Monday 13 December 2021

Vs Oita Trinita (home) 12/12/21 Emperor's Cup semi-final

Kawasaki Frontale 1 - 1 Oita Trinita (AET) (4-5 on penalties)

Presumably much to the delight of all followers of J League football aside from Frontale and Kashima fans, our season is over. And it’s a bit of a shame that the end came in such a disappointing way, but that’s football I guess. After all, if every game went as people expected it to and how the stats or the relative strengths of the teams suggested, it would be a very boring sport. Not going as far to suggest that I’m in any way pleased by us losing providing a welcome cup upset though. In fact, I’ll go nowhere near that far. But at least if we were going to lose, we can’t really feel too upset about doing so on penalties in a game that we played reasonably well in, and in which we can’t blame the defeat on anyone or anything. Which all makes it sound like this could be a relatively moan free blog post! So I’ll start with a bit of a moan about the tournament to make up for it. I felt like there was a bit of mixed messaging going on in this game. In the way the the JFA always likes to stamp its authority and individuality on to Emperor’s Cup games, they decided that this would be the first full capacity game of the season. To be honest, it kind of makes sense as even the most optimistic of people would probably find it hard to say that this isn’t probably the best situation with regards to Corona that we have been in for a long time and probably will be in for a long time. Maybe to counter this increased attendance from an ‘optics’ point of view, there was no alcohol for sale in the stadium. Perhaps the JFA gets a cut of gate receipts but not alcohol sales. If that’s true I guess we know why the attendance was increased. So it was our biggest attendance of the season but it was nowhere near a sell out, probably because in this competition the seating allowance is always split 50/50 between the two sets of fans. And Oita isn’t very geographically close to Kawasaki. It also now seems to be an Emperor’s Cup tradition that the two teams come out separately, again I guess with COVID in mind. Which is kind of ridiculous when you consider they will be getting very close to each other and breathing a lot heavier during the game. Guess it was mainly for show though. But it did seem slightly bizarre when at the same time you are seating people right next to each other in the whole stadium for the first time in the season. You’ll be disappointed, I’m sure, that it has been more questioning rather than moaning so far so I’ll get the proper moans going. The music is still utterly awful for this competition. Which is no surprise as it’s still the same awful songs. Please check my last Emperor’s Cup blog post for detailed whinging. The other moan is that they sell the tickets for the final before the semi-finals have been played. After our defeat, this has created a massive rush of people tweeting, trying to sell tickets for the final now. Considering that the prices for these games are higher than for regular games it does some like something of a cash grab. But I have been told that it is a kind of a tradition for fans of all teams to want to go to the game, regardless of who is playing. Perhaps they wouldn’t be buying tickets behind the goal in the main supporter section though. Given the previously mentioned distance from Oita, I’m not sure many people will be able to sell their tickets. I guess I’m going to go still, but it’s kind of weird to attend and sit in the section with the fans of the team who have knocked you out in the last match. Perhaps Oita’s opposition in the final, pantomime villains Urawa, will make it a bit easier for people to build up some enthusiasm to support the team who they don’t support but in whose section they are sitting. But to be honest, I’m not exactly that excited about going. I probably wouldn’t even bother watching it on TV if we didn’t have tickets. There is an element of sour grapes in this, but also the realisation that usually lightning doesn’t strike twice and that Oita’s dogged resistance in this game might not be so successful in the final. Hmmm, skirting dangerously close to actually talking about the game here so maybe I’d better move on to that section.

What can I say really? We totally bossed normal time in this game. Normally I would moan about us not being able to get shots on target but in this game that wasn’t the case. We shot a lot and frustratingly ex-Frontale keeper Takagi was having the game of a lifetime and was almost unbeatable. Of the two occasions where we did manage to beat him, we scored one and the post saved him on the other occasion. Absolutely typical really, particularly given that he’s had some dubious reviews of less than stellar performances this year. But as often seems to happen in football, someone playing against their old team seems to find just that little bit extra to put in an amazing performance. Full credit to Takagi, he was amazing and stopped things which looked impossible. It was pretty much totally one way traffic for the regular 90 minutes yet we failed to score. But I’m not going to moan about it. It clearly wasn’t meant to be. And the game was a lot more even in injury time with both sides giving it a go. When we finally managed to get one past Takagi it came from a Kozuka cross (who is he again? It’s been quite a while. Once again the curse of the former player!) and a Kobayashi finish. But we could only get one goal from the 41 shots we had, half of which were in extra time and around 75% of which were on target. It REALLY wasn’t meant to be! And then we conceded when we were down to ten men as we got struck with another serious looking injury. This time it was Tono who hadn’t been on for long when he somehow got involved in a tackle that another one of our players was making. He tried to continue but really couldn’t. Whether us being down to 10 men contributed to us conceding, I don’t know really, but it can’t have helped. It wasn’t very nice to concede in the 121st minute (somewhat similar to our Levain exit to Urawa), but the massive feeling of it just not being our day should have prepared us somewhat for the goal going in. Oniki’s reluctance to make too many changes till he really had to probably speaks volumes about his confidence in the players he had put on the bench. I wrote previously about the starting line up being obvious but he actually changed things slightly with Oshima starting and Marcinho dropping to the bench. I wonder if Marcinho’s honeymoon period is over now, being withdrawn at half time against YFM, somewhat bafflingly as far as I was concerned, and now dropping to the bench. With Oniki and Brazilians, things seem to go one of two ways. Either they are straight in the team as a big money or big name signing as Damiao was, or they are made to very, very patiently wait for their opportunity, which only comes when every other option is exhausted as Jesiel had to. (Remember Oniki preferred playing Kurumaya at centre back before Jesiel made the spot his own). Players in the former category do tend to get dropped at some stage and then never get their place back. I’d put Neto and Joao Schmidt in that category. Whether Marcinho will join that group too, a long way ahead of schedule, who knows? I’ve often said it, but Oniki does tend to have an approach to man management that verges slightly on the psychopathic looking from the outside. But at the same time lots of people say that the players love him, so perhaps he is honest with them, saying to Neto and Joao Schmidt, you’re only going to get in the team if my preferred Japanese youngster gets horribly broken and they take it well. If we continue to be reluctant to rotate a bit more we will inevitably end up in the situation again where a serious injury could totally derail us. Or where we have two players who have hardly played at all this season stepping up to take penalties in a cup semi-final, presumably desperate to do something to prove their worth. Poor Tsukagawa! You probably know I really like him and it was horrible to see his penalty hit the post. He really didn’t deserve to be one of the fall guys. Yamane’s decisive penalty was saved and his situation is probably the opposite of Tsukagawa. He has nothing to prove but probably can barely even move his leg to kick the ball after playing almost every minute of the season for us. He’s not even going to get much of a break as Japan has a totally stupidly timed international friendly in January. Yamamura’s situation is probably somewhere between the two others. He hasn’t been used much, but at least he’s been involved, mainly sitting on the bench. You could say that Yamamura will have bad memories of this game as he missed his penalty and he was the player who was beaten for the Oita goal (the goalscorer having more than a handful of Yamamura’s shirt but I’m not going to whinge). Kozuka had possibly the opposite kind of game, assisting for the goal and scoring a penalty in the shoot out against his old team. But let’s be honest, no-one involved with Frontale will want to remember this game, in spite of there being nothing particularly wrong with the performance. If you concede a penalty in a shoot out with the ball bouncing off the post and then in off the back of your keeper's head you've just got to accept that you were destined not to get to the final. And we just came up against a keeper with something to prove, who did exactly that, so hats off to Takagi and good luck to Oita in the final. They have had a disappointing season and I’m sure they’d love to combine a J2 promotion push with a crack at the ACL next year.

So, yes, it’s over for 2021. Losing to a relegated team in the cup would usually prompt me to say that we don’t play very well against teams near the bottom. I was prepared to say this but a bit of research has shown that it’s not really the case this year where against the five bottom teams in the league we have won all of our games aside from a draw away at Shonan and a draw at home against Vegalta Sendai. So what can I blame then? THE KYUSHU CURSE! Also probably previously referred to at length in this blog, it doesn’t really make sense, particularly when the game is at home as this one was, but teams from Kyushu do seem to have a habit of kicking us in the nuts. Last year Trinita prevented us taking the title by beating us in Oita, a result that was something of a surprise. This year in the league we dealt with them more comfortably, winning 2-0 home and away. And then they knocked us out on penalties in the semi-final of the cup… So what about the other two Kyushu teams? Yep, those games were our two league defeats this year, both happening on the island that provides great away game adventures but bad results for us. Thankfully we couldn’t go to Avispa away as I am still a bit annoyed about the winning goal being scored by someone who should have been sent off on a couple of occasions in the match before he stepped up and scored an annoyingly good goal. Would probably have been difficult to keep a COVID mandated lid on my irritation if I had been watching it in the stadium. The loss to Sagan Tosu was a similarly disappointing performance but was made up for by being able to attend the game and enjoy the alcoholic delights of Kyushu. That game came after the title was sealed so there was perhaps something of a hangover to the performance. Perhaps the same could be said about this loss as it came after Damiao got the MVP and Golden Boot, Yamane got the fair play award and our players filled seven out of the 11 places in the team of the year. I dunno, perhaps clutching at straws a bit here, but let’s add the congratulations you won something hangover to the Kyushu curse and I think we’re really on to something. You can’t really say that we’ve pulled up many trees in this tournament this year really though as we’ve struggled through on penalties against both Nagano of J3 and JEF of J2 before we finally fell to Oita of J1 on the dreaded kicks. (Damn, we’ve gone to penalties fours times in one season and lost twice if you include the ACL game). Admittedly, we did beat two J1 teams in this competition in between the JEF and Oita games though. And somewhat bizarrely, in spite of us by no means putting out the reserves in any of these games, we played a lot better in the game we lost against the J1 team than we did in the games we won against lower league opposition. It clearly is ‘a funny old game’. Now we have to start thinking about 2022 I guess. It seems inevitable that Hasegawa and Joao Schmidt will be leaving from their complete disappearance from the match day squads after missing penalties in the ACL. It seems very weird that Schmidt had made only one appearance and hasn’t made the bench for any other game considering he was a regular at the start of the season. Hasegawa was also usually involved in some way till he missed his penalty and since then has not been seen since. The same fate didn’t befall Ienaga though. When you look at who missed penalties in this match, I’ve got to day I’m worried for Tsukagawa. Yamane is clearly undroppable for Oniki and Yamamura is probably too versatile to be frozen out. Talking of Yamane, there was a slight strangeness to his answer to a question in the J League awards that suggested to me that he wouldn’t be against an overseas transfer if someone came knocking. And given that he has been in the team of the year in the last two years and is one of our internationals it wouldn’t be that much of a surprise. Whether he will want to extend what has already been a very intense season by transferring to Europe and completely obliterating his end of season break, who knows? Hatate looks set to leave. Please let it not be Celtic. It inevitably will be, but given the horrible manager of that team, it will be hard for me to enjoy him doing well if he does go. He was once again in floods of tears after this game so I think he knows it was his last game for us. By the way, another amazing 1-0 win for Celtic yesterday. Sadly for them, they are still bottom of what is effectively their two team league trailing Rangers by four points. The seriousness of Jesiel’s injury would suggest that we need some back-up in defence but then again, that’s been the case for the last four or five years and it never seems to come. Tanabe probably is the most favoured out of the three young defenders we have who never play, but I’d be very surprised if it wasn’t just a case of play Yamamura or Kurumaya there instead. No news about Kurumaya’s injury and I guess we won’t get it now the season is over. You can probably add Tono to that potentially serious injury list too now. Whether any of the other bright talents get picked off I don’t know. You’ve got to imagine Tachibanada will be catching some teams’ eyes. In 2022 we’ll be going for the three-peat in the league for the second time whilst trying to prioritise the ACL again. It didn’t work very well in 2019, did it? I dread another season like that. So definitely some work to be done.

Next up, nothing for the team apart from a big rest and they deserve it. I don’t think we can be too upset about how we’ve done in any of the competitions this year. We were totally dead on our feet and suffering from a defensive injury crisis when we flopped out of the Levain and the ACL, and in the Emperor’s Cup, well you know, as this blog post is about that. Next up for this blog, some end of season posts going into more detail about all the end of season things and the usual end of season survey. As we’ve finished a little earlier this year, there’s still plenty of time to do those I guess. Right now though, I’m going to have a little break from blogging and try to enjoy the festive period as much as I can. Not sure I particularly deserve it, but I’ll give it a go anyway. Cheers and Merry Frontale Christmas and hopefully a Happy Frontale New Year to you all.

GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 28. YAMAMURA Kazuya
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro

GK 27. TANNO Kenta
MF 3. TSUKAGAWA Koki (on for WAKIZAKA 109')
MF 17. KOZUKA Kazuki (on for TACHIBANADA 109')
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for HATATE 82')
FW 19. TONO Daiya (on for IENAGA 109')
FW 23. MARCINHO (on for OSHIMA 65')


My Frontale Man Of The Match

Let's skip this on this occasion.


KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 114' 1-10
HENRIQUE (Oita) 120+1' 1-1
SHIMODA (Oita) 0-1

CHINEN (Frontale) 1-1
NAGASAWA (Oita) 1-1 (missed)
YAMAMURA (Frontale) 1-1
MATSUMOTO (Oita) 1-2
KOZUKA (Frontale) 2-2

HENRIQUE (Oita) 2-3

TSUKAGAWA (Frontale) 2-3
KOBAYASHI (Oita) 2-3 (saved)

KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 3-3

MISAO (Oita) 3-4

TANIGUCHI (Frontale) 4-4

MACHIDA (Oita) 4-5

YAMANE (Frontale) 4-5 (saved)

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