Emperor's Cup - 4th Round: Mon, 3rd November 2008
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VITOR JUNIOR 44'
Venue: Todoroki Stadium
Despite the rather conservative scoreline, Kawasaki made light work of their 4th round Emperor's Cup tie against J2's Montedio Yamagata on Monday. Probably fair to say the ballboys behind the Montedio goal had a sterner workout than big Eiji Kawashima between the Frontale sticks.
The match featured many of the hallmarks of the 2008 season - an early goal deficit, a Taniguchi-inspired comeback, the occasional nerve-jangling defensive mishap, and chance after golden chance going begging. Classic Frontale!
Coach Takahata fielded a full-strength side and early signs were good with the home team dominating possession. But a free kick conceded wide on the left gave Montedio a chance to load the Frontale penalty area and exercise the aerial prowess that could well see them promoted to J1 next season. And that one chance was all they needed - defender Ishii towering above the mismatched Taniguchi to nod in the opener.
There wasn't a great deal Taniguchi could have done to prevent the goal, but he was nevertheless quick to make amends. Ghosting into the box, he met a Juninho cross at the right post (after some excellent work from the veteran Brazilian on the left). There may be question marks over the keeper opting to cling onto the ball while his momentum took him over the goal line. Still, he more than made up for this lapse with a succession of fine saves throughout the rest of the game.
From here on there was little doubt over how the game was going to turn out. It was just a question of who could actually convert one of the opportunities that came their way. One thing soon became pretty obvious - it wasn't going to be Chong Tese. The Korean had what could politely be described as a bad day at the office. Put more bluntly, it was as if he thought it was still Halloween and was trying to scare children with the ghoulishness of his shooting. To be fair, he wasn't the only guilty party and he was still of value as a target man, but I swear Renatinho was struggling to restrain a giggle after he'd seen his lumbering team mate send yet another sitter wide of the post.
When Fronatle did finally manage to take the lead it came with an element of good fortune. With half time looming the Montedio defence looked to have foiled another attack, but the attempted clearance rebounded kindly for Vitor Junior who made no mistake driving his shot into the corner of the net.
It's pleasing to see Vitor Junior back on the scoresheet. After a tremendous start at the club, he's been a little subdued in recent games. Obviously his role is slightly more withdrawn with the new 3-pronged attack of Juninho, Renatinho and Chong Tese, but hopefully this goal will prove a timely confidence boost for the final weeks of the season.
Second half was more of the same - lots of squandered Frontale chances, little threat from the visitors. As touched upon a few times in recent weeks, Juninho continues to look more of a threat as goal provider than goal scorer. Having already set up Taniguchi for Frontale's first he then created the third on 56 minutes. Deftly robbing the ball from Brazilian centre-back Leandro on the byline, he crossed for the onrushing Renatinho to wrap things up with ease.
So all-in-all, good preparation for the crucial final leg of the season. While it's nice to be in the 5th round of the Emperor's Cup (where another J2 opponent awaits - Sanfrecce Hiroshima) the main focus has got to be the league. The championship has never been so close and, given the current standings, anything less than ACL qualification should rightly be viewed as a disaster.
Roll on Omiya...