J.League Division 1: Sat, 15th August 2009
|0 - 2|
|JUNINHO 11', 73'|
Venue: Mizuho Stadium
On a hot and humid Saturday night, Frontale secured a deserved 2-0 victory over a talented but disjointed Nagoya Grampus.
Juninho got both goals as he continued his impressive mid-season form. The Brazilian has now scored 6 in his last 8 outings (league and cup) and joins Gamba's Leandro and Naohiro Ishikawa of FC Tokyo as the J.League's joint-top scorer.
The first goal was vintage Juni, but owed a great deal to the determined defending of Kosuke Kikuchi. The pulchritudinously-challenged centre-back single-handedly pressed the Nagoya midfield back to the halfway line. His interception then broke to the veteran Brazilian who skipped inside one challenge before racing past a flat-footed Milos Bajalica, rounding Seigo Narazaki and slotting in from a tight(-ish) angle.
The goal sparked a bit of life into the Nagoya attack as they aimed to utilise the aerial threat of recent signing, Josh Kennedy. The towering Australian looks a handful, but was ably marshalled (for the most part) by Kikuchi and Ito.
Terada got back well to block a shot from Keiji Tamada, sent through by Magnum after some quick thinking from Kennedy. But Frontale continued to make chances of their own.
Taniguchi had the best of them when released on a one-on-one by the quick-thinking Kengo. The energetic midfielder had time to look up and pick his spot, but Narazaki stood strong.
Just before the interval, Magnum almost notched up yet another goal against his former club. However, a strange bounce, caused either by the spin on the ball or the dreadful playing surface, bamboozled the former Frontale favourite and, with the goal at his mercy, his shot rocketed high and wide.
After the break, Nagoya continued to look for Kennedy in the air, but the quality of their final ball was mostly poor. Alex Santos, newly-signed from Urawa Reds, was particularly wayward with his delivery from the left.
As the game wore on, the visitors were inevitably finding more space to launch their trademark counters. Kengo skewed a half-volley over the bar from 8 yards after a pin-point cross from Yamagishi. And Juninho pulled a strike narrowly wide.
However, Kengo was soon back in more familiar territory, providing the clinical pass for Frontale's second. On the receiving end, Juninho raced away from his marker (the wretched Bajalica once again) and unleashed a rasping drive. Narazaki did well to block the initial shot but was helpless as the striker followed up to head in the rebound.
Shortly afterwards, Nagoya thought they'd pulled one back when a goalmouth scramble culminated in Maya Yoshida sticking the ball in the net. But, to the evident disbelief of manager Dragan Stojkovic, the linesman ruled that the defender had come back from an offside position.
There were late chances for both sides. Nagoya substitute Yuki Maki headed wide the kind of cross Josh Kennedy surely wishes had come his way a bit more often. And Renatinho, on for the last 5 minutes, narrowly missed when under pressure from the ever-impressive Narazaki.
As well as providing a valuable 3 points, this was an interesting insight into how Nagoya shape up ahead of next month's ACL clash. With their spate of recent signings, there's clearly a lack of cohesion in the side. However, the talent looks to be there and I'd be very surprised if they're not playing more like a team by the end of September.