Kashima Antlers 0 - 2 Kawasaki Frontale
Urawa beat us easily in the Super Cup - ‘they’ll win the league!’ - they lose to Kyoto. YFM beat us in an absolutely rotten game - ‘they’ll win the league!’ - they lose to Kashiwa. Kashima beat Gamba easily in their first match - ‘they’ll win the league!’ - they lose to us. Admittedly I’ve messed slightly with the time line to present these results, but I can assure you that I have taken almost as much delight in the defeats of our rivals as in our own victories this year so far. Don’t forget the predictions. Kashiwa are the one nailed-on J1 relegation team this year. Oh, they’ve got a 100% record and are top of the league. Shimizu and Kyoto will be down there too. On they’re actually in third and fourth and have as many points as YFM who have played an extra game than them (and us). It’s definitely too early to draw any conclusions, but plenty of people have drawn conclusions about us from our three games so please forgive me for jokingly doing the same about our rivals. I’m not getting too confident though as we have Urawa up next and our first game against them was by far our worst game so far this season. Anyway, this isn’t supposed to be a serious blog about the J League with unbiased and impartial analysis of various teams so let’s get on with some moaning and some piss taking.
No blog post about Kashima would be complete without a moan about the accessibility of the stadium. It’s not good. But I’ve moaned so much about this in this past that it’s probably not worth doing it again. That’s what Twitter is for I guess. So instead let’s moan about the team instead of the stadium. Yuma Suzuki… Do I even need to write anything here? People are on the whole complaining about his cheating but some are complimenting him for embracing ‘malicia’. I think this is giving him a bit too much credit though as I don’t think it’s a conscious decision. He just seems like a bit of a shit. But I’m not going to go on about it, as everyone thinks that already. I’ll just say that he kicked Taniguchi off the ball (what a surprise!), manhandled Sasaki after fouling him (what a surprise!), and was a general arsehole. I’m kind of pleased that we couldn’t boo him as I suspect it might have inspired him a bit. Instead, far better to applaud the Kashima team as they walked past us after losing the game whilst doing a lap of apology for their fans. To be fair, I found out about this from Twitter as I wasn’t clapping them, I was instead gathering my stuff together and probably having a good laugh about a fun game. Fair play to the fans who embraced sportsmanship though. I think it might actually be quite a good way to deal with undesirable opposition players and perhaps I’ll try harder in the future to use these kind of reverse psychology mind games. Kashima looked a disaster at the back, and long may this continue! I felt slightly sorry for Sekigawa after he handed us an early goal but then again he did make the decision to sign for such an unlikeable team so perhaps I shouldn’t be too kind to him. He is still a kid though and being subbed at half time isn’t nice. But then again at least he has the consolation he isn’t Yuma Suzuki. The Kashima fans definitely seem to be fully in support of their ‘flawed’ ‘hero’ as he got hearty applause when the team line up was read out. I responded in kind with hearty applause when Yamane (I think), cleaned out Suzuki with a lovely foul which looked like it really upset him. It certainly looked like it had mortally injured him anyway. But he was able to continue to cheat his way through the rest of the 90 minutes, albeit with what looked like a pretty nasty wedgie for most of the second half. Maybe that’s why he’s always so angry. I’ll round out this section with a couple of brief points. There was a phantom whistler in the stadium again and this time neither Kevin Muscat nor any of his staff were anywhere to be seen (although I wouldn’t put it past him turning up undercover to try to mess us up). There were a couple of significant occasions when a loud whistle could be heard, I guess from the crowd. It’s such an easy way to disrupt a game that I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often. Oh, and a quick note here about the ref Fukushima, who perhaps in response to last week’s card happy Araki, decided to let pretty much everything go, often even without even a free kick. Which given that there had been hardly any stoppages, meant that six minutes injury time in the second half was pretty ridiculous I thought. But never mind, we held on!
On to some Frontale stuff. I’m pleased we started with Sasaki. I did say we should in the last blog post (check it if you don’t believe me), but I’m surprised that it actually happened. He started and he did really well again. I’m not sure what this means for Nobori, who has made some howlers so far this year and now finds himself on the bench, replaced by a very exciting and very able youngster. He did really well dealing with J League public enemy number one Yuma Suzuki, (who I’m doing a really good job of not mentioning much in this post, aren’t I?) and was great going forward. And what a goal! A great way to mark your first professional start. I just wish his first name wasn’t the absolute worst macro beer in Japan. Can’t we call him Suntory instead? There was an amusing flag for him with the Asahi Beer label. I thought it might be a better idea to use the Asahi Shimbun logo instead as I thought it would be better, but then discovered that it bears a bit of a resemblance to the old national flag that the more right wing fans of J League teams like to use. So, basically we have to make do with a flag with the logo of a tasteless beer. But I suppose it’s still quite funny. I wonder if it might get banned by the league though as they might consider it advertising. But he was great and it was a delight to watch him. Asahi on the pitch = marvelous. Asahi at the food and drink stands in the stadium = maybe I won’t bother having a drink after all. I’m pleased we have Suntory at Todoroki. Asahi is apparently a beer that pairs perfectly with the delicate nature of Japanese cuisine, ie. it’s wet and tastes of nothing, so doesn’t get in the way of the food. Next time I see Asahi at a stadium I will try to mentally pair it with the nature of the home team’s football. I have to admit, I was calling for more changes than just Sasaki starting. I wanted Ienaga, Wakizaka and Yamane all also dropped. Of course I was wrong. Ienaga and Wakizaka seemed to wake up from a pre-season slumber in this game. Both Oshima and Wakizaka seem to be players that I never notice unless I focus on them. I think this might be because they make everything look effortless. Therefore it came as a great relief in this game to not notice Wakizaka so much. Previously this season he has been all too noticeable for giving the ball away, but in this game I thought he was back to his anonymous best. Ienaga too seemed to really be up for the game and was much improved. Yamane was still bit wobbly, but to be honest, I’m not sure who else we might be able to play there anyway, particularly with Seko possibly feeling the cool blast of the Oniki cold shoulder right now. I also thought Chanathip had his best game for us. Definitely things are still a bit of a work in progress with him, but in the first half, you could definitely see things almost coming off. Once he’s totally in tune with the team, I think we’ll be flying. Would be nice though if refs didn’t let the opposition just boot him all over the pitch though. Much in the same way that if a big player, particularly a foreign one, jumps for a 50/50 challenge, more often than not, they’ll concede a free kick, Chanthip seems to suffer from the ‘he’s a small guy so probably just isn’t strong enough, rather than was fouled’ problem. I realise though that asking for refs not to be crap is probably a bit much though. A few more players to praise (this really is a weird 2022 season blog post. Long may these kind of posts continue!). Tachibanada back and firing seems to have instilled some confidence in the players in front of him. We played some really nice stuff in the first half of this game. It was actually fun to watch! And a shout out to Taniguchi and Yamamura, who I thought both did really well, particularly in the second half, when we ran out of steam and were up against it a bit. Kobayashi toiled away on the left wing, which is a great credit to him as I used to feel he didn’t want to play on the right instead of up front, but now seems happy to play even more out of position. His efforts should not go unnoticed. Chinen perhaps had his best game ever for us I thought. His awareness for his goal was great and he did a good job of doing the Damiao trouble-making pressure on the Kashima defence. And a brief mention for Damiao too, who came on late, mainly to provide some counter attacking muscle in the middle of the pitch and also to hassle the Kashima defence and keeper. Was great to see the massive screaming cheer back in full effect as he pressed and blocked a Kashima hoof out of defence. We love you Damiao!
So that will probably do for this post. We had a great first half which to be honest has helped me forget the slightly dodgy second half where we hung on. But the fact is, we managed to hang on, so maybe I shouldn’t be so negative. We can’t expect 90 minutes of sparkle. There has to be a bit of tidying up done to allow the sparkle to sparkle. If your house is always spotless you’ll never feel that rush of excitement and satisfaction that you get after you’ve spent hours doing housework. Although I suppose if I follow the analogy through properly that means in this game that we enjoyed the cleanliness sparkle first and then did the housework. To be honest, if it worked that way with housework, I’m not sure I’d have the strength of character to follow through with the actual hard work part. The truth is, we seem to have regained some confidence though, which I think is crucial after three very flat opening games. I hope we can build on this on Wednesday. The league is wide open, with plenty of ‘nailed on title contenders’ soiling themselves, some on a regular basis. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep this up and get some kind of revenge against Urawa at home on Wednesday. They’ve had a horrible league campaign so far though, so I suspect will be up for a form cracking good performance. Fingers crossed their misery will continue.
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
My Frontale Man Of The Match
So many people to choose from today and delighted it’s not going to Sung-Ryong as when he gets it it always means it’s been a close match. Can’t pick between two players through so it’s going jointly to…
CHINEN Kei and SASAKI Asahi - real step up from the former and amazing step up from the latter. It seems way too easy to just give it to the goal scorers but on this occasion there was so much more to their games than their goals. Bravo!