J.League Division 1: Wed, 29th April 2009
|4 - 1|
Venue: Todoroki Stadium
It's not often you watch your team win by three goals and come away feeling like you've just been slapped in the face. But this is one of those rare occasions.
The game itself was a walkover, with Sanga showing levels of commitment more suited to a Liz Taylor marriage. Let's just say Frontale didn't have to be at their best to rack up their four goals. And all that was needed to put the cherry on the cake was a first clean sheet of the season.
But with mere seconds left on the clock, the boys in blue once again managed to rain on their own parade.
Even the replay doesn't make it 100% clear who the culprit was, but via process of elimination, and judging by his notable absence from the post-match comments, it seems to have been Taniguchi (please correct me if I'm wrong). Drifting off into a world of daydream, he dallied on the ball far too long, allowing Sanga to steal possession and swarm in for a late consolation goal.
I may be making too much of it - after all, a 4-1 win is a 4-1 win - but Frontale were on course to come away from this game with a well-earned spring in their step. Instead, one momentary, last-minute lapse has left nothing more than a bad taste in the mouth.
Of course, there are positives to take from the match. Sekizuka took the opportunity to give four key players some much-needed rest. Ito, Mori, Yokoyama and Chong Tese were all left out of the starting eleven, with Murakami, Kikuchi, Tasaka and Yajima coming in.
The alarm bells were ringing at the announcement that Kikuchi would be lining up alongside Terada in the middle of defence. But apart from a couple of dangerously mis-placed passes in the first half, which Sanga should really have punished, he did OK.
The big plus was Yajima notching up his first goal of the season. He should probably have had two on the day, but a nicely finished first-half effort was ruled out by a questionable offside flag.
He may not have that extra edge to his game, like a Juninho or a Chong Tese, but today's performance shows that Yajima can certainly put the ball away when given the chance.
Unfortunately for him, he was forced to leave the field early with what looked like a bad case of cramp. Kurotsu, his replacement and main rival for a place in the team, added insult to injury by adding his own name to the scoresheet within minutes of his arrival.
Saturday's Kanagawa derby is likely to provide a much sterner test. But who knows, with a few fresh faces back in the team, maybe we'll finally get to see a whole match with no costly blunders. What luxury!