East Asia Japan

Frontale Drop Points Again in Kobe Draw

Wednesday night saw three J.League 1 ties being played out, matches that are rescheduled due to the commitments of Japan’s representatives in the 2020 AFC Champions League. ACL participants Yokohama F. Marinos, FC Tokyo, and Vissel Kobe were playing their Matchweek 29, 26, and 24 games respectively on Wednesday due to their continental commitments, with Yokohama taking on Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo at the Nissan Stadium, FC Tokyo hosting Kashima Antlers at the Ajinomoto Stadium, and Vissel Kobe welcoming league leaders Kawasaki Frontale to the Misaki Park Stadium. Kawasaki, who were on the back of losing their first J1 game of the season at the hands of Nagoya Grampus over the weekend, were forced to once again drop points as hosts Vissel forced them to a 2-2 draw.

“Tell me, do you bleed?” was the question asked by Ben Affleck’s Batman to Henry Cavill’s Superman in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, with the former questioning the latter’s seemingly invincible nature. And if Sunday’s defeat at Nagoya was seen by many as a blip, the way Vissel managed to keep the seemingly relentless Kawasaki at bay on Wednesday suggested to many that the league leaders, who were unbeaten in 11 matches prior to Sunday’s defeat, can indeed “bleed.” Wednesday’s draw was the first time this season that Kawasaki had dropped points for consecutive matches, something that was quite unthinkable considering the ruthless nature of Toru Oniki’s men during their unbeaten streak.

Kawasaki indeed took the lead first in the 22nd minute thanks to Ryota Oshima, but the reaction from Vissel, although not instantaneous, was swift. Eight minutes after Oshima’s opener, Hotaru Yamaguchi lofted the ball over the heads of the Kawasaki defenders, with the ball curving its way towards Daigo Nishi. Nishi tapped the ball towards the Kawasaki goal with his first touch and it went straight into its target, with Kawasaki goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong being caught off-guard by Nishi’s shot.

The goal invigorated Vissel’s spirits and they started to knock on Kawasaki’s defense, chasing for another goal that would give them the lead. Douglas’ powerful shot was parried away by Jung in the 32nd minute, while the ensuing corner saw Douglas trying another attempt, with a Kawasaki defender being forced to use his legs to block the Brazilian’s shot.

Third time’s the charm for Douglas though and the Brazilian finally gave Vissel the lead in the 42nd minute. Fellow Brazilian Dankler went through the Kawasaki midfield and sent a long ball towards Douglas, who headed the ball into Jung’s goal.

The first half ends 2-1 in Vissel’s favor and Oniki acted quickly by subbing in three players during half-time – Kaoru Mitoma, Shintaro Kurumaya, and Hidemasa Morita. The trio replace Yasuto Wakizaka, Jesiel, and Miki Yamane respectively.

The presence of Mitoma added more to Kawasaki’s attack and they came close to adding their lead two minutes into the second half. A diagonal pass from Mitoma was well-received by Yu Kobayashi, however the latter’s shot went off against the crossbar. Kobayashi tried to pounce on the rebound but Vissel goalkeeper Hiroki Iikura rushed out and performed a sliding save as he clutched the ball to his chest, denying the veteran striker.

Realizing that another goal might be enough to end Kawasaki’s resistance, Vissel mounted a counterattack in the 50th minute. Oshima was dispossessed by Sergei Samper deep within the Vissel defense, with the Spaniard sending the ball forward towards Kyogo Furuhashi. With most of the Kawasaki players being concentrated within Vissel’s area, this gave Furuhashi the chance to break into Kawasaki’s defense. The speedy winger made his way into the Kawasaki area, before passing the ball short to Douglas who shot first time. Unfortunately for both the Brazilian and Vissel, Douglas’ shot went wide off-target.

Vissel then had another go in the 71st minute, when Jung inexplicably passed the ball towards Yutaro Oda. The Vissel substitute immediately made his way towards the goal, before firing off a shot that went agonizingly off-target.

With Vissel squandering two good chances to kill off the game for good, Kawasaki decided to punish Thorsten Fink’s men in the 75th minute for their profligacy. Kyohei Noborizato crosses the ball into the Vissel penalty box, which went straight towards Vissel defender Samper. The former Barcelona B player tried to clear the ball away, only for him to head the ball towards Mitoma, who played it quickly towards Reo Hatate. Hatate wasted no time in lashing in a devastating volley into Iikura’s goal, equalizing for the league leaders.

Now with their lead evaporated into nothingness, Vissel pushed forward in search for that elusive third goal. As the match enters its closing stages, Nishi sent the ball towards the Kawasaki box, only for the opposition defender to clear the ball away. However, the ball fell towards Hotaru, who attempted a powerful shot from outside the area that went off-target. Dankler then tried his luck five minutes before full-time, receiving a corner from Daiju Sasaki only for the Brazilian to miss his close-ranged shot completely.

The match ended 2-2, with Vissel surely disappointed for being unable to inflict a second straight defeat on Kawasaki, considering the amount of chances that Thorsten’s men had created throughout the match. The league leaders, on the other hand, return to Kanagawa Prefecture with the solitary point, but at the same time were left thinking on how to regain that ruthlessness that had defined them throughout the season.

Meanwhile, at the Ajinomoto Stadium, goals from Everaldo and Juan Alano ensured all three points for Kashima, as they went from 1-0 down to stun hosts FC Tokyo 2-1 at the end of the 90 minutes. Elsewhere at the Nissan Stadium, Chanathip Songkrasin started the match for Consadole before being subbed off two minutes before Theerathon Bunmathan came off the bench for Yokohama as the defending champions demolished their visitors from the North 4-1. Brazilian Junior Santos was the standout performer for Yokohama as he bagged a first-half brace, with further goals from Shinnosuke Hatanaka and Teruhito Nakagawa ensuring all three points for the hosts. Anderson Lopes’ goal in the third minute of injury time proved to be mere consolation for Consadole as they were well and truly beaten by Ange Postecoglou’s Yokohama side.