J.League Division 1: Sat, 2nd May 2009
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Venue: Nissan Stadium
Another disappointing road trip for Frontale fans as the Kanagawa bragging rights went to Yokohama F. Marinos on a brilliantly sunny Saturday afternoon.
First of all, let me state unequivocally that Yokohama were worth the win. Yes, Frontale missed some decent chances. Yes, Juninho should have had a penalty - shoulder barging is OK, shoving with the palm of the hand is not. But Marinos probably could have hit double figures were it not for some sketchy finishing and a couple of decent saves from old "safe hands".
The big question has to be whether it was wise for Sekizuka to leave Chong Tese and Taniguchi out of his starting eleven. I know there's the small matter of a midweek trip to China ahead, but a) progress in the ACL is already guaranteed, b) top spot in Group H can still be sealed in a couple of weeks in the more appealing surroundings of fortress Todoroki, and c) how much rest does Chong Tese need, having only played the last couple of minutes against Kyoto on Wednesday?
Frontale started brightly enough, with Juninho proving a real menace. The chances that came weren't exactly clear-cut, but both Yajima and Juninho himself might feel they should have opened the scoring.
However, without the bullish target of Chong Tese up front and with Tasaka not providing the same defensive stability that Taniguchi brings, Yokohama started to get a foothold in the game.
The opener was a touch unfortunate. Frontale's defence has been holding the line pretty well this season. However, on 21 minutes, Koji Yamase evaded both the offside trap and the not-particluarly-vigilant attention of Mori to put the home team ahead. The replays were inconclusive as to whether or not Yamase actually was offside, but the linesman's flag stayed down and thereafter Marinos took the initiative.
Yuji Nakazawa missed a great chance to make it two after a skewed attempt at a bicycle kick broke to him 6 yards out. Fortunately for the visitors, an awkward bounce off his standing foot left the swarthy centre-back swinging at thin air.
But just before the break, Yokohama got the second they probably deserved. Mori, who had an all-round bad day at the office, lost possession cheaply around halfway. An early through-ball from Yamase perfectly exposed Terada's lack of pace as Daisuke Sakata shrugged off the veteran defender's desperate challenge and fired past Kawashima.
Terada, who'd just picked up a yellow card when similarly exposed against Kazuma Watanabe, was a little fortunate that Sakata didn't take the easy option of going to ground for a penalty. Hopes of a second-half comeback would surely have been banished with only 10 men left on the field.
Seikizuka didn't have to think too hard about throwing on Chong Tese and Renatinho in place of the ineffective Yajima and Tasaka for the second half. And the pair almost combined to pull one back immediately after the restart.
A defence-splitting pass released Chong down the left, but his cross was played in just behind Renatinho, whose hooked shot went wide.
Although Frontale were looking more threatening after the break, Marinos did well to frustrate their guests. And they continued to find joy when pitting the pace of their strikers against Frontale's pedestrian centre-back pairing.
Watanabe had an excellent chance to put the game to bed, but shot straight at Kawashima. Then Sakata was denied only by the combined efforts of big Eiji's fingertips and the crossbar.
Frontale's best chances fell to the well-rested Chong Tese. A free header from a corner sailed over the bar. And then, when through on goal, the Korean wanted too many touches, allowing Hiroki Iikura the time to close him down and make the save. Maybe he plays better when he's tired.
A lot of Saturday's approach play was sufficiently pretty, but as so often the final ball was rarely up to scratch. Time and again Mori made himself the space to cross. Time and again his delivery was shoddy. And Renatinho, while showing off a nice variety of intricate stepovers out on the wings, failed to deliver much in the way of an end product (much like a poor man's Christiano Ronaldo in his younger days).
He's a terribly frustrating player to watch, Renatinho. But for all the diving, bitching and needless fouls, you can't help but feel there's a real quality player there that just needs time to mature.
And it was the impudent youngster who finally managed to give Frontale the consolation their fightback merited. With time running out, he took a cross on his chest, directed the ball into space and pulled the trigger to claw one back. At least that's how it looked. It turns out Kengo actually got the final touch, but all the credit for the goal should go to the boy from Brazil.
(One increasingly gets the impression with Renatinho that his best position is actually centre forward rather than out wide. He gets himself into some very clever positions in the box, has lightning quick reactions, plus he's good with his head. You just wonder whether he'll ever get the opportunity to play in that role for Frontale.)
So, to date, that makes a measly three points from five away games. But, let's look on the bright side - at least the home form's not proving so problematic. And if Sekizuka's teamsheet tinkering results in legs fresh enough to pick up three points against Urawa next weekend, all will be forgiven.