J.League Division 1: Sat, 7th March 2009
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|CHONG 77'||SUGANUMA 50'|
Venue: Todoroki Stadium
Saturday afternoon saw a return to business as usual at Todoroki. This had all the hallmarks of your typical home game. The visitors sat back and looked to pinch a goal on the counter attack. The Frontale front men huffed and puffed but ultimately struggled to blow Kashiwa's house down (despite their defense looking decidedly un-brick-like).
There were a few new haircuts on display, which is always nice. And, perhaps most notably, a new position for Yamagishi at right-back. It seems somewhat counter-intuitive for a player who excels on the left wing to be put in at right-back, but a little experimentation is never a bad thing.
Missed the first half hour of the game, but from the highlights it looks like Reysol created the only real chances of the first half. Franca had an effort cleared off the line by the freshly-shorn Igawa and Kawashima needed to be at his best to block a close range effort, albeit from a very tight angle.
Unsurprisingly, Kashiwa looked to be having most success on Yamagishi's side. However, their lead shortly after the break resulted from a raid in behind Ito. A decent cross from the bye-line was met by the head of Suganuma, leaving big Eiji with no chance. (I don't want to start the season unfairly targeting any individuals, but Yamagishi was nowhere near Suganuma when he steered his header into the net. Would Mori have been any closer? Probably not.)
Forced to throw caution to the wind, Frontale started creating some clear-cut chances of their own. Juninho and Chong Tese both looked dangerous, if a little wayward, and Kengo, whose passing had been fairly erratic thus far, started to find his range.
With a quarter of the game left, Sekizuka tried out his next experiment, bringing on Yokoyama to allow Kengo to take up a more advanced role. It was probably the ineffective Taniguchi who was due to be replaced, but a reckless challenge from an over-enthusiastic Vitor Junior (who was awarded a yellow card but deserved a red) moments prior to the substitution may have changed the manager's mind.
Within 10 minutes the change had the desired effect. With Yokoyama sitting in front of the back four, Kengo was now a constant threat around the Reysol penalty area. And it was his deflected shot that fell kindly for Chong Tese to level things up.
As the clock ran down Frontale continued to pile on the pressure and probably created enough opportunities to deserve all three points. It was just a combination of poor finishing and bad luck that kept Kashiwa in the game.
Kengo almost beat the entire Reysol defense but his mazy run was foiled at the edge of the 6-yard box. A succession of corners saw various chances go begging - the best falling to Ito who blasted over from 10 yards. Kurotsu, on for Renatinho, stuck a boot out when he should really have left an easy finish for Juninho. Thrilling stuff, but no cigar.
If this game came in the latter stages of the season you'd say it was 2 points dropped, but as a first outing it was fairly encouraging - the second half at least. There's no denying that last season's problems are still in effect, but with Sekizuka back in the driving seat the seeds of progress appear to have been sown.