Saturday, April 24, 2010

Kawasaki Frontale 3-0 Vissel Kobe

Competition: J.League Division 1
Date: Saturday, 24th April 2010 (14:00 kick off)
Venue: Todoroki Stadium
Attendance: 17,669


RENATINHO 05' (pen.)
CHONG 78' (pen.)
KOMOTO sent off 78'


DF MORI (yellow card 13')
DF TERADA (yellow card 22')
MF INAMOTO (replaced by TANIGUCHI 80')
MF NAKAMURA (replaced by YOKOYAMA 90')
FW KUROTSU (replaced by VITOR JUNIOR 80')
FW CHONG (yellow card 73')


They say that Luck is a fickle mistress. On the evidence of the last two games, you'd be hard pressed to argue with them.

Much as last week's 3-0 defeat could have turned out differently, were it not for some failings in judgement from the men in black, so could Vissel's fortunes have fared better on Saturday had the referee's decisions been slightly more orthodox in the opening 20 minutes.

There was drama aplenty from the very first whistle. Frontale may perhaps be accused of under-estimating their opponents going into the game. They opted to rest Taniguchi ahead of the midweek trip to Beijing, instead relying solely on Inamoto for midfield ballast. And judging by the numbers committed forward for a corner in the first 60 seconds, caution was clearly not part of their gameplan.

However, this bullishness was almost immediately punished. Having cleared the danger from that opening-minute corner, Kobe latched onto Mori's poor defensive header and released the speedy Ken Tokura (not that long ago a Frontale bench-warmer) on a lightning raid into the box.

Only a brilliant covering run from Inamoto, muscling the youngster off the ball, prevented a clear scoring opportunity. And despite intial fears that the referee might point to the spot, the replays confirmed that Tokura went down too easily.

But having survived that immediate scare, Frontale continued to leave their pedestrian centre-back pairing exposed to the pace of Tokura and his similarly impish strike partner Keiji Ogawa.

On 3 minutes, Terada was caught on the wrong side of his man. The veteran defender appeared to have a little tug on Ogawa's shirt, allowing Igawa the extra time to cover in behind. The referee opted to play the advantage, but the striker was quickly closed down. A free-kick was the least Kobe deserved. And Terada was very lucky to avoid a yellow.

Even worse for the vistors was the drama that immediately unfolded at the other end. From a long clearance, Kurotsu did well to press Hiroyuki Komoto, rob him of possession and home in on goal. His touch was a little heavy as he went past the last defender, but Teruaki Kobayashi's lunge gave the striker the invitation he needed to go down.

When it goes against your team, you call it "cheating". When it goes for you, it's called "professionalism". Whichever way you look at it, the referee awarded the penalty and Renatinho made no repeat of last week's mistake.

Depite this early adversity, Kobe continued to look dangerous on the break. And after a few half-chances at either end, yet another rapier attack exposed Frontale's frail rearguard.

The ball was moved swiftly up to Tokura who nodded it past an isolated Terada before being cynically dragged down. It looked like a straight red - I can only guess the referee deemed that an outrushing Kawashima would have got to the ball before Tokura. Terada escaped with a yellow but, in light of his earlier transgression on Ogawa, he should really have been off.

The resulting free kick hit the wall and looked to rebound off Tasaka's hand (although it certainly wasn't intentional). Eiji made a good block on Edmilson's shot and as the ball looped up in the air Ryosuke Matsuoka was adjudged to have impeded the keeper before Park Kang-Jo's shot hit the back of the net.

It's hardly rare for goalkeepers to get the benefit of the doubt in such circumstances. But the look on Eiji's face afterwards suggests Vissel may once again have been more than a little hard done by.

Frontale had the upper hand for the remaining three quarters of the game. They gradually adapted to Kobe's counter-attacking style and were aided by Tokura's failure to re-emerge for the second half (having taken a knock just before the break). A bat-masked Okubo came on as his replacement but without the same kind of pace he made little impact on a more cohesive-looking home defence.

Kurotsu put daylight between the two teams early in the second half, lunging at a loose ball after some muscular play from Chong Tese. The Korean (who had wasted a hatful of opportunities from open play) then put the result beyond doubt 20 minutes later, wresting spot-kick duties from Renatinho after he'd been brought down from behind by Komoto.

Komoto received his marching orders (he was already on a yellow), Chong's penalty went in off the post and the rest of the game played out without major incident. However, Kobe fans will be wondering what might have been, had Frontale been forced to play three quarters of the game with only ten men.


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