Kawasaki Frontale 2-3 S-Pulse
Fukumori 19 -------------------------------------------- Musaka 40
Kobayashi 44 ------------------------------------------- Yoshida 50
--------------------------------------------------------------- Murata 90
Sunday November 2nd, 2014
Todoroki Stadium, Kawasaki
DF Jakovic (76)
DF Yoshida (85)
MF Takagi T
Ishige on for Takeuchi (65)
Murata on for Omae (77)
Sugiyama on for Takagi T (92)
昨日覚えてる？ "Do you remember (what happened) yesterday?"
If she's asking that within seconds of waking up, chances are it isn't good.
I ventured, a vague dread suggesting there may have been more than one episode to which she referred.
"The bit where you couldn't walk?"
"Or the bit where you fell asleep on the kitchen floor?"
Unlike Murata then, I had clearly failed to cover myself in glory on Sunday night. Well, in a sense it had been coming. Since April I've been helping out with the Shimizu website, throwing up an English match summary after each game. This has been my absolute pleasure, and I've been more than happy to help. But for a fella used to standing behind the goal venting his anger at every throw in decision that went the wrong way, bottling it all up in the press box hasn't been easy. Especially when in the last few months the team has been underperforming so spectacularly.
Sunday then was my first time behind the goal since June, away at Kashima. It was just a Nabisco Cup group stage game, while in the league we sat comfortably, but unspectacularly, in the middle of J1. Not a lot was at stake. Things have changed. The 2200 travelling fans at Todoroki were in full battle cry mode from the outset. As an army they've been mobilised, and the message to the team, even if it hadn't been spelt out on a huge banner, was clear. We're with you.
Oenoki started with what's been working better of late. Kawai at left back and none of his favoured youngsters like Genta Miura and Mizutani in the first XI. I've not got a bad word to say about either of these players, or recent recruit Bueno, but as I previously said on here, now is not the time for a new manager to try and exert his stamp on the team. Stick with what's solid, get the points in the bag, and if you're still around next season, then fill your boots.
Watching from behind the goal, especially at Todoroki, isn't easy. The pitch is distant, the terrace incline is shallow, and it's genuinely hard to tell what's really going on anywhere beyond the near penalty area. What I do know is we played a lot better second half and deserved the win. No mean feat given Frontale were technically still in with a shot of the title at kick off. The three wins in our last five have still been interspersed with tepid displays against Hiroshima and Yokohama, but the desire we showed to pull us through on Sunday was noticeable. This is in no small part thanks to our support. I've been knocking around behind the goal for years now, and there was a real energy coming out of our end which set it above most other occasions. I said it before, but it's worth restating. In our darkest hour, the supporters have been unfalteringly fantastic, and it is them that is pulling the team towards safety.
So after the euphoric bedlam of Murata's impossibly tight shot beating Sugiyama (was the keeper expecting our number 22 to pull it back for Nova?) and the news that Cerezo and Omiya had both dropped points, I was such a good mood that I figured I'd skip the usual bullet train back to Shizuoka and save a few yen on the local line. This was fine, as the game gave no shortage of distraction to relive and pass those three hours, but therein lay my undoing. The Shinkansen allows you time for maybe a couple of cans, tops. That the local line gave me enough time to smash a six pack was hardly my fault. And I didn't force my better half to invite me to join her for the last hour of an all-you-can-drink course, now did I? Rightly or wrongly (mostly wrongly), that was several months of football frustration partly dealt with. It just took a few grovelling, well warranted apologies on Monday morning.
A top away day, but more than anything the most important thing to take from Saturday is that we're still two points from the relegation zone with three games to go. Moving in the right direction maybe, but in absolutely no position to do anything but fight harder. Home to Nagoya on the 22nd. Can see that one selling out. Like Sunday, and like the two games that remain after it, it's a must win. Absolute must win.
Low quality, but the whole game.