Emperor's Cup - 5th Round: Sat, 15th November 2008
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Venue: Nagasaki Park Stadium
On a cloudy Saturday afternoon in Nagasaki, Frontale were dumped out of the Emperor's Cup by runaway J2 leaders Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Based on recent form away from Todoroki, this result doesn't come as a major shock. Perhaps the game was more a measure of the improvements the J2 outfit has made since last season's relegation. Still, the nature of the defeat is a little worrying. Despite missing key players (Kengo, Terada and Kawashima) on international duty, one would expect a side that still has pretensions of becoming J.League champions to offer a bit more than this lacklustre display.
As it was, Sanfrecce controlled the game from the outset, had much the better of the scoring chances and were worthy winners. Their first was the result of an impressive passage of play that started at the back and finished when stand-in keeper Uekusa could only parry a firm headed shot and Toshihiro Aoyama was first to react to the loose ball.
Having done little to worry Sanfrecce in the first half, Frontale at least showed some attacking intent in the second. Renatinho saw a deflected shot come back off the bar and there was the usual smorgasbord of mid-range shots that went sailing wide or over.
However, forced to push more players forward in an effort to get back on level terms, they were punished by a rather Frontale-esque counter in the 57th minute. Winning possesion deep in their own half, Sanfrecce launched a lightning-quick raid down the right flank. The resulting cross, played in behind the Frontale defence, ended up at the feet of Koji Morisaki (via a rather fortunate touch off the boot of a lunging Igawa) who made no mistake with his finish.
The only positive to take from this game is the slap in the face it will have dealt the players. If they failed to get the message with the Omiya result, then surely now they'll have woken up and realised that, with title rivals continuing to leave the door ajar, this is not the time for a slump. Takahata had better get his motivational cap on cos up next it's newly-crowned champions of Asia, Gamba Osaka.