J.League Division 1: Sun, 23rd November 2008
|4 - 0|
Venue: Todoroki Stadium
Frontale brushed aside a weary Gamba Osaka on Sunday to keep up the pressure on their title rivals. And while it's a bit late in the day to be catching Kashima in the goal difference stakes, you can't fault the boys for trying.
As the scoreline suggests, this was a fairly one-sided affair. However, for a 15-minute spell in the first half Gamba were in the driving seat and a more dynamic pairing up front than Lucas and Bando would probably have punished a stretched Frontale defence.
But just as the Gamba pressure was starting to cause some real concern, Frontale managed to get their collective foot in. The turning point was an incisive counter attack that exposed the visitors' defensive frailty. Chong Tese broke away on the left and cut out the defense with a surprisingly well-weighted early pass in to Renatinho. But, with the goal at the young Brazilian's mercy, the ball just wouldn't sit for him and the chance went begging.
Nevertheless, this seemed to put some lead in Frontale's pencil and they started putting together passages of the fast, flowing football that has been so absent of late.
The breakthrough came just before halftime - Chong Tese leaping like an enchanted salmon to convert a corner cross with an unstoppable header. It may be unfair to single anyone out in a game where all played well, but Chong Tese deserves a special mention. He's come in for criticism in these parts for his frequent spells of poor form, so it's only fair that he gets praise when it's due. And the Todoroki faithful were treated to a new and improved Chong Tese on Sunday, showing the kind of athleticism that would rightly make him the envy of most J.League teams.
The game was killed off early in the second half with 2 goals in the space of 5 minutes. Chong Tese again did well to keep alive a failed attack. The ball was worked to Taniguchi on the edge of the area and his strike took a slight deflection off the back of Satoshi Yamaguchi as it crept inside the post.
Juninho got in on the act too, poking a toe at Mori's cross after the winger had skipped his way past two men down the right.
The nail in the visitors' coffin was driven home by Gamba-trained Yusuke Igawa. A counter that swept the full length of the pitch was inexpertly dealt with by a wretched Gamba defence and Igawa, who had started the move from his own penalty area, was presented with the simplest of finishes.
Setting aside the fact that Gamba were definitely not at their best, Sunday's goal-fest was significant for several reasons. First and foremost, the win means the title hunt is still on - although with just 2 games to bridge a 3-point gap it's looking a bit of a tall order.
Secondly, the result sends out a message to Kashima and Nagoya that they've got a fight on their hands - something which would have been in question following the capitulation against Omiya the other week.
But most importantly, the performance, both at an individual level and as a team, will have restored some much-needed self-belief at a time when the season was threatening to go out with a whimper rather than a bang.
Final two games
Kawasaki Frontale v Vissel Kobe (29/11/2008)
Tokyo Verdy v Kawasaki Frontale (06/12/2008)
Kashima Antlers v Jublio Iwata (29/11/2008)
Consadole Sapporo v Kashima Antlers (06/12/2008)
Nagoya Grampus v Consadole Sapporo (30/11/2008)
Oita Trinita v Nagoya Grampus (06/12/2008)