Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Vs Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo (home) 16/5/21 - J League match 14

Kawasaki Frontale 2 - 0 Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo

Phew! Another bullet dodged. I would say this is some revenge for this fixture last year, but that sounds like we were wronged last year and deserved this win. Neither is really true I think. This game probably should have been a draw. Both teams did  a reasonable job of almost making chances, but both also struggled with putting them away. Consadole edged it on possession, the shots were pretty even for both teams but crucially Sung-Ryong made three saves and the Consadole keeper made none (if my stats are to be believed). The weird thing is Jay Bothroyd seemed to be saying on Twitter that they just weren’t good enough in this game. I think they were just unlucky and we were lucky. But then again, when you’re on a good run, luck kind of goes your way and the confidence you have from the good run might edge things in your favour in marginal situations. Anyway, this is all basically saying that 2-0 flattered us, but at the same time, I’m very happy that we were able to bounce back from Wednesday’s disappointing draw with a win. Particularly nice when our nearest rivals YFM, (if they win their games in hand they are the nearest), really stank the place up conceding five against Kashima with some horrendous goalkeeping blunders. Lovely! There was some talk that they had been on a run of easier games recently and that they were perhaps in a false position. As we are currently showing though, a run of ‘easier’ games isn’t as simple as you might think. I said I thought we might struggle in some of these games and so far we have done so in two out of two. But we still haven’t lost. Wonderful! Here we go with the usual bullet points:

Us -

Oniki changed things up again with a shuffling of the midfield. The biggest shock perhaps was Kozuka starting. I thought he did a decent job, but it was clear that he hadn’t played much with the players around him. Understandably, there didn’t seem to be the same kind of link up that we get when more familiar players start. Perhaps given that the forward midfield two were Kozuka and Hatate it was no surprise that we were often leaving pretty big gaps in the middle of the pitch when Consadole were counter attacking. Normally we’d have a player more used to playing there who would know when to not leave a massive gap for the opposition to run into. So perhaps it wasn’t a good idea to go with the two of them together. However, Joao Schmidt was back and firing again. He did lots of the dirty work and was spraying the ball around the pitch beautifully. What a signing he is turning into! We looked pretty tired in this game. Or maybe we just weren’t very focused. Perhaps the schedule is catching up with us. Perhaps it’s because it’s getting warmer. Perhaps we’re now thinking about the ACL which is coming up quite soon. Also, I think the fact that we didn’t seem to be getting anything from the ref rattled us a bit. It certainly rattled me. Wednesday’s draw against Sendai should have given us a kick up the backside and results wise I guess it did. But this performance wasn’t any more convincing than that one was really. We were a bit luckier on this occasion though. Certainly Ao coming on firmed things up a bit. And Kobayashi got a shot on target where many others had failed. There were still plenty of misplaced passes and fluffed shots though so definitely something to work on. I’m a bit worried that we started the season blazing and as we are beginning to get closer to the games that really matter (the ACL, according to the club) we are looking increasingly wobbly. Hopefully all the other ACL teams are doing the same. The schedule continues at pretty much the same pace for the next 4 games. Although mercifully we have this Wednesday off. But after that it’s weekend and Wednesday for a couple more weeks till the break. One last comment on us is that I wish we would stop doing this time killing ball in the corner flag thing. It is terrifying and whilst I think we’ve got away with it so far, it doesn’t seem to come very comfortably to us and I reckon it’s only a matter of time before it goes horribly wrong. Actually, did we do it against Sendai? A very late equaliser would count as it going horribly wrong I suppose. In this game we were caught offside when trying to keep the ball in the corner which is pretty unforgivable, giving the opposition both the ball and the opportunity to hoof it up field without any interference. Guess this is what happens though when the games start getting a bit tighter. Hopefully soon we can have a nice relaxing massive win and not have to hang on to a slender one goal lead, channeling the ultimately useless spirit of 2018.

Them -

Not so much to say about the opposition on this occasion apart from, 'I’m sorry, we got pretty lucky and they deserved better'. You wouldn’t have imagined that a game between two attacking sides would end up with so few goals (until very late on in the game) and so little quality in front of the goal. But that’s the way it was. Consadole had a very interesting backline I thought. It was apparently a back three, but it seemed like it was more some kind of five man snake which would weave side to side depending on where the ball was. Basically it looked like they always had two or three across the back but if they had the ball or were attacking down one wing the extra players from that side would push forward and the ones from the other side would slide across almost as if they were chained together. It certainly proved quite difficult for us to break though. This might also explain why their central defender was wearing the number 10 shirt. Or not. When Arano, (Kengo insulter and ‘divisive’ player), came on, he seemed to be playing at the back, in the middle, and up front. If I knew more about football I might understand more what was going on tactically. If I knew more about writing I might be able to explain it. Panto villain Arano is actually growing on me a bit. He has one of those wild man footballer haircuts that would look pretty unforgivable in a leisure situation and is a right dirty player on the pitch but I can kind of see his appeal. Him and Damiao seemed to be having a fun time together patting each other on the back and chatting away. I wonder what about. Basically Arano is that kind of Okubo figure, who you love if he’s playing for your team (generally), but who is pretty annoying if they are on the opposition side. But I still haven’t forgiven him for telling Kengo to die. Don’t mess with KawasakiKengoKamisama.

Ref and VAR -

Perhaps my refereeing highlight of this game was when a Consadole player blasted the ball and it hit the ref firmly in the backside. So many of my feelings about refs seem to be related more to me personally and what is going on in my head that sometimes it’s difficult to work out what is accurate and what is just something that feels like it is happening. In this game I thought Takayama gave us pretty much nothing. I think we only got one free kick in the whole of the first half which is pretty unusual. For some reason though it didn’t make me quite as frustrated as I usually get though. Perhaps this is a new slightly more chilled out Neil. I thought we had a couple of shouts for penalties, one in the first half when Mitoma was grabbed and went down. Perhaps the contact wasn’t quite enough. Also in the second half when Damiao met a cross from the left and headed wide and high. It looked to me, and continues to do so having seen some replays, that he was bumped into whilst in midair before he made contact with the ball, making it pretty difficult to header the ball properly. At the same time, Anderson Lopes could have got a penalty from a Taniguchi challenge but I felt that was shoulder to shoulder probably and therefore ok. So it probably evened itself out. Weird thing to say when the ref has actually done nothing, but I suppose equal inaction for both teams is as fair as equal action.
VAR wise this was a strange one. Kobayashi’s late goal looked offside to me and was flagged as being so. So much that I didn’t celebrate, being pretty sure the VAR would uphold the decision of the admittedly a bit dodgy linesman. So basically VAR has killed off all the joy in me. Saying that, it was a lovely surprise when we actually got given the goal. I was confused why it was taking so long as I thought it was pretty obviously offside. After watching the replay I’m confused why it took so long as it seemed pretty obviously onside. I will say though that it is nice that VAR overturned a ref’s decision in our favour for once. Is this the first time? I’m struggling to remember another one.
Other stuff -

This game had a few notable landmarks. This was Kobayashi’s 300th J League game so it was lovely that he could score a goal that sealed the win rather than marking the occasion by coming on for not very long and not much happening. Along with this, this game saw us set a new record for an undefeated run in the J League. I believe we’ve now gone 22 league games since our last loss which was… Oita away when we could have won the league last year. Damn that was a bad game. It’s lovely to set records and I hope we can keep this run going but we’ve come a bit close recently to messing it up. What’s the betting that we break that run against someone we really shouldn’t lose to?… On this occasion we were also treated to being able to see Ienaga reach new levels of laid back cool as he reclined on the pitch behind our wall as we defended a free kick. This sounds a kind of boring observation, but the fact that it was Ienaga doing it and the insouciance that he did it with takes it up a few levels to being probably the most entertaining aspect of this game. Sometimes a player is just perfect for the situation and when that situation is stylishly lounging on the floor on one elbow as a legitimate part of a football game Ienaga is the man for the job. After picking up a couple more awards recently, perhaps we are suffering from the manager of the month and player of the month curse. Since Oniki and Damiao won neither of them have found things particularly easy. Hopefully that curse doesn’t last very long. One other possibly interesting point, is that I don’t think we have got or given away a penalty yet this season. (I think... but this is based mainly on my failing memory. I’ve done a quick check though and couldn’t find any evidence of one). It seems a bit weird when you think about how many games it has been, but I can’t remember it happening. Not sure if this has anything to do with any refereeing rule focus changes but it’s surprising nonetheless.

Next up, Yokohama FC at home next weekend. A team who doubled their season’s point’s tally in their last game. Doubled it from 3 to 6. They have only scored 10 goals in their 14 games so far. Therefore, an absolutely nailed on banana skin. After that a trip away to Shonan, a team who were previously doing better than expected until they lost to... Yokohama FC! So what does that mean? Probably another banana skin. Fingers crossed this little midweek break will do us some good and we can come back firing. Go Frontale!

GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
MF 17. KOZUKA Kazuki
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 18. MITOMA Kaoru

GK 27. TANNO Kenta
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro (on for NOBORIZATO 72')
FW 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for MITOMA 78')
MF 22. TACHIBANADA Kento (on for HATATE 87')
MF 25. TANAKA Ao (on for KOZUKA 46')

MITOMA (Frontale) 49' 1-0
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 90+4' 2-0

My Frontale Man Of The Match


This wasn’t a scintillating display but a few players could have a claim for it. Joao Schmidt had his usual classy game and Ao really made a difference when he came on at half time. But, given that we didn’t do so well going forward I’ll look to the other end of the pitch and give it to…

Sung-Ryong JUNG - If we can’t score many goals, stopping the ball going into our net becomes pretty damn important and Sung-Ryong did that impressively with a couple of great saves. Bravo!


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