Sunday, 30 August 2020

Kawasaki Five-O


Let's not beat ourselves up too much about this one. As a Brighton fan, when we play away at Liverpool or Man City we know we're often on a hiding to nothing. The wealth and power gap of some leagues fortunately doesn't exist in Japan, but that's not to say some teams aren't a lot better than others. Kawasaki are currently very good, and we're currently one of the others. 

That said, this was still pretty poor in places.
Two of our goals were the direct result of farting about and making silly mistakes. Towards the end we threatened to switch off entirely. This really has to be addressed. 

We should have a scored a couple of times but didn't. Would it have changed the result? Probably not. Had it not been for Okubo in goal the score would have been higher earlier, so I guess he was a bright point.

Not going to dwell on this, because that's the boss's job. On Saturday we welcome Sun Kings, Kashiwa Reysol. I've always wondered how Kashiwa and Chiba, neighbours and rivals, both ended up wearing yellow. Answers on a postcard. Speaking of sunshine, it's a lovely morning, so I'm off to get me some some vitamin D.

Onwards and upwards! 

Thursday, 27 August 2020

So long, Tese (and the Yokohamas)


All things considered, Tese joining Niigata on loan was not a huge shock, but it's sad to see him go. It's no exaggeration to say in his time with us, the Korean has become one of S-Pulse's best. He's strong, he's a goal scorer, he's a leader, he's principled, and he's passionate. He's also one charming mofo. When I was lucky enough to receive a video greeting from players and staff on my wedding day, Tese's message was heartfelt, and genuinely funny.

He was a steamroller in his golden boot J2 season, and without him we'd have probably missed out on promotion. We were lucky to get him when we did, and retain him after that. You won't find me waxing lyrical about too many players, but Tese was an S-Pulse great, and he'll be missed.

As for the whys, it's easy to see the logic in Cklamovski's actions. We're in a transitional season, that's obvious. Nobody wants to lose matches, but if you're building for the following year and have the luxury of not worrying about relegation, why would you fall back on older players? Give the youngsters minutes, try things out, and create the team you want. Makes total sense.

Tese was never going to be happy warming the bench, so you can't blame him for wanting out. He loves Shizuoka and S-Pulse, and probably wanted to see out his career with us, but that's football. I doubt we'll see his return as a player, but he's up there with Okazaki, and will always be welcome. Good luck, fella!

S-Pulse 3-4 Yokohama FM / 2-3 Yokohama FC

Didn't see any of the YFC game, as we were driving back from deepest, darkest Suffolk (which was actually very nice). The unbeaten run is very much over, but if the YFM match was anything to go by, there's no need to panic. It's a transitional year after all, not a transitional few months.

The YFM game I watched with friends on location at our mini get-away, which included a mate's son. 

He's been an S-Pulse fan for the last few years, but Wednesday was the first time he got to watch us live. It echoed my first S-Pulse game, also a 4-3, but on that occasion we won. Wednesday may not have had the result we wanted, but if there was a choice between that and a 0-0 bore draw, I'm glad he got some excitement. It was entertaining, and up to the last few minutes really could have gone either way. Against the champions, can't really argue too much. 

Next up, away at Kawasaki, who are threatening to run away with it this year. We've discovered our scoring boots a bit more of late, but our leaky defence will be sure to get tested. What's the worst that could happen? Bring it on. :)

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

What Arano Said


If you read our previous post, you'll know I was far from enamoured with the way Arano carried on. I've been watching football a long time, but was genuinely surprised at his behaviour. Rough challenges and a bit of needle is one thing, but there's a level of fair play than generally underpins professional sport. What the Sapporo man did was ugly and childish.

Kaneko did have a joke with him after, and they were both all smiles, but things wouldn’t have been so chummy if the keeper had gone the right way. Kaneko tweeted the gist of the exchange:

“Lots of people have been asking what Arano said to me before the penalty. He was like “You’re putting it in the bottom right, aren’t you?” “Kaneko-kun’s* taking it?” “If you score this, how many's that for the season?” for up to a minute. LOL We’re not particularly acquaintances or anything, but after I scored he said “nice goal”.

*kun being an affectionate suffix usually reserved for young boys, or close male mates.

So appearances weren’t deceiving. He was trying to get under his skin and put him off. That's unsportsmanlike conduct, and that's against the rules. I’m not naive enough to think snide comments and distraction tactics don’t go on, but not as flagrant and bare-faced as this. Come on J. League. Crush this before it becomes a regular occurrence.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Urawa 1-1 S-Pulse 3-1 Sapporo - Back of the Net!


Urawa 1-1 S-Pulse
It's getting better man! Away at Urawa (speaking from memory now - it was a week ago) was a game of two halves. We may easily have gone in at half time with the lead, but didn't. Wastefulness in front of goal has been a bit of an issue this season, and it almost cost us another game. Almost, but didn't! We've been pretty great from set plays, and so it was from one that our deserved equaliser came. Valdo headed it home late on to send the empty away end crazy, and make it three unbeaten. No small potatoes given our start to the season.

We're not talking about the midweek League Cup game. 
S-Pulse 3-1 Sapporo
It's worth noting that while we lost our opening five, four of those teams currently sit in the top six. So the new-boss factor was, as it turns out, not made any easier by playing teams who begun the year strongly. We may not have realised it, but we were dealt a tricky starting hand. While we've seen results improve against more mid-table teams, that's not to take away from the better performances and the strides we've made. Simply put, we're playing better football.
Continuing in that vein, yesterday we welcomed Urawa's ex-boss Petrović and his Sapporo side to town, and rode out clear victors. Dodgy start to 2020 no doubt, but this is much more like it, and what we had shown flashes of earlier in the year.
Our 1st half stoppage time penalty was dispatched well, and done so despite some Consadole numpty (Arano, was it?) giving it more rabbit than Sainsbury's in Kanako's earhole beforehand. Not satisfied with that, he then got right in his face as he lined up to take it, and bellowed something as he struck it. Bloke needs to get a grip. An embarrassment to his team mates, who were actually doing their job by trying to defend the penalty.
1-0 at half time, and that cup of Bovril tasted a little bit sweeter. Second half continued as the first ended: open and balanced. Annoyingly a stonking freekick from Suzuki levelled things up 7 minutes after the restart. You may question Umeda's positioning, but the strike itself was quality, and annoying or not, 1-1 certainly wasn't unjust.
Tanaka's second yellow (one of seven for Sapporo) less than 20 minutes after coming on at half time certainly helped matters. The extra man showed, and as the game went on we had a number of good chances to regain the lead. Alas, it was a familiar, frustrating story. For our decent build up work or speedy countering, we just couldn't manage to breach the Hokkaido goal. Enter Renato, stage right. You've probably already seen it, but if not, here's the highlights. Renato's belter is at 5:08:

It was one of those you think that, with the strength he's cracked it, it's heading for the car park. Next thing you know though, the keeper's on the floor, his fingers stinging, the ball's in the goal, and your neighbours are wondering what the hell's so exciting at 12:30 in the afternoon. I hear the net's still receiving trauma counselling.
Carlinho's goal deep in injury time was the icing, and great for confidence. 2-1's a win, but 3-1's that bit more convincing. Deserved win. Four unbeaten. Better stuff from Pete's Dragons!

So yeah, things are getting there. I was sure we had potential despite the wonky start, and we're starting to show it. Work to be done of course, but there are reasons to be cheerful. Next up Kashima in the cup, but I think we're already out of that. Far more pressing is away at Sendai on Saturday who sit one spot above us in 13th. I'll be in the car, so won't be able to watch that one. Bit of a bugger, but there you go.

As the Consadole match was billed as the Thai Derby, if you think I can I sign off without completing a Partridge trifecta, you are sorely mistaken.
Have a smashing week!

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

S-Pulse 4-2 Oita - Socially Distancing in the Rain


I may be wrong, but the last time I remember an S-Pulse game being stopped because of the weather was away at Sendai, 2012. Check out the sky at 1:15 in the afternoon:

Biblical! We didn't have the hail, but Sunday's rain was something crazy. You could barely see across the pitch, so there wasn't much choice. Social distancing so diligently observed went out the window as everyone dove for cover.

With the rain switching from drizzle to power shower, it necessitated the 2nd half drinks break be extended by an hour. Had there been no let up in sight, you wonder if the game would have been abandoned. As it is, there's already a stack of games squeezed into the next few months.

The rain gods were kind. After the storm clouds passed, we picked up where we left off: scoring goals from set-pieces. Earlier on Seok Ho had popped in a header from a corner, with this added to by Carlinhos's brilliantly taken hook shot, also coming from a corner.

It might right a lot in England, but rarely like it can in Japan
For a billion bonus points, name the stadium at which I'm taking refuge

After the deluge abated Tatsuta scored from a corner, and Valdo nodded in a freekick. Props to Tatsuta - underling what he showed us against G. Osaka, he’s got a decent header on him. Questions could be asked of Oita’s keeper, but no taking away from our four goals. All well executed in their own way.

I'd had to head out on the hour (after the game was meant to have ended), so missed the restart and climax. Oita scored two in two to make orange arseholes slightly twitchy for the final few minutes, so I'm glad I swerved those sweats. Oita's late brace were worrying in how easily they cut through our back line, but let's not dwell on the negative. I'm sure the boss is aware, and they'll be working on it.

Beating Oita is always that little bit more enjoyable given they played antagonists in Part 1 of The UKU Cup Final Defeat Trilogy. We now also have an identical record to Kashima, so are no longer bottom. Joint 17th with nobody below us we might be, but we're not 18th! Sunday was just what we needed after the season's less than ideal start, and we can use this to kick on.

We've been up and down, but there are good signs. In Peter we trust!
Take it away, Robin...

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Sagan Tosu 1-1 S-Pulse - de Geaja-vu


Did Umeda's balls-up for Tosu's equaliser remind anyone of de Gea's on Sunday? A low shot the keeper should deal with, but didn't. Fair play to him, he's a 21 year old lad (22 tomorrow - HBD!), who's not long made his professional debut. He'll be more annoyed than anyone, so chin up Umeda!

Saved! Oh...

You might say we were unlucky not to add a second, but the phrase "few and far between" best describes our chances. Far more worrying was the inability to either keep possession, or regain it. We were absent in midfield seemingly every time Tosu went forward, and when they did, there was also little in the way of a defensive line. It's bizarre, because we've played, albeit fitfully, very well at points this season. At least as well as you can and still lose your first 5 games.

It makes we think the boss is still experimenting, because teams don't usually jump from dominating matches against half decent teams, to being on the backfoot for most of others against worse opposition. Yes, we did go close once or twice, but Tosu were far more dangerous, and will see this as two points dropped. Keep in mind they hadn't even scored this season before today. #grrr

Not too much else to say about this one, other than it wasn't even nearly good enough. This was us against Cerezo Osaka, while we can play like we did against Gamba Osaka. There may be no relegation, but time is starting to run out though for Cklamovski to find something that works.

We're bottom of the table with no wins after 6. To say this can't go on is stating the bleeding obvious, so starting on Sunday we turn the corner. Looking on the bright side, we've not scored the least in J1, neither have we conceded the most.

Come on S-Pulse, for fuck's sake.

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Kobe 3-1 S-Pulse - NO RELEGATION IN 2020


Have I mentioned yet that there's no relegation from J1 this season? While much good rarely comes from a pandemic, that is one tiny Coronabonus for three J1 teams. 600k lives lost, but you know. Every cloud.

The first 45 was very even, and there really wasn't much to choose between the two. Given we're of relatively modest means and are in transition, while Kobe are in what, year 4? of being bank-rolled by trillionaires-with-Barcelona-contacts, it was a decent half. That said, even since Daddy Warbucks took over, Vissel are still only finishing a couple of spots above their historical average. For what they splash, returns of 7th, 8th, or 10th are pretty lame. I'd be getting twitchy by now if I wore Rakuten purple.

Where's the Kobe Gyu?

Not to say they didn't deserve to win today, because they did. The scoreline was pretty fair. We should have gone in at the break level, but deep into injury time we couldn't defend a corner at the near post. Bosh. 0-1. The neighbours hear me swear, and the manager's team talk needs changing.

The second half was a different story. We failed to really trouble the hosts, while they made the best of a couple of good chances. Defeat 5 of 5, which is obviously pretty crap (fun fact: it's as bad a start as is possible!) but we have had a few difficult games in there, and we're in transition blah blah blah.

Brewdog, take the pain away

Some easier games are coming up (on paper), though. We just need to keep our spirits up, our adrenaline pumping, and remember what we can do. Because we can play football. I've seen it. And we can score goals. I've seen that, too. (I was always told you can't start sentences with Because or And. Guilty. Unorthodox. Sue me.)

Tosu away on Wednesday. Currently above us with 2 points, but get this: Played 5 - Goals Scored: Sweet Fanny Adams. So come on boys, this is it. We go there, we score. Tosu make it 6 without netting. We go home happy. I get to tweet about a win, and everything seems that little bit brighter.

Right enough of this nonsense. It's 3pm, the sun's out, and I have a BBQ to attend. I may even wear my 2017 home shirt. That's how optimistic I'm feeling. Collective chins up, S-Pulse fans - the good times are coming, they're just under construction.