J.League Division 1: Sat, 18th October 2008
|2 - 0|
Venue: Nihondaira Stadium
Kawasaki's title hopes took another dent on Saturday afternoon due to a resurgent Shimizu S-Pulse and various parts of the Nihondaira woodwork.
Had an inkling that points were going to be dropped in this game. S-Pulse's 5-goal demolition of FC Tokyo the other week, plus their march to the Nabisco Cup final, shows they're a very different prospect to the nervy outfit that visited Todoroki earlier this year. Then there's Frontale's past record in this neck of the woods which is nothing to brag about. Not to mention things always tend to be a bit rusty after an international break.
Coach Takahata obviously wanted to rest Chong Tese (who'd only just got back from Iran where he scored in N Korea's 2-1 loss) but was forced to bring him on early in the second half with Ganaha failing to deliver the goods. (Poor old Ganaha's been scoring regularly in the reserves, so it's a shame he couldn't do more with this rare start in the first team.)
More curious was the absence of Taniguchi, who wasn't even named among the subs. One can only assume he was suspended or picked up an injury in training. But with Kosuke Kikuchi filling in, it was always going to be a less dangerous Frontale side. The cautious approach has never reaped rewards this season, so perhaps Ohashi might have been a better option.
Not much to say about the match itself. Renatinho went close twice in the first half - one long range effort that went just over and another from inside the area that hit the post. Vitor Junior struck the bar with a free kick in the second half and sent a powerful header agonisingly wide late on. But that was the best of it.
S-Pulse, for their part, scored a decent opener. The combined forces of Murakami and Kikuchi failed to stop a mazy run down the left. The resulting long cross was then headed back across goal, leaving the unmarked Edamura with a simple finish.
Their second came from a corner with the ball dropping fortuitously for Hara following a botched attempt to clear the danger first time.
One positive note was the return of Yusuke Mori who came on for the last 20 minutes following a 5-month lay-off. If he can get back to full fitness it'll certainly help with the final push.
All-in-all, a 2-0 defeat is not really what was required at this stage. But let's be optimistic. 5 games to go - Saporro (h), Omiya (a), Gamba (h), Vissel (h), Verdy (a) - 5 points off the lead... Eminently do-able, I'd say!