Saturday, 24 July 2021

Vs JEF United (away) 21/7/21 - Emperor's Cup 3rd round

JEF United 1 - 1 Kawasaki Frontale (AET) (3-4 on penalties) 

Another penalty shoot out victory in the Emperor’s Cup against lower league opposition. You can’t say we don’t like to keep things interesting. Although to be honest, you could say that, as this game was pretty shocking for the most part. This was my second time at the Fukuda Denshi stadium but first time watching Frontale there. I think the previous time I visited was maybe of a higher standard when JEF played Machida. This match was the victim of some classic way too hot Japanese summer weather, an absolutely knackered Frontale team who have a target on their heads that is growing game by game, which in turn inspires the opposition to up their game and have a big old swing at us. We still haven’t been beaten since Oita away last year but we’re getting closer and closer to it happening. In a way, losing in extreme circumstances to a lower league team might be the best way to end the run. I’d probably much rather it happened that way than against a rival in the league, particularly if they were an annoying team (quite a lot of them to choose from given my whinginess). As I’ve left this blog post a little late I’ll just get on with this now and try to keep it brief, (as I always say, and rarely do). I’ll go back to the old paragraph headings today I think. Starting with…

Us -

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). 
But anyway, all this is basically saying we were knackered and consequently naturally a bit crap but I’m not blaming anyone for this. Give those guys a rest! I wonder if we might need some reinforcements though. Miyagi and Hasegawa now seem to be the choices for the Mitoma spot. And I think in general we have enough attacking players to find some combinations to fill those spots. Particularly as Yu will probably be back in contention by the time we resume. The midfield is more of an issue. The return of Oshima seemed well timed to cover the departure of Ao, but now we might have lost Oshima again for a while it might be time to find someone already in Japan to bring in to shore up that area. We have Kozuka and Tsukagawa but I’ve spoken about what might be the issue with the former and Tsukagawa still can’t play due to his second head injury since joining us. Should be back soon though. Still feel like an extra body would be useful though. Taniguchi was again tried in midfield in this match and we’re back to the normal outcome with the experiment being a failure. He spent most of the match moving across the pitch sideways as if on one of those table football handles either with his hand up asking for the ball or pointing to where someone should pass the ball to. Again, I don’t blame him, but please let’s stop with this experiment. A lack of numbers might be causing it so let’s get someone in instead of being left with the total mess of a formation that we ended up with in this game, where the only midfielder we had on the pitch at the end was Yamamura, a player who we’ve been desperately trying to convert into a centre back fro the entirety of his Frontale career. It was pretty grim, but totally understandable given the circumstances. I don’t have stats for the match, but I’d be surprised if there were more than 5 shots on target in total in the game from both teams combined. We just couldn’t do that last little bit needed to score. Thankfully, we got a penalty which I have no idea why the JEF players complained so vociferously about. Seemed a cert from where I was sitting and it was right in front of me. I don’t think we were going to score any other way.

Ref -
No VAR in this match and yes, I’m a hypocrite, but boy could we have done with it. I had no idea who the ref was until after the game as my normal app for stats and stuff like that wasn’t showing anything. My initial notes were ‘this guy loves a drop ball’. He probably doesn’t love a drop ball anymore. Checking my previous blog posts after finding out who the ref was, I was intrigued to see that I had written that Shimizu (for it was him), ‘was extremely fond of a drop ball’. So far so consistent. Before the match Damiao seemed to be making a joke with him about his height. In retrospect, maybe this wasn’t a good idea. But Shimizu certainly was ‘a bit mini’. He certainly let the game flow early on, not being keen to stop play for such little things as fouls and preferring instead to let the game continue for a bit before stopping the game as a player was injured, resulting in... A DROP BALL! It’s always fun to see someone so obsessed with one aspect of their life or job that they engineer every situation to work towards their thing. I think there can’t be many Frontale fans who don’t love the fact that Damiao is so in love with overheads that he sets himself up for them, and that he even does passes that way too sometimes. What is not fun is when a referee’s obsession with drop balls smashes up against him either not paying attention to the game (presumably because he’s thinking about his next delicious drop ball), or being unaware of the rules of the sport. A drop ball deep in our half (can’t remember what it was given for, probably the ref deliberately got in the way of a sideways pass to get another oh so tasty drop ball), was somewhat strangely left to JEF to boot the ball back to their keeper. Bit weird, as usually when that happens it is the opposition who do the booting back. Also not sure why the ball was going so far back to a different area of the pitch to be honest. The JEF keeper, perhaps deep in thought about why someone could be so obsessed with drop balls and consequently maybe not paying attention fully, picked the ball up. Clearly this should be an indirect free kick to us inside their penalty box. So far so obvious I would have thought. Our players seemed to know the rules. The ref didn’t. Perhaps realising he’d got himself into an ‘oh shit’ position he did the usual ref thinking time thing of putting the hand on the ear. Sadly no VAR meant that he had no-one to tell him he was an absolute idiot and what he should do. Well perhaps the linesman could, but maybe he wasn’t sure about the rules either. Ienaga starting going a bit nuts on the ref, who finger on the ear was perhaps hoping for some kind of divine intervention via radio headset. Damiao seemed to be involved too, but perhaps trying to control Ienaga who was properly 'losing his shit' with Shimizu. In a classic bit of playground tactics, Ienaga, who was holding the ball, offered it to the ref and then withdrew it as the ref went to take it. He then dropped it on the floor meaning the ref had to bend over and pick it up. A bit of a power move from Ienaga but probably justified given that Shimizu was being a total fool. At this stage Shimizu seemed to also be on the table football handle, moving sideways across the pitch with his hand on his ear and the ball now safely scooped up, consulting with the linesman, getting some advice from the JEF players. No idea what they could possibly have been complaining about and no idea why the decision took so long as it was so simple. He had dropped the ball to the JEF player. They had kicked it. The goalie picked it up. In the end, I’m pleased we did the honorable thing and just passed the ball softly back to their keeper. I am however displeased to a similar extent from the point of view that it got this useless ref off the hook for some complete incompetence. It wouldn’t have been a good look for the leaders of J1 playing against lower league opposition to power the ball home from close range after an idiotic bit of officiating gave us a chance on a plate. The whole matter made me extremely frustrated though, as it also did with Ienaga, who almost certainly would have been subbed if it were not for the distinct lack of options. The rest of the game he was playing on frustration fumes only and that never really is a good fit with our way of play and basically meant we were half a player down. The ref also seemed to be running on some kind of different fuel afterwards. Perhaps annoyed with us letting him off the hook (?! Perhaps he is masochist and wanted to be punished), he gave us absolutely nothing for the remainder of the game and consequently is right up there challenging for the worst ref in Japan title as far as I am concerned. There’s plenty of competition, but seeing the name Shimizu as ref before the game will now send me into a simultaneous slump of depression and a fit a rage. A surprising and impossible sounding combination, but what can I say, these refs just keep on showing that even the impossible sounding can be a reality. Live your drop ball dream, and screw the consequences!

Them -

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!


GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 4. JESIEL (Yellow card 45')
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 19. TONO Daiya

GK 27. TANNO Kenta
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo (on for JOAO SCHMIDT 71')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota (on for WAKIZAKA 71')
FW 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for TONO 46')
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 90+6')
FW 24. MIYAGI Ten (on for TACHIBANADA 88')
MF 28. YAMAMURA Kazuya (on for OSHIMA 99')

MIKI (JEF) 53' 0-1
IENAGA (Frontale) 59' PEN 1-1

CHINEN (Frontale) 1-1
YADA (JEF) 2-1
YAMAMURA (Frontale) 2-2
IWASAKI (JEF) 2-2 (missed)
HASEGAWA (Frontale) 2-3
KURUMAYA (Frontale) 3-4
KUMAGAI (JEF) 3-4 (saved)

My Frontale Man Of The Match
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!


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