Kashiwa Reysol 1 - 1 Kawasaki Frontale
Knackered players and an almost complete lack of rotation has been something of a Frontale trope recently. So surely with the prospect of a couple of weeks rest lying tantalisingly close after this game Oniki would go with the same guys who’d failed to create anything much in the Nagoya game, wouldn’t he? To causal observers that sentence might have sounded slightly contradictory but of course Oniki goes with a mantra of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it… and if it is broke, also don’t fix it’. It was also nicely described by Kawasaki Frontale FR on Twitter recently along the lines of Oniki never changes a losing team. Of course a caveat needs to be added to this saying ‘unless it is enforced’, but at the same time we could have just stopped after the word changes and the sentence would still be accurate. So it was something of a shock to see some changes in this game. Well changes to the starting line up but it was basically the same players involved as usual. Yamane was suspended so we knew we were going to have someone playing out of position at right back. It came as something of a surprise to me, (but not to others), to see that Sasaki was put in there with Nobori coming back in at left back. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Nobori fill in at right back in the past to not great success so I was delighted it was Sasaki there instead. And I thought he did really well. So that’s the positivity mostly over and done with. Kobayashi came in for Chinen, Chanathip for Wakizaka, and Miyagi for Marcinho. I thought they all did ok but all looked like they felt like they were playing for their futures. I don’t think we’ll be wanting to get rid of any of them at the end of the season, but I would completely understand it if some players decided they’d rather try their luck elsewhere. I always moan about our lack of rotation and the fact that subs hardly get a chance to stake a claim as most of them usually come on with not more than ten minutes remaining in what is usually a situation where it’s too late to have any effect.
Kashiwa are a team that many neutrals seem to love for their atmosphere and stadium. Whenever I hear this I presume that these people have never been in the away section at their ground. It used to be an absolute horror of an experience with endless queuing, limited facilities, no possibility of re-entry and absolute disdain from the hosts. One of my most vivid memories of a J League game is going there during a typhoon, the game being delayed for a couple of hours and the only shelter for the away fans being in the toilets. That game should never have been played as the pitch was ridiculous but the J League does seem to be reluctant to call games off in those kind of situations. This year I’m pleased to report that things have improved! If we wanted we could leave the ground after we’d entered. Perhaps this is a COVID thing as it doesn’t make that much sense to keep people cooped up if they don’t want to be. There’s not really much in the area to do though so probably better to just stay inside and grin and bear it. They actually announced our team this time too! Previously they’ve not bothered. To make up for that generosity though the Kashiwa fans decided to start drumming as soon as the annoucement started to show what good sports they are. Slightly bizarrely they had little tables with pictures of alcohol hand sanitizer on it saying we should make sure we use it. Sadly they didn’t actually put any sanitizer there, so perhaps it was more of a slightly late piece of advice for the day or something we were supposed to think about going forward in our own lives. Much like with Nagoya, and I know this is going to sound like sour grapes again, Kashiwa could probably have won the game if they hadn’t been so focused on wasting time to get the draw. The last few minutes were absolutely farcical. More about that on the next section. Douglas seemed to be a bit of an arsehole, constantly whinging, diving and play acting. Perhaps this explains why he’s had so many clubs in the last few years. Absolutely typical that he scored. They seemed to know what to do to keep us from threatening them, with us often struggling to get out of our own half with the ball. Perhaps they have a manager who has different plans for different situations! And I should also say that the pre-game lights out and light sticks out thing was actually really good. I guess from recent matches that there aren’t many epileptic people in Japan as normally I would have expected a warning before what seemed at times to be approaching strobe lights. Really geed everyone up for the game though. We were then geed down quite quickly once the match started. One final mention of the fact that at half time they seemed to be referring to the match as a special 'excite match'. I swear it sounded like they said it was a ‘hometown sex’ match. Or perhaps they said ‘hometown sax’. Whether they were trying to encourage the locals to make beautiful music either in the bedroom or the practice room, I like to think that it was an interesting way of getting more people to the stadium.
Mikuriya is a new ref for us I think. Certainly new for me. When I saw him announced it rang a bell and I found that he’d recently had a 'mare in the Gamba / Sagan Tosu game where I heard he loved to book overseas players for things that he didn’t book Japanese players for and was generally wildly inconsistent. I didn’t know at the time that he was the ref who didn’t even book Nara for his tackle on Nishimura in last week’s YFM game. I don’t think even I can pretend that was the right decision. So perhaps he thought he should pay YFM back for that error. He certainly came out of the blocks fast when it came to getting his cards out. For us anyway, booking Jesiel after five minutes. Neutral observers have confirmed that many other players made equally ‘bad’ if not worse challenges and avoided a booking in this match. He also booked Marcinho for what was probably his first tackle too. As none of the other Brazilians were booked, in spite of two of Kashiwa’s fouling a lot and doing absolutely ridiculous dives in order to try to either get Jesiel sent off or to get a penalty, I wonder if there is something else that Jesiel and Marcinho have in common that perhaps Joao Schmidt doesn’t have? He definitely seemed to not give out cards in a consistent way. I think however our biggest gripe against him will be for the total lack of control when it came to Kashiwa's approach to playing out the injury time at the end of the second half. There was an absolutely insane, almost slapstick display of time wasting from Kashiwa, with one of their players going down, feigning injury, then cramp, bringing on the stretcher, declining the stretcher, strolling over to be subbed and then four of five changes to the substitution with different numbers being held up and then taken down and changed. It lasted two and a half minutes and Mikuriya blew up a minute after the indicated four minutes had been played. Taniguchi was furious, as were quite a lot of us fans. Kashiwa were clearly taking the piss and he just let them get away with it and then didn’t add the time on. I think our frustration came more from the fact that we knew we’d messed up any chance of the title rather than any conviction that we were going to win the game in the minute and a half more that we should have had. We were having a decent period, until the initial Kashiwa play acting broke up our momentum, but I think we were pushing so many players forward that we were equally likely to concede as we were to score. But it’s nice to have someone to take out our frustration on rather than realise that the blame lies a bit closer to home. I wish we could just have a normal referee and then maybe we’d realise that we’re just not good enough this year, rather than blaming everything on being cheated. But even saying that, Please, let us not have Mikuriya again this season, or actually ever again. Another ref gets added to my black list.
Next up, Consadole away, which is our last fun away trip of the season. Well apart from FC Tokyo on the final day of the season, but that’s not really a trip where you can go to new places, try new beers and do new touristy stuff. I don’t think there’s anything to do in Tobitakyu or even Chofu is there? Apart from stand outside a convenience store. We'll be playing Consadole at the same time as YFM are away at Nagoya. Presumably they won’t have the same problems there that we did. We’re running out of opportunities for YFM to slip up. But as I always say, even if they do, we’re even more likely to do so ourselves. Maybe we'll manage to either hang on to or even extend a one goal lead in that match. I guess we can dream! Before that next game we have a nice two week break but Taniguchi and Yamane will be off on international duty so basically two of our players that need a rest the most won’t be able to get one. Hopefully the others will though and then I guess we’ll be back to the usual starting lineups again. It’s another singing game which I’m really happy about. I’m really looking forward to that trip. In fact I’m going to plan our itinerary now. Mustn’t forget that there’s a game of football to watch in the middle of the fun stuff.
DF 15. SASAKI Asahi
MF 6. JOAO SCHMIDT
My Frontale Man Of The Match
JESIEL - Mikuriya booking him early and probably unjustifiably could have totally ruined his game and our season (kind of…), but he played almost 90 minutes knowing that anything marginal could earn him a red and still put in a good shift.