J.League - Divison 1: Sun, 25th October 2009
|7 - 0|
|JUNINHO 18', 89'
|(MORIWAKI sent off 25')|
Venue: Todoroki Stadium
Frontale maintained their one-point advantage at the top of the table and racked up their biggest ever J.League victory against 10-man Sanfrecce Hiroshima on Sunday.
This was always going to be an open game between two attack-minded sides. But the dismissal of Sanfrecce defender Ryota Moriwaki after just 25 minutes was at the root of the grotesquely one-sided scoreline.
Moriwaki's first booking came after only 4 minutes and was a real softie. With Kengo raiding down the left, the full-back put up a hand which caught his opponent in the throat. There was no malice whatsoever, but the referee went straight to his pocket for a yellow.
The second was from a similar situation. This time Tasaka tried to cut in behind the defender and had his shirt tugged as he got the better of his man. However, the referee ignored the fact that the initial foul looked to have been Tasaka holding Moriwaki back as he struggled to get past him.
Even ignoring Tasaka's foul, the referee would have been forgiven for cutting Moriwaki a bit of slack given the nature of his initial booking. But common sense didn't prevail and Sanfrecce found themselves down to 10 men with three quarters of the game still to play.
Frontale were already a goal to the good by the time of the sending off. Mori had slipped a finely-weighted pass into the box for Juninho to run onto and clip inside the far post. Both teams had been creating chances from the first whistle, although the home team's efforts had all been a bit more clear-cut than the visitors'.
Obviously, Sanfrecce were rattled by the loss of Moriwaki. And for a 10-minute spell immediately afterwards the flood gates looked fit to burst. But after a catalogue of lucky escapes, they managed to re-establish a foothold in the game, making a fairly even contest of the rest of the half, albeit without ever really calling Kawashima into action.
The away team started the second half with a more defensive shape and succeeded in keeping Frontale at bay for a further 15 minutes. The match-killing goal eventually came from Chong Tese, muscling past his marker at the edge of the box before pulling the trigger.
With all hope of a consolatory point now gone, the Sanfrecce defence collapsed, shipping 5 goals in the final 20 minutes.
Renatinho was a little fortunate that his was allowed to stand, given the NFL-style block Chong Tese put in on the last defender. Tasaka's shot from the edge of the box looked to take a deflection before finding the back of the net. Kengo had an easy finish after Noborizato (on as a late sub) found him unmarked around the penalty spot. Noborizato himself then calmly steered one just inside the far post after Juninho had left the visiting defence in disarray.
And in fine symmetrical fashion, it was Juninho who completed the rout, cutting inside the last defender before curling a low right-footed effort past the disconsolate Sanfrecce keeper.
Of course, the scoreline bears no reflection on the actual difference in quality between these two sides. It would have been a much more interesting contest had the referee not interfered so over-enthusiastically. But at this stage of the season, it's difficult to worry about anything other than the result.
And what does this result mean? Well, basically, Frontale now have no-one to blame but themselves if they don't end the 2009 season as J1 champions. They have a pretty-much unassailable goal difference. 3 of their last 4 games are against teams who will be plying their trade in J2 next year. And should an over-zealous referee sway any results against them...well, swings and roundabouts, innit.
But before any of that, another chance of silverware presents itself in the Nabisco Cup final. FC Tokyo have had some rotten luck in recent weeks and it looks like star players Naohiro Ishikawa (who suffered cruciate ligament damage against Kashiwa two weeks ago) and possibly also Yuto Nagatomo (who had to come off after only 25 minutes against S-Pulse on Sunday) will miss the clash. But Frontale are still going to have to be at their best at Kokuritsu next Tuesday if they are to banish the memories of 2007's loss to Gamba and lay hands on their first ever trophy.