JEF United 1 - 1 Kawasaki Frontale (AET) (3-4 on penalties)
Pretty much a full strength line up for this game on paper. But the concept of ‘full strength’ is something of an alien concept to us right now. I think it was a player who in their post game comments said that they felt that the squad was playing on about 40% energy levels right now. This was our 30th game so far this season in just under five months which maybe doesn’t sound quite so bad but is a schedule that has been pretty punishing. Perhaps the more significant way of looking at it is that it was the eighth game in less than a month, a period which included us flying back from Uzbekistan. And due to weird quarantine rules the players have been fine to play games against other teams but have still not been able to go home so are basically living in a hotel somewhere (or something similar). All of which is a preamble to me saying we were pretty average in this game but I totally understand why. We’ve also lost two players to transfers, another to the Olympics, one to Corona, and a few more to injuries, so are light on numbers too which won’t help people get rest. I understand that the Emperor's Cup game kind of needed to be played in order to not get the fixtures of that competition into too much of a mess but I’d question whether it was a good idea or necessary to play the Shimizu game at this time. Guess the league aren’t bothered about that though. In some ways, it’s a bit of a miracle that we are still unbeaten. Two clear examples of how the schedule and the travel have taken their toll are pretty clear. First, in Oshima, perhaps being called on to play a bit too much after a long injury, getting injured again taking a corner in this game. We can only pray that it’s not too serious. He went off on a stretcher but was walking round the pitch till the stretcher belatedly came so let’s look at that as a possible good sign. The second is the COVID case we have in the playing staff. There was a bit of speculation that it was Hasegawa who was conspicuously absent against Shimizu but he was in this squad and came on in the second half so it’s clearly not him. The official line is that a player complained of a fever after the Shimizu game and then tested positive so presumably it is someone who was in that squad and not this one. So… Kozuka? You have to wonder how effective the COIVD tests are to be honest. We are pretty much basing society’s whole response and handling of this pandemic around them but it seems that whoever it was tested negative before the game and positive afterwards which is a pretty narrow window for the infection to show up. Or perhaps the tests are a bit useless. Which is something I tend to believe from anecdotal evidence from friends and acquaintances who have been sick but have had negative tests. (Anecdotal here with the meaning that you shouldn't read anything into what I’m saying). It certainly might help explain why cases have been relatively low in Japan for the duration of the pandemic. But anyway, this is veering wildly off topic and towards Conspiracy Theory Rabbit territory. (I have no interest in writing that blog so go for it if you want. I will state here that any blog or future blog by that name has no link to this one).
Full credit to JEF for pushing us all the way, even if we weren’t exactly at anywhere near full power. Zero credit to the arseholes in the JEF team who responded to us giving them a huge let off with our response to the ref’s idiocy by diving, whinging, hacking, moaning and time wasting for the remainder of the game. I’m looking at you Taguchi. Honestly have no idea why they would time waste as we were all over the place and there for the taking. It seems that sportsmanship only goes one way for some people. Conversely their centre back Jang, who I’d put down as ‘a bit of a git’ in the first half showed a bit of class, seemed to understand what had gone on and even applauded our fans after we helped the ref out. I put him down as a git as he did what a lot of Korean defenders in the J League do, namely defend pretty well and quite physically, which is perfectly fine if it’s your own players doing it, but utterly disgraceful if it’s the opposition. As I said above, there wasn’t a great deal of quality in this game. Their goal was from their first shot I think, and they didn’t have many others aside from that one. But the two teams were well matched in that respect. A particularly dodgy clearance from their keeper caused their fans to emit a noise I have rarely heard at a football game. Something like the impending disaster noise you might expect if you were on a plane flying with only one engine working as the functioning one burst into flames, a worry-filled ‘oooouuuuuuuhhhh’ from the crowd who were in almost perfect unison in their groaning.
Stupid bits -
Seems that now the two teams are coming out separately at the start of the game. Did this happen in the previous Emperor's Cup game? I’m not sure. Once again, seems pretty pointless given that they are going to be spending a lot of time in close proximity whilst the game is going on. But perhaps a response to rising Corona numbers. But also perhaps all about visuals rather than reality. I often think the precautions people on TV programs are taking on camera are probably not replicated off screen and this feels like a similar kind of thing. Both sets of fans had big drums in this match and perhaps the limited amount of things you can do with a drum beat and clapping with no singing meant that on a few occasions the two sets of fans joined in perfectly united clapping. It stayed united for a few seconds until one team caved and slightly changed the tempo and we drifted out of sync again. Perhaps something a bit similar to a John Cage piece with tempos moving, uniting and then moving away again. But perhaps not done with two groups of drummers with sheet music in front of them and a desire to play some mid 20th century experimental classical music. JEF’s drums were impressively noisy I have to say. Maybe we should look into some bigger drums. At the same time, maybe we should instead just pay a bit more attention to the game as whilst Oshima was on the floor injured our Kazoku continued drumming waving and clapping out their song without noticing. Perhaps an Oshima injury is so common and predictable now that it doesn’t even merit a concerned stopping of the song. Felt a bit tone deaf I thought, but it was at the other end of the pitch. But I could see it and I wasn’t much closer than they were and wasn’t wearing my glasses.
That’ll do. There was so little of note regarding the football in this game that I’m shocked the post has gone on this long. at the same time, the ref was such an idiot that it comes as no surprise to see that he got as much text as was in the section about us. Now, finally we have a break. The players should be able to go home soon and I hope they can have a decent break as they need it. Next up…. uh oh… Oita away. Bet it will be Kasahara again. Or maybe the league will give us another go with Shimizu. If so, I predict an Ienaga red card for a double footed tackle on the ref before the start of the game. Totally justified. Fingers crossed we’ll be able to support the team there. Currently it looks like they will be selling tickets. I hope so as we have planes and a hotel booked. Go Frontale!
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
SAKURAGAWA (JEF) 1-0
CHINEN (Frontale) 1-1
YADA (JEF) 2-1
IWASAKI (JEF) 2-2 (missed)
HASEGAWA (Frontale) 2-3
FUKUMITSU (JEF) 3-3
In a game of this quality it is difficult to single out anyone. Hasegawa looked bright when he came on. I should probably give it to the medical team as they have managed to keep the squad alive in these testing circumstances. But I guess it has to go to…
Sung-Ryong JUNG - saved our bacon in another penalty shoot out. Oh, this is only the second time (since the second word of the post) that I mentioned it went to penalties. It did. We won. Sung-Ryong made another great penalty save. Bravo!