Albirex Niigata 2 - 2 Kawasaki Frontale (AET) (3-4 on penalties)
Our line up was probably what you expect from an Oniki 2023 selection. Sooner or later he’ll find a combination of players that works for his never changing tactics. Whether we have those players in our squad this year or not, well… who knows? Once again we had a different player starting up front in the middle. Once again they failed to do anything much. This time it was Miyashiro. I saw someone suggest on Twitter that he has some way to go if he wants to get to Kobayashi’s level. Judging from last week’s first half, I’d say that level isn’t very high. I think it’s probably more the case that none of our players can play in the way Oniki wants us to play. Whether that’s a failure of the players or the tactics, I’ll leave up to you. Gomis is still nowhere to be seen. Perhaps he’ll show up on Saturday as this set of players will be very tired. I wanted to make a joke a few weeks ago about how we’d see Gomis in a year’s time after Oniki had done the usual thing he does with almost all of our signings where they have to fail to make the squad, then be an unused sub, then come on off the bench, then get a start, disappear for a while and then slowly get some consistent involvement in the team, all over the course of about a year. By this time Gomis will be approaching his 40th birthday. I didn’t really think that would happen. It was supposed to be a joke. But I’m starting to wonder when we’ll see him and am hoping that he’s not going to have to go through the usual new recruit initiation and hoping that he hasn’t got injured already. People are talking about him as being a signing for the ACL, but if that’s true, it might be worth giving him a go in some of the remaining games that are dead rubbers, (every league game…), so he can get up to speed and not just be thrown in at the deep end. We’ll see I guess.
The Niigata pitch looked horrible and I think it played pretty badly too. But I was slightly encouraged by our first half display. Of course we conceded the customary goal, but this time only one, and of course we didn’t have any shots on target, but I dunno, things looked a bit more positive and we weren’t really doing the whole backwards passing thing so much. Perhaps that was just because we were attacking the goal at the other end and I couldn’t see very well though. In the second half we reverted a bit to our recent bad habits. We seemed to be in charge though and they didn’t get a sniff…. till we allowed them their first and second shots of the game within a minute and they scored. Ienaga gave the ball away for the goal but I’m not going to moan too much as the man needs a rest! I do wish he wouldn’t moan at our other players though, particularly when he’s made the cock up. We were certainly better than in the away league game in the same stadium earlier this year, where our goal came from a horrible pair of cock ups from Yamane and Ienaga. I moaned at them a lot on that occasion and I think it was probably justified. Now I’m just surprised they can even move given how much football they’ve played. Give them a rest! I thought the ref Araki had another awful game. Has the standard of officiating really gone down this year, or is it just me? After Imamura got punished for totally missing Kobe’s Saito’s career threatening injury, there definitely seems to be a tendency for refs to take any opportunity to stop the game to check on an injured player. Stop the game and check, but then refuse to give permission for the physios to come on. Maybe Araki has caught a case of drop ball addiction from his colleague Shimizu who takes any opportunity to get the ball in his mitts. As I said above, in the second half we started to dither more, play the ball backwards more, have all of our midfield or defence taken out of the game by one simple pass and generally got a bit crap. I’m not sure the subs did much to change matters. Marcinho had left the pitch in the first half, presumably injured again, perhaps due to the shit pitch, perhaps due to something hanging over from this week’s ice hockey without any pads and only one skate but two sticks per player training routines. Somehow Seko managed to equalise with the ball dribbling over the line. So on to extra time we went and miraculously we took the lead through a lovely finish from Yamada. The game felt really weird though. It was being played so strangely that I kept thinking that one of the teams was down to ten men. Or maybe both. Or maybe nine men. Definitely something strange going on. To be fair, Niigata had a reserve team out, so maybe they didn’t have much experience of playing together. I think our excuse can only be that we’re in such a funk this year, that even natural actions go wrong and get weird. I would call their equalizer a last minute goal, but the truth was it was scored after the ref should have blown for full time. But of course he hadn’t, because he is Araki, and Araki is shit. It was a real kick in the guts though and you would imagine that a team conceding with the last kick of the match might go on to fail in the penalty shoot out. But we prevailed! Only Yamada didn’t score for us and Sung-Ryong saved twice, one time very satisfyingly from a penalty taker who halted so definitively during his run up that I thought he’d stopped to do up his lace. Yamada also did that kind of run up, so perhaps it’s a good lesson for people not to take penalties in that most irritating of ways. Although I suppose FC Tokyo’s tippy-toes stepping footwork specialist Diego Oliveira has a decent record or scoring from his horrible, horrible run ups. The best thing about this game, apart from the result obviously, was that during the penalties, after every one of our players took their spot kick and walked back to the centre circle we sang their song, and given that there’s not much time. all of the songs were sped up to an amusing extent. I would definitely be up for varying the speeds of our songs in the future depending on the mood. it was genuinely a laugh out loud moment and really made me smile. Particularly Yamamura’s one, which with the arm waving it entails, ended up almost being like a ska song being played at a step aerobics class. I had a nice time at this game. The game was far from being our best, but it was very far from our worst. Our opponents may be firmly ensconced near the bottom of the league table, (even though they’re naturally beaten us already this year), and they did play their reserves, but you know, a win is a win, isn’t it? And this 2-2 was a lot more fun than the 2-2 against Consadole, particularly that awful awful first half!
So, a good result but not really a wholly convincing performance and next up an away game at a ground we usually struggle at against a team who are above us in the table. Hopefully the fatigue from 120 minutes of football in very humid conditions, (or maybe that was just the Nihonshu working it’s way though my system), will be compensated for by the morale boost this win gave us. Who knows who’ll play? I guess Ienaga and Yamane will! Oniki looked really relieved at the end of this game and you can understand why. Although I don’t really think his job is in any danger, another defeat and going out of another competition might have made him feel a bit uncomfortable. I didn’t moan at him at all in this match. I am a new man. It felt a lot more satisfying than whinging for 90 minutes. We’ll see how long that lasts though, eh?
KOBAYASHI (Frontale) 0-1
SUZUKI (Albirex) 1-1
SEGAWA (Frontale) 1-2
MITO (Albirex) 2-2
YAMAMURA (Frontale) 2-3
TONO (Frontale) 2-4