J. League Division 1: Sat, 12th September 2009
|1 - 3|
|MARQUINHOS 30'||CHONG 19', 32'
(Match abandoned after 74 minutes due to waterlogged pitch.)
Venue: Kashima Stadium
It's often said that the British like nothing more than to complain about the weather. Well, after the cruel role it played in Frontale's table-top clash with Kashima Antlers, I'd like to do a bit more than complain.
In fact, I'd like to ambush the weather on its way home, tie it to a bottomless chair in a darkened room and give it the soundest "Casino Royale"-style groin thrashing of its immemorial existence.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Frontale were robbed of 3 priceless points on Saturday by the miserable bloody weather.
After putting in a valiant performance and outscoring their rivals 3 goals to 1, the visiting team and their ample support were denied a result that would have left them just 4 points adrift of top spot.
Referee Okada called time on the contest with just 15 minutes remaining, amidst frantic appeals from the entire Frontale camp.
To be fair, the decision is hard to fault. Large areas of the playing surface were submerged, making it impossible for the ball to roll. The conditions had undeniably become dangerous and it's surely better to have a few (potentially recoupable) points slip out of the bag than to lose key players at the business end of the season.
The powers that be are meeting on Tuesday (Sept. 15th) to decide what happens next. However, as things stands, Saturday's contest has been classed a "no-game", suggesting that the match will be erased from the record books and the whole 90 minutes played again from 0-0.
Still, every storm cloud has a silver lining, and there were a lot of positives to take from the game before the rain intervened.
It's been mentioned in recent weeks that Frontale haven't really put on a display to be proud of in quite a while. Well, the waiting most certainly ended on Saturday and at the heart of an assured team perfomance was the often-maligned Chong Tese.
The Korean's opener was simply unstoppable. Kengo robbed Mitsuo Ogasawara deep in Antlers territory, leaving Chong to turn and crack a thunderous right-footed shot into the top corner from 20 yards.
Marquinos drew his team level, heading in Takuya Nozawa's inviting cross. But minutes later, Chong was at it again, burying Kengo's corner delivery to restore the lead.
20-year-old Jun Sonoda ably filled the gaping hole in Frontale's backline (left by Kikuchi's injury and Igawa's suspension). And the defence as a whole stood surprisingly firm for much of the game.
Ito was called upon to make a goal-line clearance and there were a couple of scares in the second half, where Shinzo Koroki in particular should really have done better. But it wasn't all one-way traffic and Renatinho was also guilty of passing up a gift-wrapped opportunity to stretch the lead.
What should have been the decider came after 66 minutes. Juninho made a fool of Antlers goalie Hitoshi Sogahata, steering a shot in at the near post with the keeper anticipating a cross. But with the deluge refusing to abate and the pitch becoming increasingly waterlogged, the referee was forced to call a premature finish to proceedings.
So, by all means feel disappointed. But don't dwell on it too long. Urawa come visiting at the weekend, and there's always drama when they're in town!