FC Tokyo 2 - 3 Kawasaki Frontale
After months of saying the title is gone I can now confirm that the title has officially gone. It’s something of a miracle that it has taken so long for it to become an undeniable fact. We’ve dawdled and stumbled all year, but somehow have eked out enough results to stay in contention. When you consider some of the results we’ve got against teams near and at the bottom, it’s quite frustrating to have ended up only two points behind at the end of the season. But if we had won the league the exhilaration would have mainly come from the fact that we would not deserved it at all. As this post is supposed to be about the final game of the season, I’ll save my ‘high quality analysis’ as to where things went wrong for my season round-up posts. And as it’s no fun to think about our neighbours winning the league, let’s get this out of the way quickly and then not think about football for a while. Well apart from that Thai tour. But friendlies aren’t really that important, are they?
No real surprises in the starting line-up. Jesiel started instead of Kurumaya, presumably being completely healed after his injury and being on the bench last week. Aside from that one change, it was the same team who’d squeaked past Vissel last weekend. So again we had Tachibanada and Joao Schmidt both playing. See last week’s post and probably loads of previous ones to find out why I don’t think that’s a good thing. But it is Oniki who is in charge, so the best players/his favourite players will be squeezed into the same formation wherever he can fit them, rather than playing people in their favoured positions. It’s difficult to comment on whether it worked in this game or not, as the game as a normal contest was over after 29 minutes when Sung-Ryong got sent off. We were right behind it and to me it looked like he hadn’t even made contact and instead had kicked the ground. Definitely Adailton was looking for the foul as he was heading away from the goal. But I’m not going to say it wasn’t a red. It got referred to VAR so I’m sure they closely checked it. Don’t think the replay from the one angle on DAZN is particularly conclusive either way though if you go in with a ‘no contact’ mindset. I’m sure I’d be saying it was a definite if it was our attacker though. As I said, the red pretty much killed the game for us as an attacking force, except for giving the ball to Marcinho and getting him to run at the FC Tokyo defence and get fouled (no free kicks though, wink emoji here). Astonishingly though we scored three times. Wakizaka’s first was a lovely strike and went in whilst it was still 11 vs 11. (Or should I say 12 vs 11 as it would be stupid of me to not bore on about the ref Yamamoto being totally biased against us as is my wont. Anyway, more on him later). Our other two goals were kind of gifted to us. Morishige shepherding the ball out of play and then thinking he was much too skillful to do that and losing the ball to Tachibanada was a moment of real joy. Marcinho scuffing the finish and it looping over Slowik was either absolute genius or another big slice of fortune. The third was even better, FC Tokyo’s striker knee-ing the ball into his own net under no pressure at all. Lovely! Without these two uplifting moments in a game where we only had four shots because we spent most of it desperately defending it would have been a long afternoon and would have made useless Vissel Kobe’s failure to hand us the title extremely annoying. As it was, we had something to hang some slight happiness on to and got a little lift at the end of what has been a thoroughly underwhelming season bookended by two flukey wins against FC Tokyo. Joy!
A few words on FC Tokyo. I didn’t notice during the game, but looking at highlights I was dazzled by Adailton’s perfect and brilliant teeth. Perhaps this explains the weird face he pulls when he celebrates goals. If you’ve spent decent money at the dentist, you want to show them off with a gurn. Sadly we saw this celebration twice. Mercifully it wasn’t more than twice. Sure, they had an extra player, but they caused us a lot of problems, and if it wasn’t for that apparent innate FC Tokyo desire to shoot themselves in the foot, they probably would have had a better season. I suspect once Puig has got rid of some of the dead wood at the end of the season they’ll be in a position to make a much sterner challenge next year. He seems like a nice guy too, coming over to commiserate with us over our total title failure. At least that’s what I heard. I didn’t hang around after we’d said goodbye and kind of well done to our players at the end of the game. Tsukagawa seems like a changed man. He was at the heart of a lot of what FC Tokyo did in this game. Just shows what happens when you give a player a chance I guess. I think lots of players sink and disappear with us because they never get more than a minute or two played well out of position. But this is supposed to be the FC Tokyo section so I’ll save that talk for a later post. Tsukagawa also made the highlights reel for some extremely high and wide blasts into the stands. It’s a good thing he wasn’t on the goal scoring form that he was against YFM that saved us losing another one of our title race nine lives when we lost to Shonan. Slowik is still not good at all with the ball at his feet. We probably would have made more use of that if we hadn’t played 2/3 of the game with 10 men. The queues were horrible at this game. When looking at the make up of the crowd, which seemed to be about at least one third Frontale fans, you’ve got to imagine that they aren’t used to getting such crowds at Ajista. I met up with the FC Tokyo Kai Guys and had a nice chat in the line for the official FC Tokyo beer, which seemed to be being served at about one customer every couple of minutes, (I dunno, perhaps they were hand-squeezing the beer direct from the beer tree, rather than pouring it in the normal way so it took a bit longer?), and then had to give up on both the beer and the chat to join another really long and slow moving queue to get into the stadium before kick off. Perhaps the fact that our seats were all reserved meant that Frontale fans were all turning up at the same time to enter. But I know that other fans who were entering about an hour before had the same issues too. Oh and of course no post about a Tamagawa Classico in Chofu would be complete without the usual laughing at ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ which was being blasted through the speakers in order to make up for the fact that no-one was singing it. Perhaps they only know the words to the chorus. Or perhaps it all feels a bit weird to them. I guess the Kai Guys don’t really want to sing it considering the team it is associated with in England and the teams they support in England. I think we were a bit rude to start singing our song whilst it was playing, but it is a derby and I think it was quite funny to drown their prerecorded song out.
Finally, let’s talk about Yamamoto the ref. My game notes are mainly his name and ‘absolute…’, ’total…’, 'unbelievable...' or 'absolute total unbelievable...' followed by four letter expletives. I’ve addressed the red card above so don’t think I’m moaning about that. He gave almost nothing else though. He definitely didn’t give the two fouls that lead directly to the two FC Tokyo goals. He also was quite happy to see us play for as long as possible with nine men when Taniguchi was off the field after treatment and was made to run round to the touchline at centre of the pitch, desperately trying to get back on, while the ref, with the action on the other side of the pitch did his best to not notice him. I had a bad feeling about Yamamoto before the game, which is weird as looking back on our games he’s officiated this year, I didn’t have much to moan about. He’s definitely made my shit list now though. Of course, if we’d won the league, I probably wouldn’t be moaning about the ref so much. But imagine how much I’d be moaning if we had lost this game as well as the title! Moaning at refs is a great way to let off steam, and to also cover up for the inadequacies of your own team’s play. It’s always good if you can blame someone else for your deficiencies. But in this case, well, he was just useless.
So that’s it. Next up, no-one. Ah, actually Thailand. Friendlies aside, the season is over and it’s barely November. We’ve come up short in the league whilst also failing miserably in every other competition we’ve played in this year. So not exactly a vintage year for us. I think I made 2019 comparisons at the start of the season and they have come all too true. Although this year, we came kind of close to winning the league. But could we truly have said we deserved it? I don’t think so. I also don’t think YFM did either though, so maybe we should just cancel this year. What do you reckon? I guess the next few days and weeks will be full of talk about who is leaving and who is staying. Perhaps I’m not just talking about players. I think if we’d won the league perhaps Oniki would have gone. But as we’ve come up short, maybe he’ll be here again next year. And that is apparently what the early rumours are saying. There’s a lot to do before we start next season. Once again, we’ve barely rotated all year and have absolutely no idea when it comes to having a plan B. We still can’t break down teams who just want to defend. Aside from Marcinho and penalties our attack seems to have been totally blunted. And who would have thought that not having any defenders and having one of our best players start the season with a long term injury without getting any cover in would have meant that our defence has got worse too? Anyway, I’m sure we’ll all have a nice break and will come back next year with the usual bordering on deluded optimism and niceness that we start every year with. Good luck to Taniguchi and Yamane at the World Cup (perhaps you might actually notice Yamane in a game. I don’t think I’ve spotted him in a Frontale game for a while. Wink wink, nudge nudge, eh?), and good luck to the rest of us in forgetting this year’s failure on all fronts as quickly as possible!
JESIEL - a bit of shame for him to have been associated with such a lacklustre season considering he was injured for so long. Was immense in this game and we would have finished the season on an even bigger downer if it hadn't been for him.