[Trying something new: Live Match Reports. So, hit that refresh button to get up-to-the-second info!!!]
Kawasaki Frontale 3 – 0 Ventforet Kofu
Before fixtures started this weekend, Kawasaki Frontale are 4th place in the league with just one lost, which was against Montedio Yamagata, so far this season. In Kawasaki’s last match against Vegalta Sendai, Kawasaki had to come from behind to win the match 3-2. For Kawasaki, Yu Kobayashi came off the bench in the second half and made an immediate impact by scoring a goal to tie the game 1-1. Frontale took the lead through Renato’s goal, but Sendai came back to tie the match at 2-2. In the last five minutes of the match, Yoshito Okubo scored the game winning goal to ensure Frontale 3 points away from home.
Frontale has fire power and can gun down opponents if a match turns into a goal-exchanging affair. However, this also shows that Frontale’s defense has some chinks in their armor and can be exploited.
Yu Kobayashi is back in the starting lineup this evening. So, it will be interesting to see him back in the starting lineup. I don’t expect him to play the full 90 minutes, but he did play well in Frontale’s last league fixture as a substitute.
Starting Formation: 4-5-1
Player I focused on: ST Yoshito Okubo – Can he continue to score goals? I think he can and he will tonight.
Ventforet Kofu are currently the bottom-feeders in the J.League and are early candidates for relegation. Kofu has won just one league match against an uninspired Nagoya Grampus Eight. The rest of their 5 matches have been losses. 4 out of 5 of their losses saw them shutout by their opponents. In my opinion, for Kofu to win this match, they need to catch Frontale on an off-day, but they also need to be on their A-game.
Starting Formation: 5-3-2
Player I focused on: DF/MF Shohei Abe – Predicted to play side midfield this evening. He will have to deal with Yu Kobayashi.
8th minute: Kawasaki Frontale – CM Kengo Nakamura passes the ball vertically to Yu Kobayashi. Kobayashi then flicks the ball behind him into space for an overlapping Elsinho. Elsinho takes a shot, but it is straight at Kofu GK Kota Ogi.
10th minute: Kawasaki Frontale – ST Yoshito Okubo hits a hard shot at goal from about 25 meters out, but the ball curls wide of the near post.
First 10 minutes: As expected, Kawasaki has most of the possession and they are trying to breakdown Kofu’s numbers in defense. Renato showed that he can burst through Kofu’s defense with his pace and skill. Kobayashi showed that a little flair and creativity can unlock Kofu’s defense (8th minute scene).
17th minute: A Kofu player plays a very dangerous back pass to his GK. The pass is hard and not on the ground, so Frontale’s Okubo was able to put pressure and get a foot on the Kofu GK’s attempted clearance. However, Okubo deflects the ball out wide.
20th minute: Kawasaki Frontale – Renato takes a mid-ranged shot that is about chest-high, but it is straight at Kofu’s GK.
25th minute: Ventforet Kofu – Kofu gets two corner kicks in succession. On the 2nd corner kick, the ball is hit to the near post where Takuma Abe flicks the ball to the back post. Kofu DF Takuma Tsuda is there to meet the ball but he gets under it too much and the ball goes just over the bar. On this play, Tsuda and Kawasaki GK Yohei Nishibe collide resulting in a cut on Tsuda’s head.
29th minute: Kawasaki Frontale – Frontale’s MF Ryota Oshima picks up the ball after Kofu’s Takuma Abe’s first touch gets away from him. Oshima takes a powerful mid-ranged shot that goes over the crossbar.
30th minute: Ventforet Kofu – Takuma Abe charges up the left flank and gets knock over and off the ball, but he gets up quickly and sends a dangerous cross to the back post and the cross is met by a teammate Daiki Matsumoto. However, Matsumoto’s volley goes slightly high and wide of the goal.
38th minute: Kawasaki Frontale – GOAL – Yoshito Okubo – CM Nakamura sends a pass into AM Kobayashi, Elsinho was right behind Kobayashi, Kobayashi then cut inside and was taken down. It looked to be a penalty but play went on. Nakamura picked up the loose ball and found Okubo on the opposite side of the penalty area. Okubo was in the clear and hit his shot off the inside of the near post and into the goal. A real poachers goal because he looked to be offside, but he tippy-toed the line.
Kawasaki Frontale 1 – 0 Ventforet Kofu
45th minute: Ventforet Kofu – A nice build up from their own defensive third. This buildup was possible because they didn’t panic when Kawasaki put pressure on them deep in their own half and the were able to switch the field of play.
1st Half Observations:
1. Ventforet Kofu have come out with a defensive/counter mentality. In a 5-3-2 formation, their side backs drop back deep and in-line with the 3 CB’s. Kofu’s 3 CM’s also drop deep into their zone to create less space between the defensive line and their midfield. This makes it difficult for Kawasaki’s attackers to find space to exploit. Kofu’s 2 ST’s stay forward so they can launch counterattacks. However, if both ST’s stay forward, there is a large gap between them and their CM’s, so Kawasaki can use this space to keep possession of the ball. After 20 minutes in the first half, one of Kofu’s ST’s will drop into the midfield on defense to put pressure on Kawasaki’s CM’s.
2. Kawasaki Frontale are playing with two wing backs in LWB Shintaro Kurumaya and RWB Elsinho. They move up the pitch on offense to provide support. If the ball is on Elsinho’s side of the pitch, Elsinho pushes forward to put pressure on the opposition and Kurumaya will come in line with the 2 CB’s to prevent any long balls switching the field of play. Elsinho also plays more central, like an inverted wing back. He will make runs out wide and then make a run inside toward the center of the pitch. This makes him extremely difficult to pick up on defense.
3. Kawasaki are not afraid to take shots from outside the penalty area. The logic behind this might be to draw out Kofu’s defenders to put pressure; therefore, pulling Kofu’s defensive line up and also pulling defenders out of position.
Keys for Success in the 2nd Half:
For Kawasaki Frontale:
1. Use creativity, one-touch passes, and individual skill to breakdown Kofu’s defense. By doing so, they will keep Kofu on their back foot.
2. Do not give up careless free kicks or unnecessary corner kicks.
For Ventforet Kofu:
1. Stick to the game plan: Stay compact and organized on defense.
2. Take advantage of corner kicks and set pieces in dangerous areas. In the 25th minute, Kofu had a golden opportunity to score a goal against the rhythm of play, but Tsuda headed over the bar.
3. Utilize side backs/wing backs to spring attacks.
Halftime Interview: Ventforet Kofu Manager Yasuhiro Higuchi – Manager Higuchi mentioned that he felt that Kofu’s game plan was working and they just need to convert their chances. I agree with the fact that Kofu needs to convert their (few) chances. However, their game plan was slowly being unraveled by Kawasaki’s fluid attack; so, I cannot agree that their game plan was working.
Halftime Interview: Kawasaki Frontale Manager Yahiro Kazama – Manager Kazama said that he wanted his team to go out a play more dynamically. When asked by the reporter, “What do you mean by dynamic?” Manager Kazama declined to comment. In my opinion, “play more dynamically” refers to what I mentioned above in #1 of Kawasaki’s “Keys to success in the 2nd half”.
56th minute: Kawasaki Frontale – Kengo Nakamura slotted a perfectly weighted through pass to RWB Elsinho. Elsinho then passed the ball back to an oncoming Yu Kobayashi. Kobayashi got a shot off but he was off balance, so his shot was easily saved by Kofu’s GK.
55th minute Substitution: Kawasaki Frontale – MF/FW Takayuki Funayama on for MF Kentaro Moriya
Moriya looks to have re-injured his abdominal region. Also, with this substitution, Kobayashi drops into the midfield and Funayama pushes up to the AM position.
58th minute: Kawasaki Frontale – GOAL – Kobayashi puts pressure on Kofu’s Shohei Abe and Kobayashi wins the ball. Kobayashi then finds Oshima, who then quickly finds Okubo. Okubo then gives a delicate flick pass to Kengo Nakamura, and Nakamura slots a pass to Renato. Renato hits a shot toward the far post and scores. It looked as if the Kofu defender hit the ball into the net before the ball broke the goal line, but nevertheless Renato’s shot was heading into the net and a goal is a goal.
Kawasaki Frontale 2 – 0 Ventforet Kofu
62nd minute Substitution: Ventforet Kofu – MF/DF Ryohei Arai on for DF Yukio Tsuchiya
70th minute Substitution: Ventforet Kofu – FW Junya Ito on for MF Sho Inagaki
73rd minute: Ventforet Kofu – Takuma Abe found some space after Kawasaki’s Elsinho was caught too far up the pitch. Abe found a CM who then switched the field of play.
78th minute: Kawasaki Frontale – Renato slotted a nice through pass on to Okubo’s run. Okubo then attempted a shot but it was saved.
82nd minute Substitution: Kawasaki Frontale – DF Yuto Takeoka on for AM Yu Kobayashi
Bringing on DF Takeoka on for AM Kobayashi is a signal for Frontale to kill off the match. Takeoka slots in the RWB position and Elsinho pushes up into the midfield.
Kobayashi also played quite well for his first start after injury.
86th minute Substitution: Ventforet Kofu – DF Masaki Watanabe on for MF Katsuya Ishihara
89th minute: Kawasaki Frontale – Okubo finds an overlapping Renato. Renato then sends the ball on the ground back into the center of the penalty area. Funayama is there to meet it and takes a shot, but it is blocked by a sliding defender.
92nd minute: Kawasaki Frontale – GOAL – Nakamura slices the Ventforet Kofu defense open with and nice through pass to Renato. Renato then uses his individual skill to get by a few Kofu defenders. At the same time, Okubo makes a run into the box drawing a few defenders’ attention, Renato uses Okubo as a decoy and slots the ball into the near post.
Kawasaki Frontale 3 – 0 Ventforet Kofu
2nd Half Observations:
1. Ventforet Kofu’s side backs look to be pushing up higher when in possession of the ball,
2. However, Kofu’s inability to finish off offensive moves with a shot gave Kawasaki opportunities to launch quick counterattacks.
3. After scoring their 2nd goal, Kawasaki has found it easier to move the ball around the pitch.
4. Ventforet Kofu’s Manager Higuchi seems to be unsure at how to approach Kawasaki’s potent and fluid attack.
5. Kofu’s Takuma Abe has looked dangerous when Elsinho has been caught out of position. Elsinho pushes up to Kofu’s defensive line on offense and this gives Takuma Abe space to work with (83rd minute). If Kofu is able to do this more consistently, they would have create more offensive opportunities.
6. Kawasaki Frontale did not take their foot off the pedal and kept looking for more goals.
1. Yoshito Okubo’s play is taking Kawasaki Frontale on another level. He drops back into the midfield to receive passes, which draws players to mark him and this creates space for Renato and Kobayashi to roam into. I am reluctant to call him a false nine because he also stays of the last defender to break in on goal. He is an advanced forward with a tendency to drop deep to receive passes.
2. Kofu played well and had more energy before the gave up the 2nd goal to Kawasaki. Kofu looks like a team that has lost 4 games in a row. Their transition from defense to offense, when they do have the opportunity to attack, is still slow so they are trying to attack 5 Kawasaki defenders with their 2 ST’s.
3. Kawasaki’s offensive is the most attractive in the J.League. With Kengo Nakamura pulling the strings in a deep-playmaker position, Yu Kobayashi and Renato combining with Yoshito Okubo, this team is very dangerous.
4. With a few more negative results, I can see Manager Higuchi get sacked by Ventforet Kofu.
Player of the Match: Yoshito Okubo – As predicted, Okubo scored a goal. Not only that, but he created and had a part in all 3 goals.
Next fixtures (April 29th):
vs. Kashiwa Reysol at home.
Kashiwa Reysol drew against Sagan Tosu 1-1. Kashiwa scored an early goal, but were not able to protect their lead as Tosu ST Yohei Toyoda scored to get Tosu a share of the points. Kashiwa’s results in the league have been inconsistent with a record of 2 wins, 2 draws, and 3 losses. However, Kashiwa have been performing well in the AFC Champions League.
vs. Urawa Reds at home.
Urawa beat Nagoya Grampus Eight at home 2-1. The Reds are undefeated in the league so far this season. Even though Urawa has the talent to bang in the goals, 4 out of their 5 wins this season have been by just one goal: two games with a 1-0 scoreline and two games with a 2-1 scoreline. Urawa also had to come from behind in 3 matches to get a result: against Shonan Bellmare in their season opener to win 3-1, against Kawasaki Frontale two draw 1-1, and against Yokohama F Marinos to win 2-1.
This shows maturity which Urawa lacked during the last few weeks of last season where they let the league championship slip from their grasp.