J.League Division 1: Sat, 29th November 2008
|4 - 0|
|CHONG 3', 62'
Venue: Todoroki Stadium
Too late to catch the Antlers in the goal difference stakes? What a load of nonsense! Thanks to Kashima's last-gasp winner against Jubilo, the Goal Difference Stakes is now the only race that counts, but even then it may well end up counting for nothing. Still, let's try not to get ahead of ourselves.
On their final home outing of the season, Frontale put on another impressive display to dispatch Vissel Kobe with plenty of room to spare.
It was an ideal start to the game. After just 3 minutes, a bang-in-form Chong Tese latched onto a perfectly-timed through ball from Juninho. A quick glance over at the linesman meant his shot was delayed just long enough for the keeper to commit himself one way and for the big Korean to send the ball the other.
But, despite the one-sided scoreline, this proved to be far more of a contest than last week's drubbing of Gamba. Kobe's front men stretched the home defence for a good 60 minutes and were a little unlucky not to find an equaliser. Leandro could have bagged a couple in the first half, but he blazed the first wide and the second was too close to big Eiji Kawashima. Okubo too had the net at his mercy before the break, but a fabulous lunge from the unlikely Mori blocked his goal-bound effort.
Vissel continued to look the more dangerous side after the break, but the ever-solid Kawashima, and some wayward shooting, kept the score at 1-0. Then on 62 minutes the game changed. Taniguchi got on the end of a neat through-ball in the Kobe box. His blocked shot wriggled under the keeper allowing the Pyongyang predator, Chong Tese, to lash the ball in from close range.
Forced to find a quick reply, Kobe fell victim to a trademark Frontale counter just minutes later. The ball was cleared out of defence to our favourite North Korean, who headed the ball on and then turned on a sixpence to retrieve his own pass. His outpaced marker, Kunie Kitamoto, cynically dragged Tese to the floor, but advantage was played and Renatinho set up Juninho to find the net through the legs of the covering defender. If conceding a third wasn't bad enough for Kobe, the referee then went back and issued Kitamoto his second yellow for the foul.
So, three goals and one man down - things were looking pretty bleak for the visitors. But then injury was added to insult as Leandro crocked himself while trying to con the referee in the Frontale area. At first it looked a fairly decent shout for a penalty, but the replay suggests he took his own legs from under himself.
With their bite now gone as well as their bark, the match was over for Kobe. All that remained was for Frontale to continue to eat away at Kashima's superior goal difference. They huffed and puffed and finally Renatinho found his goalscoring form in the final minute. This time Juninho returned the favour, setting up the cheeky-faced scamp to remind us all that he knows a thing or two about finishing.
And so here we are, going into the final match of the season and still a faint glimmer of hope that a first J.League crown could be coming to Todoroki.
However, there is a caveat. If Kashima end up losing in Sapporo, Nagoya fail to win at Oita and Frontale haven't beaten Verdy by the required 3 goals, it would be the most sickening way to lose the title race. But if they throw too much caution to the wind, they could open the door for Verdy to nick a win. And if Verdy nick a win, it could mean no ACL spot.
It would be a huge shame not to take anything from the season, but then again the cautious approach has never been Frontale's strong point, so here's to a 3-0 win at Ajinomoto!