only to gradually disappear from view, as if on one of those really long travelators at Haneda, slowly receding into the distance, only ever appearing in training ground videos and occasional autograph singing sessions. Three other new players played a part from the bench. Tsukagawa looked pretty exciting in the tackle I thought, giving back to the Gamba players as good as he got, getting VERY involved with some hard but fair challenges. A perfect person to take over Nara’s number 3 shirt. Was a shame to see him have to leave the pitch after a particularly hard challenge but he seemed ok and it did give us an opportunity to see the 6th sub rule come into effect for the first time. I’m not 100% sure of the details but it allows a team to replace a player who’s had a bang on the head rather than having them play on and risk their health. Tono got a bit of time on the pitch at the end in place of Ienaga. It seems that unlike Kobayashi, he is willing to play in that position on the right. And he did provide an assist for the very enjoyable last minute winner from Kobayashi. It’s nice that we have another option in that position as Hatate seems to be a left back now. Tachibanada had been touted as being ready for the first team and I’d say that seems to be true. He was also said to be a defensive midfielder but in his time on the pitch it seems that all the other midfielders had a go in that position apart from him. Whether this line up represents Oniki’s best eleven and subs, who knows. The game had a bit of a feel of a warm up fixture to it, (for me too, judging by my attention span). Guess we’ll find out next Friday.
Oniki is a religious zealot! Oniki is a fly-half after a try is scored! (Maybe… I know nothing about rugby and had to google this). Oniki is a bigoted parent of a LGBT child! What I’m trying to say is that he seems obsessed with converting. And I don’t mean converting Brazilian singings from athletes into people for the translators to take shopping. Who needs to sign defenders when you can covert players from all over the pitch into defenders! Hatate started this game at left back and it looks like it will be him playing there till Nobori is fit again. Yamamura who was a midfielder and was then converted in a defender seems to have been converted back into a midfielder again judging by the clubs grouping of players in Instagram posts. Oniki loves converting players into defenders so much that he even converts defenders into different position defenders. It seems that Kurumaya is now going to be playing centre back, (or probably covering for centre back), rather than left back. Which made it slightly amusing that with our emergency 6th sub Oniki had to put Kurumaya at left back. There was even a rumour pre-season that he was thinking of converting Taniguchi in a defensive midfielder to replace Morita. Which is also funny as that was where he used to play before he was converted into a centre back. If Claudio Ranieri was the tinker man, surely it’s only a matter of time before Oniki has to be referred to as the tweaker man. Hmmm, sure there is a better word for that but I’ve been searching for it for a while and can’t find it so that’ll have to do.
VAR, it’s crap, isn’t it? It allowed our second goal, which looked offside but wasn’t, but I’d still love to see it launched into space or thrown overboard in the middle of the Pacific. In theory, decisions will now be correct. Although even some refs have said that there will still be an element of personal judgement involved. But whether it is worth ditching the exhilaration of scoring a goal for the sterile thrill of accuracy I’m not sure. In fact, I think I am kind of sure that it isn’t worth it. As I tweeted,
‘The VAR delay makes the celebration so much sweeter!’ said no-one, ever. The big VAR decision in this game for our second goal was particularly weird as on the TV coverage they didn’t even bother showing a replay until the decision had been given. Perhaps they were too worried that something said by a commentator or analyst might contradict the official verdict. I dunno. I’m sure there will be disasters with VAR this season and ridiculously marginal calls which cause uncomfortable vibe-killing delays. While at the same time decisions that aren’t covered by VAR will be totally bodged by the ref. I’m pretty sure that Gamba’s late free kick in this game came from one of their own players elbowing a teammate. Of course I wouldn’t have been too happy if they’d scored from that free kick, but at the same time there’s no way I’d be calling for VAR to run the rule over all the decisions in a game. Better for consistency’s sake to just bin it, right? Hehe.
So, this post seems to have just gone the same way that all the previous ones did. I guess it will take a while for my new blogging style to bed in. Unlike our new players who seem to have hit the ground running! The Super Cup is a competition that winner is delighted to win whilst at the same time every other team in the league says is meaningless. Certainly though, it was nice to get off to a winning start and irritate plenty of opposition fans with a last minute winner. Hopefully we can keep this going on Friday against YFM at home to kick off the league campaign. We’ll probably need to iron out a few of those dodgy crinkles at the back though and probably take our chances a bit more. We won’t always be able to rely on a last minute winner. Fingers crossed we won’t need one! Go Frontale!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 4. JESIEL
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 47. HATATE Reo
MF 6. JOAO SCHMIDT
MF 25. TANAKA Ao
MF 8. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO
FW 18. MITOMA Kaoru
GK 27. TANNO Kenta
MF 3. TSUKAGAWA Koki (on for JOAO SCHMIDT 64')
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro (on for TSUKAGAWA 90+1')
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 72')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for MITOMA 72')
FW 19. TONO Daiya (on for IENAGA 83')MF 22. TACHIBANADA Kento (on for WAKIZAKA 64')
MITOMA Kaoru - Maybe a lazy decision to give it to the guy who scored twice but he really can shoot can’t he? While others fluff their lines he seems to more often than not do the business. Long may that continue!