J.League - Divison 1: Sun, 26th April 2009
|1 - 1|
|TAKAHAGI 58'||VITOR 35'|
Venue: Hiroshima Big Arch
Frontale's poor away form continued on Sunday with a 1-1 draw against Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
However, any regret they might have about squandering two points will be tempered by a hefty chunk of relief they didn't come away with nothing.
"What's so shabby about a point on the road against the league's top scorers?", you might ask. Well, let's not forget that high-scoring Sanfrecce have conceded almost as many as they've netted this season. Let's add to that the first-half dismissal of Mihael Mikic. Surely if you're a goal up, and a man up, at half time against one of the league's leakiest defences, the least you can do is come away with three points...right?
Frontale's goal was served up to them on a silver platter - Vitor pouncing on a weak backpass, rounding the keeper and sidefooting into an empty net to give his side what was, at the time, a deserved lead.
Another gift arrived soon after - this time from referee, Toshimitsu Yoshida, sending off Sanfrecce winger Mihael Mikic for falling over in the penalty area. No-one likes a diver, but having booked the Croatian just 10 minutes previously, Mr Yoshida could have been excused for awarding the benefit of the doubt instead of a red card.
Frontale, despite their torrid schedule, had actually been looking far the hungrier of the two teams in the first half. The only signs of tiredness appearing in the poor quality of their final ball. However, their insistence on coughing up cheap goals was to prove their downfall once again.
10 minutes into the second half, an ill-judged square ball from Ito put unnecessary pressure on his team mates. Yojiro Takahagi was up like a flash to block the panic-stricken Igawa's attempted clearance, and the ball fell kindly for him to slot past Kawashima from the edge of the box. (I suppose the congested fixture list demands a degree of squad rotation, but there seems a much better balance to the defence when Ito's in the middle and Murakami's on the left.)
Having conceded the obligatory soft goal, there was a return of the old familiar desperation in their attack. Sekizuka threw on Renatinho and Yamagishi to add more weight up front, but there was a growing danger they were leaving themselves too light at the back.
Sanfrecce were making much better use of their opportunities on the counter. And had Kazu Morisaki's 30-yard belter in the dying minutes gone in off the post rather than ricocheting back across the face of goal and out for a throw, it would have been a very bitter pill to swallow. As it is, Frontale can write this game off as a missed opportunity rather than an unmitigated disaster.