J.League Division 1: Thu, 28th August 2008
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Venue: Todoroki Stadium
On a wet Thursday night Frontale put in a performance that fully justifies their lofty league position. This 4-1 demolition of Albirex Niigata should put pay to any lingering doubts that this year's title really is within their reach.
The first opening fell to Chong Tese and was almost a carbon copy of his goal against JEF at the weekend. Kengo played a perfectly-timed through ball from deep, but after a good first touch the Korean's shot was blocked by the keeper. Vitor Junior might have done better with the rebound, but the ball arrived too quickly and he was unable to make a proper connection.
Juninho (who had a rather profligate evening) saw a decent shot shave the upright before Masaru Kurotsu broke the deadlock with a wonderful solo effort. Receiving the ball wide on the left just inside the Niigata half, he turned his marker with ease exposing acres of open space. He then carried the ball a good 30 yards to the edge of the area before letting loose a strike that found the back of the net via a deflection off the covering defender.
Frontale's second was another rare goal from Hiroki Ito (only his second ever in the top-flight), who climbed highest at the near post to convert a Kengo corner. The keeper might have got a slightly stronger hand to it, but the poor weather conditions can soak up some of the blame.
It wasn't til early in the second half that Albirex had their first real chance. The home side failed to clear a corner and as the ball was knocked back into a congested penalty area the omni-present Kengo popped up to clear off the line (despite rather optimistic protests from the visitors that the ball had gone in).
No sooner was the danger averted than Frontale added another courtesy of an acrobatic overhead kick by Chong Tese - his third in three outings. The feat was all the more impressive as the tight angle required him to slice the shot off the outside of his boot in order to find his target.
Niigata mananged to snatch a consolation goal midway through the second half - Kisho Yano getting on the end of a deflected cross-cum-shot to score with a simple tap-in.
But with the clock running down, substitute Yusuke Tasaka restored some deserved gloss to the scoreline by finishing off a swift counter-attack. Although he found himself under no real pressure from the opposition defense, the youngster showed great composure as he bent a powerful shot into the corner of the net from 20 yards out.
So as we near the business end of the season it's getting tight at the top. Just two points separate 5th-placed Frontale from 1st-placed Nagoya, but with a difficult trip to 2nd-placed Kashima up next it's vital that this good momentum is maintained.