Kawasaki Frontale 2 - 0 Kashiwa Reysol
Kamifukumoto was back in goal as predicted. Not sure Sung-Ryong deserved to be dropped again but not surprised Oniki did it. Kamifukumoto had a decent game, aside from one horrendous blunder which Kashiwa couldn’t capitalise on. Kashiwa had one shot on target and Kami saved it, so that’s got to go down as a big improvement on recent games. Oshima started in midfield and also had a good game I thought. Wakizaka’s corners are still horrible most of the time, but I thought that aside from those he played well. It was something of a game of two halves for us as we came out in the first half with some enthusiasm and determination and looked quite dangerous. Still had the old problem of turning possession into shots and shots into goals though. But at least in the first half we shot, which is always nice when you have bucket loads of possession. The second half, aside from a bright first five or so minutes, was pretty pedestrian stuff. We only had seven shots (most of which came pretty early on I reckon), and didn’t force a save even once. Thankfully Kashiwa played similarly. Oniki having found a formula that actually managed to create a goal, clung on to it with grim determination, only making his first sub in the 67th minute and not doing anything else for another 20 minutes after that. In the end we only used three subs. Damiao and Chanathip back on the bench may have excited some, but the fact that they weren’t used hints that possibly I was right about Damiao just making up the numbers and avoiding injury until he leaves in the summer if the rumours are to be believed. I’ve been wrong before though and I’m sure I’ll be wrong again. So, basically we had a semi-decent half (some caveats to follow in the next section) and hung on for a victory that hopefully will do our morale some good, particularly if the performance isn’t looked at too closely. It would be remiss of me not to mention that Nobori scored again, this time with his weaker foot, and got injured by Kobayashi in the ensuing celebrations. Kind of sums up our year so far in some ways. Was pleased to see he made it back out for the second half.
I was lamenting to Ryo Nakagawara, (writer of the great Shogun Soccer newsletter, which I read to help me understand what Oniki is at least trying to do sometimes), before the game that after recent matches I was slightly worried about relegation if Oniki didn’t come up with something new. His take was that there are too many worse teams than us to worry about that and that we’d probably end up in mid-table. At the time I wasn’t sure as this year I’ve seen us totally fail to get anywhere near playing football against YFC, just about squeak past Kyoto with a very late goal and lose to Gamba. But Kashiwa put a very different spin on my feelings. I think they were by far the worst team we’ve faced this year on this showing. Unlike YFC who seemed content to sit back and defend in numbers and then occasionally break quickly to shoot and inevitably score, Kashiwa looked like they were unsure of what they were doing. They didn’t really defend in numbers and they didn’t really bother attacking either. For large parts of the game it looked like we were watching kids football, as almost all the players seemed to be within a few metres of the ball, the whole mass of people moving up and down the pitch as each team attacked. Even though everyone was congregating around the ball, at the same time it seemed like the midfield wasn’t really being used, the ball occasionally fly out of the melee for an unsuccessful attack. It was a really weird game to watch and felt like one where neither team really knew what they were doing. Kashiwa will be hoping they can get a little bit more of the new manager bounce after a bit of a stutter but I wonder if maybe the manager wasn’t the problem for them and that they are going to have a tough season. YFC lost so perhaps they’re back in it if they continue in the same way for a few more of their upcoming games, (guess they must still be fatigued from ‘pumping’ us), and Gamba won so things are getting interesting down there. Somewhat unbelievably, we’re now in 9th, which I think speaks volumes about the quality of the league this year. If you asked me who I want to go down, I’d have a few options, and one reason for wanting Kashiwa to be the ones who do might be that they treat the opposition fans like shit at their ground. And also they booed our players coming out, which is kind of par for the course, but always seems a bit unnecessary. But maybe that’s because they’re ‘Kashiwa Stupid’. Interpret their famous banner how you want.
Didn’t want to give any cards really, made Ienaga explode in anger, but in truth didn’t have much to do really so for once I don’t have anything much to moan about. We had a female lines… person. Assistant referee I guess is that correct name, but always seems to not quite describe the job properly for me. Quite pleasant when this section is this short and inane, isn’t it?
Next up Kobe away. They’re way ahead of us at the top of the table and we always struggle at their stadium, which suggests we’re going to have a tough game. Fingers crossed we can continue subverting expectations this year. Lots of people thought we’d be good and we’ve been shite. We always struggle there so how about us doing really well instead? We can dream!
GK 99. KAMIFUKUMOTO Naoto
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
MF 16. SEKO Tatsuki (on for WAKIZAKA 90+2')
NOBORIZATO Kyohei - scored for the second time in a season for the first time in… ages/ever and got injured in the celebration. Kobayashi was ruled out from sharing this award as he was the one who injured Nobori.