Thursday 4 March 2021

Vs Cerezo Osaka (home) 3/3/21 - J League match 11

Kawasaki Frontale 3 - 2 Cerezo Osaka

It’s only five days since the season started and already we are on our eleventh league game. Well, round eleven anyway as this was a fixture between two ACL teams that was brought forward to give us something to do on a Levain Cup group stage night. We welcomed one of our old bogey teams Cerezo Osaka back to Todoroki. Cerezo unceremoniously dumped their most successful recent manager shortly before the end of last season. They lost a few of their most important players and replaced them with a 38 year old Yoshito Okubo who didn’t manage to trouble the scorers last year when he was with Tokyo Verdy. So we went into the game as favourites and consequently, from a jinx point of view would probably lose this match. After playing two games in both of which we had a good first half with a player getting a brace and then farted around for the second half not doing much, a  match against our former bogey team would be a good way to see where we really are. Naturally we conceded a goal in the fifth minute scored by our former star striker and then after getting back on level terms, contrived to go behind again. Add to this the electric atmosphere of corona football and you have quite a first 45 minutes of high quality entertainment! Anyway, another game coming soon so let’s knock this post out quickly. Here we go.

Corona update -

The state of emergency in Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures has been extended for another couple of weeks. Those hoping that this would be our last game with a crowd of under 5000 will be disappointed. Those who enjoy atmosphere will also be disappointed. Although to be fair this game seemed a lot better than the last one from the point of view of noise from the crowd. I say noise, but I really mean clapping. For some reason our call leaders and drummers have decided that they will not be leading or drumming whilst the state of emergency is on. Which seems a bit weird to be honest as when we can’t sing, if they get involved everything is a bit more exciting and possibly motivating. Perhaps they are hoping some kind of demand from fans for them to come back and lead us to the promised land like they seemed to be doing when we messed up away at Oita and didn’t win the league. So here it is from me. Hopefully they’ll be back soon. We were able to warm up for the clapathon with that version of the Shishamo song that they used to play before every game last season. Which made me realise that on the whole Japanese people are pretty good at clapping in time. I don’t know what happened to it last game but there does seem to be a few problems with getting things played on the PA and the big screen this year. Perhaps this geed everyone up a bit as things were a bit more fun. That is until…

Return of Okubo -

Of course he scored against us. He always does. He didn’t have to do it twice though! Very unsporting of him! Okubo rolled back the years and smacked a pretty nice one in from distance (can’t imagine anyone expected him to shoot and perhaps this is why Sung-Ryong looked like he’d been caught out), and then tucked one in at the back post from a cross that Sung-Ryong flapped at. It’s fair to say that our keeper didn’t have his best half. At least from the point of view of the two goals we conceded. I know there is always a bit of a debate about whether returning players should celebrate scoring against their old team. I think I lean towards ‘maybe not’ but can understand when they do. I don’t see why Okubo always has to do it with some much enthusiasm though! I was delighted to see him score last weekend. Not so much in this game. Not sure our fans should really be clapping him scoring either. I guess it was a nice goal, but as far as I’m concerned, give him a clap when his name’s read out before the game, give him a clap at the end of the game but don’t clap him when he scores against your team. Especially not for the second goal which was essentially a tap in! We did manage to pull one goal back in the first half (more on that later... a little more...), but I thought we looked pretty ordinary, particularly down the right. We were putting in a classic 2021 second half performance but in the first half. The only redeeming thing that happened before the second half (apart from the goal), was the fact that I avoided a fairly long queue for the toilet by using this ‘new’, ’secret’ toilet that I’m pretty sure never used to be in use but perhaps is getting some use due to people being encouraged to social distance.

Half time rollocking and line ups -

Cometh the hour, cometh the rollicking! Oniki must have got out the hairdryer at half time as we were a lot better in the second half. In the past he’s been a fan of the freebie half time substitution but seems to have gone off this idea in 2021. Whatever he said seemed to work though and we were level quite quickly. From then on it seemed like it was only a matter of time before we took the lead as Cerezo didn’t offer much. It was nice to see Tsukagawa get some more time on the pitch again after his brief cameo in the Super Cup. There didn’t seem to be anyone who he needed to crack heads with in this game though. Tachibananda got some more minutes too. He’s clearly a favourite of Oniki’s. Our final and triple substitution saw a complete change of the front three who to be fair all looked knackered. No-one who came on really had time to make much of an impact, but Kobayashi did manage to put a decent chance straight at the Cerezo keeper. The game felt like it had been won by then anyway, barring any calamitous errors. Given that he's named the same starting line-up three times, it now seems clear that this is Oniki’s first choice eleven from the players we have fit at the moment. I can only imagine it would be Oshima and Noborizato who would make it into the team if everyone in the squad were fit. Maybe… I still don’t want Hatate playing at left back, but for some unknown reason Oniki isn’t aware of my opinion and doesn’t care what I think. I think that Oniki rotating in 2020 became a bit of a common misconception. We only used 22 different players last year and if it were in any way possible to name his favoured eleven that is exactly what Oniki would do. AND LOOK HOW LAST YEAR TURNED OUT!!! Oh…. It will be interesting to see when he breaks from this eleven and if that is an enforced change or not. I guess we can say though that Damiao is now favoured over Kobayashi which is a bit surprising for Oniki. Also that Kurumaya will not be played at left back unless it is absolutely necessary. I guess it makes sense to try to get as strong a start in the league as possible considering there could be some bumps in the road coming up later in the season so maybe this is why we are going full on right now. Hopefully Oniki has got an idea of what we can do to give some players a rest when they need it though. Will we see a change at the weekend and next week against 'weaker' opposition? I doubt it. But must things I predict don't happen, so maybe we will.

The usual VAR stuff -

We had a goal ruled out for offside by VAR. As would be expected there was not a lot of clarity in the stadium as to what was going on. We had the goal song playing but something didn’t seem right. The linesman’s flag had gone up but Sato seemed to be giving it until we got the feared hand on the ear and palm outstretched thing. I think the decision was right… I think. I had no idea at the time and checking on DAZN hasn’t made it much clearer as instead of the crucial moment being replayed they considered a few shots of some guys looking at TV screens proof enough of the validity of the decision. You can just about see something at the edge of the screen if you rewind the footage on DAZN but nothing crucial was replayed. The replays they showed were off a different passage of play to the one that the offside came in. I wonder if the people who control the TV pictures are under instructions to not show anything potentially contentious or just don’t really know what’s going on. I think this linesman flagging at the end of the passage of play thing though isn’t helping anyone understand what’s happening. I’d also say that we seem to be getting a lot less yellow cards in games this year. I think I said that last year too. Maybe that’s another rule change. Thankfully we haven’t had a nightmare VAR experience yet like they did at the Shonan / Tosu game yet. Or the one at the Cerezo / Kashima game. Guess the latter decision shows that even if you have some guys in a room watching loads of replays you can still get controversy and confusion. Maybe better to not bother with it at all, eh? And preserve some of the excitement of watching a game.

Sorry, this post wasn’t very entertaining. Seems that I can’t keep them funny and I can’t keep them short either. I’m doomed to provide my inaccurate and just plain wrong analysis. Or maybe it was just that nothing funny happened. It’s another win which is great, particularly as we seem to have had some wobbly moments already this year. One nineteenth of the season is done and we are unbeaten! And we’ve had a player score twice in every game. Long may both of those things continue! Next up we have Sendai away. It’s a real shame we can’t go there. For many reasons, but particularly given the fact that it’s the 10th anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake and the game we played against them which seemed to create this nice relationship between the two sets of fans. Instead we’ll have to watch from our sofas. After that we’re at home again next Wednesday, this time against Tokushima Vortis. Hopefully we can continue in our first half against Gamba and YFM and second half against Cerezo vein. Or perhaps we might even get a whole 90 minutes of good stuff! Fingers crossed! Go Frontale!


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG 

DF 13. YAMANE Miki





FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro


FW 18. MITOMA Kaoru


GK 27. TANNO Kenta 

MF 3. TSUKAGAWA Koki (on for JOAO SCHMIDT 64')

DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro


MF 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for MITOMA 90')

FW 19. TONO Daiya (on for IENAGA 90')

MF 22. TACHIBANADA Kento (on for WAKIZAKA 79')

My Frontale Man Of The Match
Although Mitoma got to do the hero interview at the end of the game, the official man of the match and my choice were in accord for once. We’ve both given it to…

LEANDRO DAMIAO - two goals, (including one lovely volley!), and one backheeled assist is pretty good, but his whole performance was great I thought. The deputy captaincy seems to have lifted him to a new level of goalkeeper hassling and I have to say I’m really enjoying it!


LEANDRO DAMIAO (Frontale) 7' 1-1
OKUBO (CEREZO) 22' 1-2
LEANDRO DAMIAO (Frontale) 47' 2-2
MITOMA (Frontale) 62' 3-2


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