Kawasaki Frontale 2 - 0 Yokohama F Marinos
Since us season ticket holders had our pre-purchasing privileges removed it seems that buying tickets in a state of emergency has become like Primark on Oxford Street at the start of the Boxing Day sales. (Bit niche that reference, and a bit risky, particularly as I have no experience of it other than seeing footage on the news). At the agreed time, the masses who are poised with their mouse fingers ready burst onto the website, elbows flailing and grab whatever they can, whether they want it or not. Everything is gone in seconds and then random tickets get slung back onto the rails as people get to the till and find that their basket is full of five of the same XXXL jumpers and a pack of 20 left foot socks and no right ones. My wife, the ‘ticketmaster’ couldn’t manage to get tickets for the Super Cup so we were spared having to trek all the way to the Saitama Stadium and instead were able to enjoy almost exactly the same atmosphere in a quiet living room. Same atmosphere but with comfier seats! For this game we were in the main stand. Normally, this is an extremely placid zone with an atmosphere akin to an old folks home when one of the staff gets the karaoke machine out and has a go on a Vera Lynn classic, ie. lots of soft and slightly out of time hand-clapping with the ‘residents’ occasionally turning to each other and benevolently smiling, safe in the knowledge that they are sharing QUITE AN ENJOYABLE EXPERIENCE! Thankfully for us, the state of emergency capping attendances has blessed every area of the ground with the old folks home vibe, so we were able to enjoy the good views of the match without having to sacrifice any involvement in atmosphere. All of this is basically a long-winded, (on this blog, never!), way of saying that the lowest level of Corona football match attendance is still a very weird thing with not many advantages over watching the game on TV. IN fact maybe watching on TV is actually better, but at least we can say ‘WE WERE THERE!’ It was pretty cold though, so maybe home would have been better.
First half exciting -
But there’s no way I would have wanted to watch this first half from home! With a lot of parallels with the Super Cup match this was a quite exciting first half. We scored twice through the same player. We blazed a shot way over the bar when an open goal was gaping. We played some exciting stuff. And the opposition looked rubbish. I guess it’s not so much of a surprise that we’ve carried on where we left off last year as the starting line up hasn’t changed much at all. It’s nice that we have though. The two goals we scored were lovely. I don’t think I fully appreciated Yamane’s assist in the moment. But Ao’s lovely cross and Ienaga’s blasting finish and blasting header were 100% clearly wonderful at the time. We totally dominated the first half and YFM looked awful apart from their new youngster Kabayama who looked exciting but is thankfully still quite raw. Their keeper was annoyingly good again and sadly didn’t make any of the howlers he’s become slightly known for recently. If it hadn’t been for the two of them and some slightly dodgy finishing from us we could have been out of sight by half time.
Maybe watching at home would have been better for the second half. And perhaps Oniki has started experimenting with demotivating half time team talks but we weren’t very good in the second half. Thankfully YFM decided to shake things up by withdrawing their only outfield player who’d done anything in the first half. The highly trumpeted visionary 3-3-1-3 formation (going to change the world and all that), that had been talked about pre-season and with which they started this game was abandoned and they went for something a bit more FC Tokyo-ish and plodding. I’m only saying this to attempt to annoy both of our local rivals. They more possession in the second half but it was traded off against shots on target. According to my stats they managed 11 shots in the whole game, and the only two which were on target were in the first half. But they had possession! Beautiful sideways passing possession! Perhaps reminiscent of 2019 Oniki Frontale, totally dominating the area between the two penalty boxes, with relentless passing and refusing to break up this passing with any shooting! We occasionally got the ball and had a shot but there wasn’t much to see in the second half. Thankfully we were sitting behind the subs so could watch them warming up without being distracted by the ‘action’ on the pitch. Perhaps this dull second half is why the players looked a bit down after the game. But to be honest, we should be pleased that our defence held firm and we protected our lead. Not as exciting as 2020 Frontale in this second half, but a win is a good way to start the season so let’s be positive for once. I was waiting for a last minute Kobayashi goal to complete the comparison with the Super Cup. Of course these comparisons are have let down by us not conceding twice, but I’ll use that as another opportunity to taunt YFM, who clearly were never going to get as close to scoring as Gamba did. (wink emoji)
Oniki's Eleven (not the first in a series of films...) -
It seems like this is Oniki’s preferred first 11 as he’s selected the same one for the first two games. On the whole I agree with it, but of course from my absolutely uninformed position I’m going to have some grumbles about it. I think this game showed that we really shouldn’t be playing Hatate at left back. He’s not a defender and whilst his combinations with Mitoma going forward are pretty exciting, I’d much rather have a left back playing there and Hatate playing elsewhere. Whether Oniki will agree, we’ll see on Wednesday I guess. I thought Damiao had a great game up front. Well, apart from the fact that he didn’t score. But I’ve never seen a striker enjoy hassling and chasing down keepers so much. Once again he punched the air in celebration of blocking a clearance. He also ‘almost’ deflected a YFM keeper clearance into the net. I say almost as I couldn’t see how close it was, but if you block a clearance from the keeper you’ve always got a chance. Bravo to Damaio who seems to be really up for it this year, perhaps due to him being given the vice captaincy. Would love to see him get the armband at some stage. He seems like a really nice guy and when you compare the attitude of our Brazilians with other teams Brazilians, (at least from a highly biased and uniformed point off view), it is very satisfying. Perhaps one small problem we had in this game is that none of the subs really did anything. I know Oniki last year liked to make a change at half time, freeing up some more flexibility for later changes, but I think in both games so far we were probably quite pleased with how things had been going at half time so didn’t feel the need to do this. I guess we were up against it a bit in the second half, but Tachibanada after almost being involved in a goal shortly after coming on seemed to drift out of the game. Kurumaya and Kobayashi were involved but didn’t exactly shift the momentum of the game and the Chinen and Hasegawa change was so late that they barely had time to do anything. I’m not blaming the players in any way, I just feel that we can use five subs to change the game and maybe in both games so far, we haven’t managed to really do that. Yes, aside from Kobayashi scoring the winner in the Super Cup, completely undermining this argument.
Official officials grumbles section -
If ever there was a referee who was completely made for VAR, it is our old friend Nishimura. I swear that sometimes he was just doing that left hand on the ear and right palm outstretched wait a minute pose without anything actually being said on his earpiece. He loves to be the centre of attention and VAR gives him a new way of doing this. I’m surprised he didn’t run over to the pitchside monitor to check on a throw in / play a quick game of solitaire / check #西村 on Twitter as this would have intensified the focus on him. We had no awkward VAR goal awarding delays in this game which was a very welcome thing, but that doesn’t mean VAR is not shit. One other new rule moan. What’s the point of this delayed offside flagging thing? YFM’s smallest midget was way offside in the first half and the linesman didn’t raise his flag till they’d lost the ball and we were moving out of defence. Perhaps the thinking is that an offside flag might distract the ref from an attack which might not be offside and might lead to a goal that VAR could allow? But if this is the case, what’s the point of raising it when the attack is over and the defending team is breaking? I don’t really understand it. But then I don’t really understand plenty of things.
Taunt your neighbour -
So, let’s finish us with a bit of teasing of the opposition. A quick look at Twitter saw the usual YFM fans complaining about Frontale cheating. Actually, I’m still waiting for an answer to the question I asked one of them last season when they moaned that they had been cheated by big decisions in the last game we played against them. Apparently they were going to get back to me when they had analysed the game a bit more. If they don’t do it soon they’re going to have a big old backlog of moans to try and justify. At the end of the game though, there seemed to be a consensus between fans of all teams that YFM had been pretty bad. The YFM manager always makes me think of that guy hanging around the town centre at closing time, hoping he can irritate someone sufficiently and get in one last fight before he has to go back home. He seemed to be quite angry at the end of the game, blaming the players. It probably said something though that his revolutionary new formation that had been employed in the first half had resulted in a rotten performance and when he switched to something else in the second half they were better. I know it’s a common theme that when teams lose it’s the manager’s fault and when team’s win it’s the players that did it. It seems with YFM though that it’s the reverse. I guess when your whole management style is constantly buying new players for every position a state of emergency preventing new overseas players entering the country is going to interfere with your strengthening. There can’t be many teams in the league who buy and discard so many players. Maybe it’s an infinite monkeys with typewriters / Shakespeare approach. Perhaps this was a good time to play them or perhaps this game is going to be representative of how the whole of their season is going to go. No ACL for them to use as an excuse this year, so we’ll really see where they are, I guess.
So another very welcome win, but again another second half which was quite difficult to get excited about. I’m not going to moan too much about us not taking chances in this game as starting the league with a win is a significant improvement on what we normally do. And starting YFM’s season with a defeat is pretty satisfying too! Next up, we have Cerezo Osaka at home on Wednesday. Historically a bogey team but one who we dispatched with ease last year. They look like they are all over the place this year so on paper you’d say we were the favourites. So, probably we’ll stink the place up and lose. Hopefully though we can keep up this tradition of one player blasting in a couple of goals in the first half. And hopefully we can boot into the stand this trend of us having a very disappointing second half. 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
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro (on for WAKIZAKA 76')
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 76')
MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for MITOMA 88')
FW 19. TONO Daiya
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for IENAGA 88')MF 22. TACHIBANADA Kento (on for JOAO SCHMIDT 64')
IENAGA Akihiro & LEANDRO DAMIAO - Another lazy decision to give it to the guy who scored twice but they were great goals. And Damiao was a total pain in the neck for the YFM keeper and perhaps I'll give it to him every time his celebrates a block as much as he did in this game and the last one. (And in this picture it looks like we are playing only Damiao vs the whole YFM team).