J.League Division 1: Sun, 22nd November 2009
|1 - 0|
Venue: Kyushu Oil Dome
In the predictability stakes Sunday's defeat against Oita Trinita is right up there with George Michael's emergence from the closet.
Some things are written in stone. Just as Frontale always lose away to S-Pulse, the league's top-placed team is invariably dealt a kick in the crown jewels by the bottom-placed should their paths cross at the business end of the season.
Not that fate should take all the blame for Sunday's result. Oita have been much improved since their relegation was decided a few weeks back. And there was very little evidence that this was the same side who capitulated so cravenly at Todoroki in the summer.
Frontale need to take a good hard look at themselves too. Caginess has repeatedly been their undoing this season. And yet again there were signs that a more aggressive approach from the outset may have brought rewards.
But who am I trying to kid? It was never going to be a smooth ride to the finishing line. And Kashima now lead Frontale by 2 points with Gamba a further point behind.
Next round sees Frontale in a must-win home tie against Albirex, while Gamba and Kashima face each other. A Gamba win would make things very interesting going into the final day of the season.
The silver lining to this rather cloudy weekend is that ACL football is now virtually guaranteed at Todoroki in 2010. 4th-placed Urawa Reds trail Frontale by 6 points with 2 games to play. But unless they can make up a 20-goal margin (as well as the 6-point gap) it'll be another chance to rack up the airmiles for Kengo et al.