Our second 2023 trip to the Saitama Stadium is done, and at least we had something to be at least a little cheerful about this time. An absolute clanger of an own goal to draw us level. It’s a bit of luck as we only had one shot on target in the whole game. Even more special when you consider that shot had nothing to do with our goal, and also given that we’d pretty much given them their goal after a bit of Iikura style messing around from Kamifukumoto. To be honest, it’s been long overdue that we got caught out in that way. We’ve really ridden out luck since he came in to the team. People will tell you that he’s being picked because he’s so good on the ball and is basically a sweeper keeper for us. More often than not it turns out that after playing the ball around between the keeper and the central defenders a few times, the opposition pressure ramps up and Kamifukumoto boots the ball up the field and either off the pitch or to their keeper. I’m not sure if he will be punished and get dropped in the same way that Sung-Ryong was for a bit of dodgy keeping. I doubt it. It’s a shame for him as I thought he was having his best game for us right up until he ran almost halfway up the pitch to meet an Urawa goal kick and headed the ball directly to their attacker in the centre circle. Credit where credit’s due, he’d made some important saves before. Debit where debit’s due (is that the opposite? Maybe not…) it was a horrendous fuck up. Neutrality where neutrality’s due (really stretching this now…), our tactics were probably at least partly to blame. The pros of these tactics so far seem to be a much higher possibility of lots of passing of the ball in non-dangerous areas. That’s about it, I think, and sadly completed passes don’t get you bonus points.
That’s the two goals glossed over then. I thought the starting line up was the usual Oniki ‘don’t change it even if it’s broken’ style and we started the game in a horrible state. Similarly at the start of the second half. I don’t know if it is fair to say that Oniki’s influence on and interactions with the team cause complete chaos and disarray. I don’t know if it’s fair but I will say it anyway. To be honest though, I thought this was a better performance than some others recently. Aside from some dodgy moments we were really bossing the game for long periods. Really bossing but of course not really making any dangerous chances. Ienaga seemed to start horribly but wake up and get somewhat back to his old self after the comedy own goal. I think that’s been the case in other games too. He doesn’t quite seem up for it until it becomes fun. Maybe he likes a challenge and waits for us to be in the hole before he gets going. Segawa missed an absolute beauty of a chance and then didn’t do much else. But I’m not going to point the finger at him either as we were slightly scuppered by the red card. Haven’t seen the replay yet, but the consensus seems to be that it was right. (I have now and you can’t really complain about it. You can complain about the total insane reaction of the ref as he got out the red card, absolutely losing his shit and screaming at Kozuka, He also did the shame when he booked Ienaga. Clearly had totally lost control of the game and of course was way out of his depth. But also, Imamura, are you ok? You don’t look like you are). It’s a shame for Kozuka as he’s been doing well recently. I wonder if he will get mercy from Oniki. Not sure about that either. It’s no surprise that the ref gave a red anyway as he seemed to be leaning heavily in Urawa’s direction. Their fans though seemed to think they’d been cheated by the ref. Perhaps they thought Kozuka deserved more than a red card. A prison sentence maybe? Perhaps they were sad that he only played one extra minute of injury time, presumably waiting for them to score, but not long enough in their eyes. Perhaps the majority of their fans are just spoilt brats who after their fantastic and classy ACL win, (two shots on target in 180 minutes), think that they deserve to win every game now. I don’t think they’re that good. They have definitely been better than us previously this season, but not that much. And this year have only beaten us due to a shocker of an own goal when the ball bounced of Joao without him knowing anything about it. We have been shite this year and have a ridiculous amount of points considering quite how bad we’ve played and have been managed. Somehow we’re only five points behind them in the league! Wonder how long their new coach will get. There was a hell of a lot of booing and whistling in this game. In recent years I’ve constantly said their fans aren’t anywhere near as good as people say and as soon as anything goes against them they just boo and whinge. I think this year they’ve been better, even occasionally actually… singing…. But once again, as soon as the tide turns slightly against them the boos are back in town. I guess that’s what the ‘lads’, ‘boys’ and (for some reason last year but not seen since) ‘garcons’ of the foreign teams with ‘passionate’ support that they admire so much do. Anyway, it’s delightful to hear them booing so much. It’s not so delightful that we had one shot on target in 90 minutes.
To sum up, I’d say this game wasn’t great, probably should have been a 0-0, but at the same time showed a bit of progress for us. But not that much progress. And when Oniki gets involved things seem to take a turn for the worse somehow. Next weekend we have Nagoya away, who will probably prove a sterner test. Particularly if we start horribly again. But for now, let’s enjoy this 1-1 draw. (How far we’ve fallen for that to be something that’s enjoyed. But I guess the best part for me is the fact that the Urawa fans were so narked!). Onwards and probably not upwards, but we’d probably all settle for onwards and not downwards right now, wouldn’t we?
GK 99. KAMIFUKUMOTO Naoto
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
DF 3. OMINAMI Takuma
DF 2. NOBORIZATO Kyohei
MF 6. JOAO SCHMIDT
MF 14. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
MF 10. OSHIMA Ryota
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro (Yellow card 81')
FW 33. MIYASHIRO Taisei
FW 17. TONO Daiya
GK 1. JUNG Sung-Ryong
MF 8. TACHIBANADA Kento (on for JOAO SCHMIDT 83')
MF 16. SEKO Tatsuki (on for WAKIZAKA 83')
FW 20. YAMADA Shin (on for MIYASHIRO 83')
FW 30. SEGAWA Yusuke (on for TONO 64')
MF 31. YAMAMURA Kazuya
MF 49. KOZUKA Kazuki (Red card 78') (on for OSHIMA 74')
MF 49. KOZUKA Kazuki (Red card 78') (on for OSHIMA 74')
My Frontale Man Of The Match
At the end of the first half, I was seriously considering giving this to Kamifukumoto. Obviously I can’t do that now. There were two massive flags in front of us which were waving much more than normal and much more than I wanted, so much of the game was invisible. This also explains why I have only two bad photos of the game. Less than usual, and also worse than usual. With this ignorance in mind I’ll give it to….
KURUMAYA Shintaro and OMINAMI Takuma - did alright. Maybe. At least that’s what it felt from like behind those flags.
SEKINE (Urawa) 53' 1-0
NISHIKAWA (Urawa) OWN GOAL 58' 1-1