Friday, 12 August 2022

Vs Cerezo Osaka (home) 10/8/22 Levain Cup quarter finals second leg

Kawasaki Frontale 2 - 2 Cerezo Osaka

Oh well. After the excitement and optimism of last weekend we've been brought back to earth with a bump with a game that has so many similarities to previous games that I’ll do a whole section on that below. So we're out of the Levain cup at the first time of asking again. Much like we were with the ACL. Thankfully we had a wonderful run in the Emperor’s Cup this year, defeating a university team before bravely bowing out against a J2 team. So we're left with only the league where we're 8 points behind our local rivals at the top and sitting in fourth place. Admittedly we have two games in hand, but the thing about games in hand is that you don’t necessarily win them. We won't have any distractions to stop us scheduling them now though! Last weekend was glorious, but a bit lucky. But if we don't beat Kyoto this weekend we might as well pack up now and forfeit the rest of the season. We already need YFM to mess up and they unfortunately look far less likely to do so this year than in previous years. And even if they do, you've got to imagine that we need to win all of our remaining games. And the last time we managed to string even two wins together was in... May. Blimey… Unlike with the first leg, I managed to attend this game. Much like the first leg, I don’t want to write much about this game. Inevitably this post will probably stretch out a bit longer than I expected though. So let’s get on with it.

After having almost no-one to chose from and still going ahead with games we now have a bit more choice when it comes to selecting starting lineups and subs. We've gone from zero left backs to apparently now having three fit ones and this game saw Nobori back in the starting line up and Kurumaya on the bench. Nobori looked a bit out of condition I thought, but did reasonably well. This meant that Oniki again had the midfield headache that comes from having a massively unbalanced squad when it comes to the number of midfielders, particularly when we seem to be locked into playing only three each game. Tachibanada is this season's great undroppable it seems (apart from Yamane naturally who is this century's great undroppable), but Joao Schmidt did really well in the YFM game. So he went with both, but with Tachibanada further forward. I'm sure it doesn't make a great difference to his game, but at the same time feel like he never plays as well there. To facilitate the return of Nobori, Wakizaka dropped to the bench. Perhaps Oniki thought it might make us a bit more defensive, and maybe it did but it also blunted our attack. Marcinho again showed why he's one of our most dangerous players with his pace and the fact that he scored twice. He probably could/should have had four or five goals though as he missed what looked like easier chances than he scored. People will probably criticise Damiao for his performance but that's mostly because people are stupid. I thought he had a great game making chances for other people and holding on to the ball up front. Sadly, we couldn’t take those chances. We really should have been out of sight by the time it came to injury time. Instead we conceded one and then humongously wobbled our way out of the cup. Jesiel had left the pitch on a stretcher but I think he’s probably ok and it might have instead been some kind of plan that he would signal when he'd had enough in the game and wanted a rest in order preserve him for future matches. At 2-0 we should have been comfortable but maybe the subs messed us up a bit. Yamamura it now seems will be used to replace the central striker instead of the central defender. You've got to feel a bit sorry for him presumably having spent the last few years focusing on upping his central defender game only to now be asked at short notice  to play up front instead. Given that he's naturally a midfielder it seemed a bit strange that we ended up with both him and Kobayashi playing out of position. Apparently another reason for us messing up at the end might have been that Oniki said the message about what we were supposed to be doing tactically was confused. I'm not sure how much of a mea culpa this was from him, but considering that he’s the manager, you’ve got to say that if the message was confused it was probably down to him. But to be honest, I think we can also blame COVID again. We just ran out of steam, players coming back from being sick weren’t quite fully fit and the small number of players who’d been  having to fulfill a crazy summer schedule without a break or without even a hope of substitution just ran out of puff. We've got to give some of them a rest at the weekend. Apparently a typhoon is coming and presumably plenty of games will be called off. I suspect though that we'll bravely play on, the ball caught in a mini tornado, spinning round above the centre circle for the entire ninety minutes and we’ll come away with a 0-0 with both teams having 0% possession and no shots and the weather being awarded man of the match. Probably still with some interminable and frustrating VAR delays too though. I also think a big issue was that old chestnut tactical inflexibility. I praised Oniki for changing thing last up against YFM and going a bit more direct, waiting at the back to draw the opposition front line forward and then launch the ball over them cutting them out of the game. Obviously that wasn’t going to work in this game. Cerezo always sit back and hit us on the counter attack, like many other J League teams do. So our problems now seem to be: 1. That the old ponderous tactics don’t seem to work against anyone anymore. 2. We've come up with some new tactics that work only against teams who are expected to beat us and whilst those tactics do kind of work, there’s only one of those kind of teams in the league at the moment. 3. We still don't seem to have anything prepared for when we play the other 16 teams in the league. So unless Oniki thinks again we might be seeing the same relentlessly ineffective stuff this weekend as we've seen for last 12 months. Kyoto messed us up royally in the away fixture and beat us. I can’t see that they’re going to attack much when they visit us. We'll see on Saturday I guess.

So a quick note on those similarities. Although to be honest, there's probably not much to learn from them and instead it's more of a curiosity. Firstly, you can’t help but notice that this game was quite like the first leg, with us taking the lead, hanging on till almost the end and then running out of steam and conceding. Look a little further back to the league game against Cerezo in Osaka. Once again we took the lead, had plenty of possession and then ran out of steam. In that game we conceded a goal midway through the second half though, so the injury time goal was a winner. And then look back to the same stage of this tournament a year ago against Urawa Reds. A 1-1 first leg with our team plagued by injuries and then a second leg which was a draw but in which we went out on away goals after a late goal getting them back into the game and then a last minute equaliser/winner. In 2021, this was in the 94th minute and this year in the 96th minute. Ugh. In the last seven games we've played we conceded a horrendous amount of late/injury time goals. In fact the only two out of the nine goals we've conceded in that time have either been in the last ten minutes of the 90 or in injury time. Those two were in the ‘classic’ Urawa four goalkeepers match when we were at our most COVID ravaged and probably not in a great place mentally either so probably are a bit of an outlier. Hopefully Oniki has noticed this. Although maybe given that he said we were disorganised at the end of the game suggests it was something of a surprise. I guess tired teams concede goals late on and tiredness isn't exactly easy to fix. Oh, unless you rotate a bit more and now we have the luxury to do that slightly, we should. I'll just finish here with a list of the times at which we've conceded in the last seven games. 90, 90+6, 45+3, 89, 4, 17, 85, 90+2, 85. If we're winning going in to the last ten minutes on Saturday, it might be worth closing you eyes and putting your fingers in your ears. It probably won't be easy watching!

So, next up Kyoto at home on Saturday. If we manage to get through that we have a week till our next game away at Avispa the following weekend. That one was a stinker last year and we never do well in Kyushu. Blimey… After the end of the game on Saturday better take those fingers out of your ears and keep them firmly crossed for the next week. Might make daily life a bit tricky, but it's all we can do right now… 

GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 23. MARCINHO (Yellow card 67')

GK 27. TANNO Kenta
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro (on for JESIEL 56')
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for IENAGA 80')
MF 14. WAKIZAKA Yasuto (on for CHANATHIP 46')
MF 16. SEKO Tatsuki
MF 19. TONO Daiya (on for MARCINHO 80')
MF 31. YAMAMURA Kazuya (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 85')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

Yeah we lost and we weren't great but I think one person deserves a mention...

LEANDRO DAMIAO - didn't really have any chances to score but did the unappreciated parts of playing up front really well and people should probably look beyond just his goals scored total.
MARCINHO (Frontale) 40' 1-0
MARCINHO (Frontale) 53' 2-0
KATO (Cerezo) 90' 2-1
YAMADA (Cerezo) 90+6' 2-2

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