Kawasaki Frontale 3 - 1 Kashima Antlers
Another fun night at Todoroki, particularly as we seem to have found our shooting boots again. You could say we were a bit fortunate with some of the goals, but that doesn’t take away from this being a genuinely joyous evening of football, the likes of which I haven’t seen for a while. Of course it always helps if the opposition are unlikeable. In recent times it seems that YFM have probably become most Frontale fans’ most detestable team (if they weren’t already before). But Kashima came and left Todoroki making a big challenge to take that title for themselves. Which lets be honest is the only title they have any chance of taking this year! ZING! Whilst our rivalry with YFM has a local edge topped up by some quite unlikeable individuals, the envy and resentment that came from them stopping our three consecutive league titles and an irritation coming from the fact that they seem to keep pulling some very flukey results out when they least deserve them, it’s nice to get back to hating a team just because they seem like there are scumbags involved in it from top to bottom. Their fans worked themselves up for the match by doing the same funereal hand clap rhythm for about 20 minutes as the players warmed up, as if they had some foresight on what kind of performance their team were going to put in. They took a break for some more spontaneous applause as their players were introduced and then proceeded to restart it as ours were, in an attempt to drown out our applause. As soon as our announcement was finished they stopped so we can be pretty sure it was intentional. I guess this is all another manifestation of the ‘Spirit of Zico’ that they seem so proud of. I noticed a flag that is maybe new that said ‘BELIEVE KENTO’. I don’t know what Kento said and why people might be doubting him, but if he said ‘Kashima are a horrible team from an industry blasted absolute wilderness who will win nothing this year’ I think we can all believe him now. This long preamble to an Emperor’s Cup game blog post is somewhat strange as I’ve already written a lot but haven’t yet mentioned the dogshit music that gets played on these occasions. In order to keep things relevant and exciting it seems that the JFA has selected a panel of besuited middle- to old-aged men locked in a sterile office with a whiteboard and a google search window open on cheap rights-free tunes and no discernible interest in music as their DJs for the occasion. On the white board we have the following YOUTH! DANCE MUSIC! ROCK GUITARS! EPIC! FRESH! and from these starting points they managed to assemble a playlist which swerved erratically from one horrible song to another. Painfully dasai ‘urban’ to horrendous fusion funk, synth pop backing track with a three minute cock rock guitar solo and then an AI approximation of endlessly looping 90’s Euro house which just kept going round and round apparently in an effort to really build the atmosphere. I am a self acknowledged music snob so of course I wasn’t going to like it whatever it was, but the Emperor’s Cup seems to really plumb new depths with its selections. The announcements are weird too. I guess the JFA wants to stamp its authority on the competition, which is why all the normal established conventions are removed and replaced with a new set that never seem to work very well. Who needs QR code tickets when you can use paper ones? Get your own PR announcers in, preferably some who have never heard of any of the players before and hand them the team line ups one kanji at a time just as they are due to be read out for maximum fluffability. Number 10 - Oshima Ryuta! That’s what it sounded like to me anyway. I guess you can’t deny that they really do make these games stand out from the league matches, so if that’s their intention, they’re doing the right thing! Lots of moaning so far which is weird as it was a really fun evening. However, I think this kind of moaning is the type that can only come from having a hell of a lot of fun and deciding to be a bit cheeky. Let’s have a paragraph of non-moaning to talk about us and then go back to some more hopefully humorous negativity about them and the officials!
We went with the same starting line up and almost the same bench as last time, which is probably not a surprise. I guess we can say that this is Oniki’s best 11 at the moment. Still missing are Hasegawa who now seems destined to depart, (unless he’s secretly injured. I don’t think he is though), and Joao Schmidt who seems to now be getting the Neto treatment. You can’t deny that Tachibanada has done a great job in the anchor role, but you would have thought Schmidt would at least warrant a place on the bench. He is not injured so the mystery deepens. Perhaps Oniki would love to rotate a bit more, but he has his favourite 11 and never seems to get round to making that many changes as recently he always has an important game or a record points total to chase. I suspect the reliance on the same core of players lead to our mid season slump which to be honest had been coming for a while before it actually reared its head. Perhaps if we’d rotated a bit more we might have won the league already and we might still be in the ACL. Or perhaps we’d be out of the ACL and in a worse situation in the league. The recent little breaks in this year’s packed schedule have clearly done the team good though as we’re on a lovely winning run at the moment. Oniki seems to not be sure what to do when it comes to subbing Damiao though. In this game Chinen replaced him which was something of a shock for Kobayashi fans but probably makes sense from a like for like point of view. But then he seems to feel bad about playing Kobayashi on the right, so after briefly doing that we switched to a 4-4-2, which let’s be honest, never really seems to work and didn’t really again in this match. But by that stage it didn’t really matter anyway. Perhaps Oniki was keen to get Yamamura on, who almost always seems to score against his old team (and doesn’t celebrate, which is something many people hate, but I really like). It wasn’t to be on this occasion, but we’d already put three in by that stage so it didn’t really matter. Once again it seemed like a lot was going through Marcinho, which I guess makes sense as he’s the dribbler in the team and Ienaga on the other side… isn’t usually actually on the other side and instead just wanders where he fancies. Even if it wasn’t a massive success in the first half, the balls down the left to him were giving Kashima all sorts of problems and were a lot of fun to watch. Hopefully as he plays more games Marcinho will become even more integrated in the way we play and the times when an attack peters out going through him will become less frequent. I haven’t seen him really unleash a decent shot yet. I typed this just before he ‘scored’ with a header. At the time it looked like an own goal to me. The replays didn’t make things much clearer but Marcinho got credited with it. This was changed in the second half when it was amended to OWN GOAL, which I’d like to say vindicates my initial thoughts, but to be honest watching replays back I’m still not sure what happened. I just would have thought he would have celebrated a bit more if he’d got his head on it. And also the defender was much bigger than him and had jumped higher. Our second goal was another curious one. After some great work from Marcinho which didn’t peter out he passed the ball to Wakizaka who smashed it home. How we celebrated another Wakizaka goal! And how we giggled as on the third replay it became clear that the shot had bounced off a totally unaware Hatate’s head, wrong-footing the keeper. Very amusing! When Wakizaka smashed home the third I wondered if on the last replay we’d once again see it bounce off some part of Hatate but this time it was just a lovely strike. Nice! In general, I’d say that we were by far the better team for the first hour but couldn’t quite make clear enough chances. When we were three up we were having a lot of fun. Damiao tried an overhead clearance in the middle of the pitch and also one of those flick the ball over your head from behind you things. Neither worked but both were fun. We took a free kick 100% sideways, booting the ball straight across the pitch from one side to the other and Ienaga killed the ball dead without even seeming to pay any attention to what he was doing. He seemed to be really enjoying himself. Well, up until he got booked slightly dubiously and then seemed to get a bit pissed off. Oniki did the right thing by subbing him I think. The last third of the match we took our foot off the gas a bit and ended up hanging on a bit towards the end. The 4-4-2 seemed to trash our tactics slightly and it all got a bit crazy. Thankfully we had Sung-Ryong to calm things down by saving the ball boys some effort and going to collect wayward shots himself and then slowly, very slowly coming back to take his goal kick. I enjoyed that quite a lot, full in the knowledge that if it were the opposition doing it, I would be furious. We had a few decent opportunities in this period, but Kashima did too and actually had quite a few more than us. Whether this was to do with us shutting up shop or them getting better I don’t really know. But certainly we weren’t helped by the ref. I’ll talk about Kashima and the official in this next paragraph which I’ll unofficially title ‘toerags’.
This was a real game of two halves. In the first half the linesmen were absolutely awful, miles behind the action and flagging completely randomly. In the second, the ref Murakami, the silver fox Rod Stewart impersonator of J League refs, decided he’d grab back some attention that he thought his hairdo had been denied. FC Tokyo fans will remember Murakami as the ref who didn’t send off Nara when he booted one of their players in the head, a decision which obviously was 100% correct… In this match he was similarly card shy. And actually not only card shy. I think he became quite whistle demure too. (I toyed with ‘whistle wary’ here, which is a lot more satisfying alliteratively, but I felt didn’t quite work). Kashima started the game pretty clueless going forward, which is an unusual tactical game plan, but a very welcome one. Finding themselves three nil down, the plan changed. The new plan involved pulling faces that looked like they were about to burst out grizzling, but pairing this infant demeanour with a rapidly increasing desire to seriously injure our players. I can’t remember seeing a dirtier team recently. It was all petulant kicking and given the fragile nature of some of our guys I think we were seriously lucky to come away with no injuries. But don’t let this fool you into thinking that I dislike them more than the officials. Murakami had readjusted his tolerance so wildly that only the most brutal fouls got even a free kick, let alone a card. Kurumaya was cleaned out on the wing, Marcinho seemed to get elbowed. Kobayashi was clattered and lost the ball which lead to their goal. It’s not often that I say that I wish we had VAR, but I’m pretty sure that goal would have been ruled out for the ref making an obvious mistake missing that foul. And then most bafflingly as Chinen raced through near the end of the game with no one ahead of him and two players chasing and got absolutely clattered before he got to the box Murakami didn’t consider it a DOGSO and just gave a yellow. I don’t think Judge Replay talks about Emperor’s Cup games and I’d say that Murakami must be quite pleased about this as they could probably do a whole episode on his uselessness. But then again I would say that, wouldn’t I? Oniki was also not very happy with Murakami, talking to him for a long time at the end of the game as the officials tried to leave the pitch. The only possible explanation I can come up with for some of his decisions would be that he had ‘3-1 Frontale win’ in the JFA headquarters sweepstake and was determined to get that result in whatever way he could. And here we wrap things up nicely by returning to the dirge rhythm still being beaten out by the Kashima drummers. They had one of those message flags saying something about a title but it seems to be unreadable from my photo. I wonder if after they had written ‘タイトル’ they just had a hissy fit like their players would do in this game and just splattered paint everywhere. Or did it actually say ‘All our hopes of a title this season are gone’? And the slow dull thud of the drums was for the funeral march of their 2021 hopes and expectations, a memento mori of their remaining games being pointless and just taking us all one step closer to a miserable death. Lovely!
Next up Urawa at home next Wednesday lunchtime. We can win the league title if we win and YFM don’t. Basically, four points will secure things even if YFM win all their remaining games. If we don’t get the job done on Wednesday, things will move on to Sagan Tosu away on Sunday. This is always one of my favourite away trips of the season, but we should remember what happened the last time we went to Kyushu hoping to wrap up the league. Oita away… never forget. Hopefully this wonderful carnival of a game and fantastic result against some pantomime villains will give us a nice boost for the rest of the season. Go Frontale!
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 4. JESIEL
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 22. TACHIBANADA Kento
MF 47. HATATE Reo
MF 8. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro (Yellow card 62')
FW 9. LEANDRO DAMIAO
FW 23. MARCINHO
GK 27. TANNO Kenta
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for IENAGA 75')
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro (on for NOBORIZATO 67')
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota (on for MARCINHO 67')
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 67')
FW 19. TONO Daiya
FW 19. TONO Daiya
DF 28. YAMAMURA Kazuya (on for WAKIZAKA 78')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
Last time I went with the usually unheralded by me Taniguchi, and today I’ll perhaps surprise again. Tachibanada once again did a great job and was in the running I thought. Ienaga also had a lot of fun and Hatate was tireless. However, I’m going to give it to…
WAKIZAKA Yasuto - was cruelly denied a goal by Hatate knowing nothing about it but getting his bonce in the way but then managed to smash one home for himself afterwards. Not sure you can call a shot smacking one of your now players in the head an assist, but if you can, one goal and one assist is good enough for me to give it to him on this occasion.
OWN GOAL (Kashima) 32' 1-0
HATATE (Frontale) 48' 2-0
WAKIZAKA (Frontale) 51' 3-0
ARAKI (Kashima) 90' 3-1