Sunday, August 30, 2009

Kawasaki Frontale v Shimizu S-Pulse

J.League Division 1: Sun, 30th August 2009

Kawasaki Frontale 1 - 1 Shimizu S-Pulse

Venue: Todoroki Stadium
Attendance: 20,689

Frontale used up another "get out of jail" card to rescue a point against a well-organised Shimizu S-Pulse and maintain their unbeaten home record.

Despite missing the chance to cut Kashima's lead at the top of the table to 5 points, Frontale will consider themselves lucky to have narrowed the gap at all.

The incessant rain did little to excuse the general lack of quality in the home team's play. S-Pulse worked hard to stifle their hosts - always keeping their defence well-stocked. But Frontale's cavalier attitude to ball retention made the visitors' task that much easier.

Things started badly when Yajima had to be withdrawn after just 15 minutes. Chong Tese (fresh off the plane after North Korea's failed attempt to qualify for the 2010 East Asian Football Championship) came on in his place and performed very much like someone who's played two competitive internationals in the past 5 days.

It wasn't really until the last 20 minutes - after Renatinho had come on for Tasaka - that Frontale managed to mount a sustained period of pressure. But it was rudely interrupted by S-Pulse's opener.

Captain Kengo - himself looking more than a little leg-weary - put his defence under unnecessary pressure by dwelling too long on the ball. The visitors were quick to pounce and Keisuke Iwashita gave his team the lead, burying a deep cross past the helpess Kawashima.

Frontale's trademark "wounded tiger" routine ensued and the S-Pulse goal had to withstand a 10-minute onslaught. But as the game moved into injury time the sodden travelling support must have felt the 3 points would rightfully be accompanying them back to Shizuoka.

But then, a combination of questionable calls and a sublime Kengo cross changed everything. With Frontale throwing everyone into attack, S-Pulse managed a quick break that saw Daisuke Ichikawa sent clean through on goal. The linesman showed no hesitation in raising his flag, but the replay shows Ichikawa was a good yard onside.

Adding insult to injury, the referee immediately penalised Shinji Okazaki for a challenge on Juninho that seemed to feature little in the way of physical contact. Kengo made amends for his earlier mistake, sending in a sumptuous delivery that Ito glanced in from close range. But it was more in embarrassment than celebration that the Frontale players trudged back for the restart.

Next up are back-to-back clashes with Yokohama F Marinos to decide who progresses to November's Nabisco Cup final. With Kengo, Eiji, and Marinos defender Yuji Nakazawa all away on international duty, it should be an interesting contest.


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