Shonan Bellmare 1 - 1 Kawasaki Frontale
As predicted, this run of games against bottom half of the table teams has presented us with another slip up. Shonan, a team who we either seem to absolutely wallop or really struggle against are the second pre-season relegation favourite to take a point from us. To be fair though, they have been performing a lot better than some people expected. Much like the recent game against Sendai, we could consider ourselves a little lucky to come away with a point if we’re being tough on ourselves. However, this was an away game we were able to attend and there was even booze available! So it was a fun experience only let down by what went on on the pitch. Here are the usual sections.
We rotated! But perhaps not 100% successfully again. You can’t really say that any of the rotated front three did a particularly outstanding job and they needed to be bailed out by the usual players coming on in the second half when we at least looked slightly more lively. I think Kobayashi, Hasegawa and Tono all have something to offer but they didn’t do particularly well together. I don’t know why Oniki changes the whole front three instead of mixing it up a bit… We rotated! But once again failed to address the major issue that is our right back position when Yamane is away on international duty. Now we only have Kashima at home on Sunday to try anything. I’m guessing that means we won’t be trying anything till we have a training session and Oniki realises that Yamane isn’t there. My money is still on Tono to be converted to a right back and perhaps it was Oniki’s intention in this game to give him a go there later on in the match but we ended up stinking so badly that we needed an emergency attacking injection and any experimentation plans went out the window. I’m looking forward to seeing what Oniki’s plan is. But at the same time I’m anticipating being pretty frustrated by it being Noborizato and Kurumaya as the full backs, one of them being played well out of position and letting the opposition know that he’s always going to play the ball with his left foot and always cut in from the right rather than go wide.
Looking at the game from a wider perspective, this was a thoroughly underwhelming performance. Players looked tired and maybe even slightly ‘not bothered’. The crapness of our second half against Yokohama FC stretched on a long way into this game. There have been various interpretations of our malaise floating around but the two main ones seem to be tiredness and perhaps some kind of complacency coming from the fact that we’ve have been winning quite easily in quite a few games that maybe we don’t need to try quite so hard to get the job done. I don’t know if either of these are right but there’s definitely a bit of listlessness blowing round at the moment and we could do with a bit of a kick up the backside to blow the cobwebs away, (combining two cliches into one super cliche). You might have thought drawing with Sendai would have done the job. You’d like to think that drawing with Shonan might do the job. We’ll see I guess. But hopefully soon the players can start enjoying playing as much as the fans enjoy watching. Although there has been more to groan about than get excited about recently. Saying that, it was great to see Damiao set himself up for another overhead and even greater to see it go in. I’ll go into his other ‘goal’ in the ref section. His goal was a rare highlight in a game full of tedium though. We didn’t have a shot till around the 30th minute. Apparently we have 13 in the game but I honestly can’t remember us having any really good chances. Well, apart from the TWO goals. This was a game where we dominated possession but didn’t dominate the game. Shonan came into the game looking to hit us on the break and that’s exactly what they did. Our defending for their goal was a bit of a mess but fair play to them, they deserved at least a point.
Honestly, there’s not much else I need to say about Shonan really. They were tough for us to break down, they hit us on the break. They seemed delighted with their goal and their point and who can blame them. I wrote a note down that their number 42 Takahashi was a bit annoying but this is clearly me clutching at straws for something to say as we slogged our way into the final third before messing up another chance. Let’s leave it at that.
Ref and VAR -
Iemoto again. And he was unsurprisingly classic Iemoto again. I honestly cannot believe that he is not still trying to even things up after we applauded him before FC Tokyo years ago. How many times have I written this?! The next time we have a game with him and are able to express our true feelings verbally we really have to give him some stick and maybe it’ll recalibrate his impartiality to something a bit more reasonable. Shonan tried to butter him up by giving him some flowers before the game but they could have saved their money. If they’d asked us they would have found out that there’s no need to do that as he’s always going to swing everything against us in the name of ‘impartiality’. The major taking point was clearly the disallowed goal. Whenever a striker jumps with the keeper it’s always going to be likely it is called a foul. Bizarrely on this occasion Iemoto seemed to be OK with it till a whinnying and whinging Tani bleated his way to the centre circle squealing that the big guy had done something mean to him. This time we got a pitch side check and Iemoto, in what was a crushingly inevitable outcome, canceled the goal. At the time I had no idea whether it was right or not, as of course we don’t get replays in the stadium. My Line group thought the decision was bullshit and I have to say that after watching replays on returning home I can't help but agree. Tani doesn’t even get a hand on it, Damiao out jumps him easily and any contact they made is perfectly reasonable in my opinion. The ball wasn’t headed out of his hands. If what Damiao did was a foul, then there’s not much point any player ever competing with a keeper for the ball. I wonder what Iemoto thinks about this decision in a game between the two teams in 2016. Takayama thought it was fair enough. 😉 We still were the masters of our own misfortune though. But that doesn’t mean that Iemoto being Iemoto isn’t annoying. Incidentally, 4 minutes injury time for a half with two goals, one disallowed goal with pitch side VAR referral, a drinks break and four substitution occasions seems a bit short. But it was Iemoto! But again I should stress that the disappointing result was down to us more than the ref. Interestingly I have done a bit of VAR disallowed goals research. We have had five goals canceled by VAR this season so far. Our opponents have had none. This is the second one where Iemoto has been involved. The other goal cancelling refs were Fukushima, Kasahara and Sato. Of course, these stats don’t show bias or anything really. VAR is supposed to make the game fairer. And we do tend to have more shots in games so it makes sense that we’d have more goals ruled out against us rather than in our favour. I still hate VAR though and now if anyone anywhere in any situation puts their finger on their ear and outstretches an open palm it sends a shiver down my spine and causes me to freeze in a semi catatonic state. Could be a problem if I encounter a police officer directing traffic or perhaps a modern expressive and interpretative dance performance satirising the modern world’s digital connectivity but highlighting the fact that it is isolating us rather than bringing us together.
This was a remote cheering game which means that Shonan had prerecorded chants to drum and clap along with. Bizarrely they also seemed to have prerecorded chatter and ‘atmosphere’ between songs .I don’t really know how remote cheering works. Does someone in the stadium have a little box that they trigger songs with? And if this is the case were they leaning hard on the ‘atmosphere’ button in this match? Was a bit weird. Also, I suggest they get a new speaker for the mixed seating zone as their quite enjoyable intro videos for their players and the subsequent music was very farty. If your going to go with big bass you need to back it up with your speakers I reckon. and finally I saw someone with a Frontale number 12 shirt with the name NO COVID on it, which is definitely a message we can all get on board with, but it is a lot of money to spend on a fairly universal sentiment. Personally speaking if we are ever free of this pandemic I don’t think I’d want to wear a football shirt with a message reminding me of the times when we had to silently attend games and avoid any kind of excitement. But fair play to him for his imaginative use of the number and name adding service.
Next up, Kashima at home on Sunday and then we wave goodbye to our international heroes for a little while. Whether the arrival of a ‘bigger’ team will spur us on to play a bit better or not I don’t know. But I hope so! Would be nice to continue the unbeaten run and to get a little bit of excitement back in our games! Go Frontale
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
FW 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya
FW 18. MITOMA Kaoru (on for HASEGAWA 57')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
Lots of mediocrity again. Has got to go to...
LEANDRO DAMIAO - got to love a player who is so desperate for overheads that he is constantly trying to set himself up for them. Scored twice and changed the game. Iemoto disagreed, but in any case props to Damiao!