Kawasaki Frontale 4 - 0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Apparently Hiroshima rested a lot of players for this game with only half of their first choice players starting the game. Not sure why they would have done this… oh actually maybe they watched out last game! That would make a lot of sense. Even with a weakened line up they started well and we were under the cosh from the start I thought. We were playing like a team who were tired and had for some reason, (perhaps a reason like a terrible recent performance), lost all confidence. Hiroshima seemed to want it a lot more. They were defending and attacking in numbers and seemed well organised. They even had me longing for the old days when they were utterly boring and quite ineffective. I think they’ll do really well next year. Already a bit worried about that. In response to their attacking threat we seemed to be going for a safety first approach of possession at any cost, making sure that we kept the ball, usually by passing it backwards. Our inability to do anything with a free kick other than pass it less than a metre to the player standing behind the taker is endlessly irritating. I was in a bit of a bad mood at the start of the game watching all of this. But then we scored, a bit against the run of play and suddenly everything became fun again. It wasn’t the cleanest of finishes from Ienaga, but it was a lovely assist from Sasaki and hopefully it should give him some confidence back. In his post match comments Sasaki said what has become something of a mantra among some of our players recently, something along the lines of that he saw this as his last chance for us. We constantly hear that Oniki is a great man manager and a really nice guy, but there does seem to be a streak of cold fear running through anyone who manages to get a start as they seem to feel that if they don’t do really well, they’ll be finished. And it’s not surprising I guess as the only way the team gets changed recently is if someone gets injured. Competition for places is generally considered to be a good thing, but it seems that we don’t have that when it comes to the starting lineup and instead, the only hope for a non-starting member is to get themselves onto the bench, play their five minutes they’re handed at the end of the game and be ready for when a player in their position gets injured. I don’t want to pick on any players in particular, but when you think of people who’ve had a bit of a dodgy season this year, like Kobayashi, Miyagi etc. you’ve got to wonder how they’ll ever be able to get back into form. They occasionally get a start but if things don't go their way they’re hauled off early and it’s back to the usual players. Even in the cup games we weren’t really rotating and we went out of all of those competitions very early. It’s a bit of a worrying situation. I’m sure they can’t be happy. And I’m also sure they have something to offer. But a lack of opportunities piles the pressure on them for the limited chances they get and because of the pressure they struggle even more.
So, even when we win well against a good team I manage to sour the mood. Before I do the usual next up part it would be remiss of me to not say that the ref was rubbish again, totally living up to his reputation of being an official who gives nothing. But when you win 4-0, moaning about the ref is even more unedifying than usual so I’ll stop that kind of talk here. This was a fun game and a confidence boost for us (at least the players who were on the pitch for the the first 82 minutes), with a weird taste in the mouth ending. If that’s the way it has to be till the end of the season, well, who am I to argue? If we carry on with this lack of rotation though, I don’t think we’ll need to be paying attention till right up to the end of the season. YFM have Kyoto and Consadole next and I’d say there is zero chance of them messing those games up in the way that we might when they come up in our schedule soon. We have Nagoya on Wednesday and personally, it will be the second time we’ve gone to Nagoya for this game this year. The first time they cooked up some excuse to get it postponed and have been fined for doing so. We couldn’t cancel our trip without losing lots of money so just went anyway. I guess we’d take three points as a reasonable compensation for that inconvenience so I hope they’ll oblige. This time in Nagoya we’ll hopefully have a game to watch. I would say who knows what team we'll see, but I think the realistic answer to that is that most people know which team it'll be. Let’s just hope we have a Hiroshima home type performance rather than a Shonan away type one.
GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
MF 6. JOAO SCHMIDT
MF 31. YAMAMURA Kazuya
My Frontale Man Of The Match
This is all getting quite predictable recently (aside from last week when I gave it to a player in a different match). Sasaki did well coming back into the team. And in the second half they all looked decent. But there are two players who seem to consistently perform on a higher level. So once again it’s going to go to…
JOAO SCHMIDT and IENAGA Akihiro - just looked like they were on a different level than everyone else again. Long may it continue (although as Joao will be potentially be lining up against his old team on Wednesday, what’s the betting that Oniki won’t play him and once again assert his dominance in a totally unnecessary way?)