Kawasaki Frontale 2 - 1 Kashima Antlers
We started this match going great guns. We could have scored a few times in the first ten minutes and we were really wasting some very good opportunities. We continued to do this throughout the game to be honest, with shots more often than not being shanked well wide and us not really troubling the Kashima keeper. We had a great opportunity in the second half where a goalbound Ienaga shot was wonderfully defended by Damiao. I think this is the exact opposite of what happened a few games ago where Ienaga was the blocker and Damiao the shooter. Although perhaps I’m mixed up and that was them playing the same roles as in this match. Damiao’s goal in this game came from a pretty similar opportunity to a couple of previous chances that we had previously missed. It was lovely to see it go in and even better when you notice it went through the keepers legs. Double lovely! Not saying it was all us though. The first five minutes of the game was end to end stuff and it looked like we were going to have a high action game. The second half we really wobbled for a bit either side of their goal and if it hadn’t been for some great saves from Sung-Ryong we could be in a very different mood right now. Part of me thinks we were very lucky to win this game and part of me thinks we would have won easily if we had put away some of the many gold-plated chances we had. Don’t know level of luck those two opinions balance out to though. And I guess it doesn’t matter as we won anyway. Aside from Sung-Ryong, I thought Nobori and Hatate had pretty good games and stood out. And of course Kobayashi, who had two touches and a 50% touch to goal ratio. Inspired sub, eh? Perhaps, but perhaps the subs were a bit weird in this match. The fact that with three minutes of regular time to go we had only made one change makes me think that Oniki wasn’t sure we could really do anything from the bench. Kobayashi coming on in the 93rd minute felt like a time wasting sub to me, trying to hold on for the draw, rather than an attacking master stroke. But who cares? It turned out to be the latter. The real fun starts on Wednesday when five of our starters are removed for international duty, including Yamane who has played every minute of the season at right back, I think. I thought we might have experimented with trying someone else there for a little bit of some of the previous games. Perhaps we missed our chance to do that though as things haven’t been particularly comfortable recently and we haven’t had any of those winning easily situations where we can give things a go. Well, maybe we did in the second half against Yokohama FC but we decided to stop playing instead. We have relied so much on our first choice eleven so far with a couple of occasional (and not always successful) tweaks that it really is a mystery what will happen on Wednesday and who will play where. I guess that the fact that it is in game against the bottom team in the league helps matters. And maybe we’ve been doing plenty of work on the training ground for this situation. Given that the game after the YFC away game is a home Emperor’s Cup tie against Nagano Parciero the following Wednesday we could be seeing a lot of some unfamiliar faces soon. I have to say I’m quite excited. But also slightly apprehensive. Pleased to say that I’m going to both games so I will be able to experience it first hand. In Oniki we trust, I guess.
The fact that there were no away fans has deprived me of the usual opportunity to make a joke about the hilarious ‘Spirit Of Zico’ flag they normally display. Judging by the first half of this game the spirit of Zico is a long ball and fouling spirit. See, even when the flag isn’t there I can still make stupid comments about it. In the absence of the flag, I’ll mention that the Kashima 30th anniversary kit looks revolting to me, being basically the Brazil kit but with pale blue shorts. Not totally sure how this fits in with their usual colour scheme but if I had to guess I’d probably go for ‘not in the slightest’. As I’ve hinted at above, Kashima gave us a bit of a scare. Perhaps that is the spirit of Zico; play pretty ordinarily but still somehow end up (almost) getting a win. Of course, given that I don’t like Kashima it would be no fun to say that they defended annoyingly well and their man of the match was almost certainly ‘a defender’s leg’ as time after time they cut out tricksy little passes we were trying down the sides or through the middle. In my usual way, I’ll single out one of their players who irritated me. On this occasion it was Koizumi who seemed to be a nasty little bugger. A not so regular feature is where I say someone seemed like a surprisingly reasonable guy. Don’t ask me why by Ueda seems like a decent fellow judging by his exchanges with Jesiel and his facial expressions whilst waiting for VAR. My guess at the conversation they were having is that it was something along the lines of, ‘VAR is shit, isn’t it?’, ‘Yes, it totally is’. I only noticed this when watching back certain potentially noteworthy moments back on DAZN though. I can barely see the pitch normally so facial expressions are definitely out of the equation, unless I get one of those super-fan lenses that lots of people have to take literally hundreds of photos of their favorite player or players. (I believe it tends to be the singular rather than the plural). So I guess this was perhaps another bullet dodged. At Shonan the bullet was a ‘plodding performance unable to get a shot on target and being foiled by a ref that always foils us’ bullet. This time it was a ‘decent performance from an opposition team not being able to make us regret missing lots of very good chances’ bullet. I guess those bullets are kind of similar to be honest, but the fact that one game ended with us just about managing to get a draw and the other was us snatching a late winner, the emotions are definitely quite a bit different!
Nishimura was the ref so it seemed that we probably wouldn’t be using VAR much in this match. He is supremely confident in his own decisions. Excessively so. Very excessively so. I have a vague recollection though that he totally incorrectly didn’t bother consulting VAR on something recently and got it thoroughly wrong, so I thought he’d continue on in his own confident way. But perhaps he got in trouble for that. Although perhaps he wouldn’t accept the authority of a reprimand either. In any case we had a couple of big VAR decisions in this game. In the stadium this meant that we had a couple of two or three minute delays, (perhaps an exaggeration but to be honest I reckon I’m rounding down as it felt much longer to me!), with the chance to enjoy everyone’s favourite sporting experience. Namely, waiting for someone to do something somewhere else that you have a lot resting on but absolutely no control over. The consensus seems to be that both decisions were right, but looking on DAZN I can clearly see that Ueda was offside by a fingernail so I feel cheated to my core. The run of our opponents not having a goal ruled out by VAR in one of our games continues. Our VAR goal really ran the gamut of emotions but in a slightly different way than usual. Normally you’d expect it to be up, then down, then maybe up again. Not such a roller coaster. This time I started down, as Kobayashi looked offside, went briefly up as I noticed the linesman hadn’t done the late flagging thing, went back down as Kashima players hassled the ref as he was referring it and it took an interminable time to do, stayed down as they told him to look at the big screen where they were showing a replay of the ‘goal’, then soared to new heights as the replay angle on the screen changed and you could clearly see that it was the defender who assisted Kobayashi. You’d imagine that this would be the end of the emotional rollercoaster but there was still at least another minute where the confidence and enthusiasm drained out of me as I imagined the VAR guys rewinding the video back to an incident that happened shortly after the start of the second half, debating whether it was the same passage of play or not, and then exploded back when Nishimura gave the goal. Quite a finish to the game. Somewhat strangely, it seems that if we have a goal referred and the ref takes the ball back to the centre circle it’s ruled out. If the keeper keeps hold of the ball for a free kick we seem to get the goal. Don’t know if this is 100% true but it feels like it recently. The score and stats app I use suggests that there was another VAR episode where Jesiel’s headed goal was disallowed. I’m pretty sure Nishimura didn’t refer it though as on the replay he disallows it so quickly that it was almost done before he’d even given the corner. Not sure. We didn’t see the pose or the graphic so I don’t think it was checked. I think if it had been we might have had the goal as the Kashima player moans about being pushed before the corner is even taken so clearly was ready to go down, and a little touch from his teammate is enough to send him sprawling. Never mind though, we won so I’m only going to moan lightheartedly about this. I will moan a bit more about Nishimura though as I thought he was woefully inconsistent again. Jesiel’s yellow was fully deserved but shortly afterwards Noborizato got fouled studs up into his ankle from a raised foot sliding tackle and the Kashima player got nothing. Mitoma was through on goal and hauled to the floor and not even a yellow. I would have been surprised if a red had been given but for them to just get away with only conceding a free kick seemed a bit much. Also, Damiao seemed to get given offside inside his own half. That’s what I thought at the time and where the free kick was taken from was definitely in our half. However, the DAZN footage is not at all helpful with the main camera understandably following the ball and we got no other replays. All fun though, isn’t it? Surprising how less stressed I am about refereeing ‘injustices’ after a win! Lovely!
A few final other bits. This was the YMCA game where the opposition often ends up getting relegated. Probably won’t happen this year, but it would be kind of fun if it did, wouldn’t it? Since the regular YMCA singer passed away a couple of years ago we now have a ‘comedian’/‘impressionist’ to sing it instead. I’ve seen the guy on TV a few times and whilst I don’t have the knowledge or understanding to vouch for the quality of either his ‘comedy’ or his ‘impressions’ I’m going to jump to the conclusion that he probably wouldn’t have to pull so many stupid faces if he was good at either comedy or impressions. But maybe I just don’t get it, so apologies for any cultural faux pas I might have made here. This game saw Oniki reach the 100 win milestone and as you might expect given his first few seasons, he has done it faster than any other J League coach has before. Congratulations to him! This is our last home league game till September and because of this it had the potential to be the last home game ever for any player that might depart for foreign shores before Autumn. I was keeping a close eye on Mitoma and Ao. Mitoma just looked as he normally does. Ao did too, which for me was encouraging for us as he does tend to get quite emotional. I remember him looking very upset when it looked like being Arai’s last game for us away in Sapporo. That supposition proved to be right when Arai announced he was going to JEF. Either Ao has toughened up emotionally as well as physically, or he won’t be moving, or he doesn’t know he’s moving yet, or perhaps he’s fed up with us and is looking forward to going. I hope he stays, but I won’t begrudge him or Mitoma leaving to pursue their dreams. Why not do it at the end of the season though? Perhaps they’ve been asked to stay till we’re done with the ACL. The fact that a big squad photo was taken after the game might suggest that no-one really knows and we are covering all bases. Or perhaps that was for Oniki’s 100 wins record. Feels a bit more like something that might be done before a departure rather though… Who knows? Fingers crossed…
I’ll say it one more time, LOVELY! Nothing like a win against a team you don’t like! Next up Yokohama FC away on Wednesday. This run can’t continue forever and wouldn’t it just be our style to mess it up against the bottom team in the league? Obviously I hope not though. After that, Nagano Parciero at home the Wednesday after. but as I’ve already said all this anyway, let’s just move on to Wednesday. Go Frontale!
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
My Frontale Man Of The Match
Nice to have some options for once. Damiao did great but missed a few too many good chances. Joao Schmidt was his usual quality self. Nobori and Hatate could have a claim for this. Or I could go with the choice in the stadium, two minutes, two touches, one goal Yu. However, think it must go to…
SUNG-RYONG JUNG - Several awesome saves. And it’s not often you get several and awesome together in the same match or sentence.