The Regista Diaries – April 20, 2021

So here we are with a new column, that we’ll try to extend until the end of the season. Every weekend we’ll try to watch two games, one from J1 and one from J2. Maybe sometimes there will be space for J3 in the int’l breaks, but those two will be our main topic. “The Regista Diaries” reviews two games we watched throughout last weekend, so let’s start!

Kawasaki Frontale v. Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-1

It seemed pretty unplausible to stop the run of Kawasaki Frontale, ten wins and one draw in eleven games. A true dominium over J1 League, which Sanfrecce Hiroshima hoped somehow to pause. The two clubs were coming from very different results the previous weekend: Sanfrecce surrender at home against Shonan Bellmare, while the leaders of J1 had two blazing wins in three days against FC Tokyo and Avispa Fukuoka.

In the starting eleven, Oniki opted to rotate only one player: there’s no space for Joao Schmidt, with Daiya Tono was confirmed on the pitch, but with a strange role. Tono was fielded as a center midfielder, renouncing to Kazuki Kozuka. On the other side, Jofuku couldn’t count on Douglas Vieira and had to pick a strange trident up front: Asano on one side, veteran Kashiwa on the other and Junior Santos as the lone striker.

The first half told us what we already knew: there’s no force stopping Kawasaki. The home side created a decent amount of chances, breaking the deadlock at the 38th minute: ball through by Mitoma for Yamane, whose shot was stopped by Osako. With the ball still in his feet, he passed the ball to a open Wakizaka, who instead chose to assist Ienaga for his sixth goal of the season.

At half time, no one would have thought of anything but a Frontale win. In fact, the home side found again the net for the double advantage, but the goal from Mitoma was (rightfully) ruled off-side because of an irregular position by Leandro Damião. In that moment, the game slipped away from Kawasaki’s hands and Sanfrecce found what they needed: some relief and a couple of chances.

Around the 65th minute, a long goal kick from Osako targeted Junior Santos, who dribbled a stunned Jesiel and brought the Kawasaki defenders for a ride, targeting the goal. When his shot hit the post, Morishima was there for the rebound and an unfortunate Ao Tanaka helped pushed the ball into the net. From there, the game was basically blocked, with the guests actually having the biggest chance to win it all.

Junior Santos was able to run again over Jesiel, but then lost the moment and kept the ball too for himself instead of passing the ball to two open teammates. Instead, the J1 leaders tumbled: the five changes didn’t produce any improvement, with Frontale incapable of creating something more to clinch the three points. At the end of the day, the guests can be surely satisfied to bring away one point from the Todoroki Stadium.

If we could have one takeaway from this Sunday about Frontale, it’s that when they’re not able to close the game, they’re exposed and vulnerable. As long as their stars are on the pitch, they can defeat anyone without too many efforts; unfortunately, their B-unit isn’t at the same level and most of all lacks a player capable of creating chances by himself (Kozuka could be that player, but it’s not in Oniki’s plans for now).

What about Sanfrecce? After losing to Bellmare, they can feel good about their current position on the league. Even without Douglas Vieira and Kawabe, they were able to snatch one point; surely they need to fix something, since their first half was dreadful and they have a couple of problems. Toshihiro Aoyama, unfortunately, looks like the shell of the player he used to be and Junior Santos isn’t an associative player (explaining why both Kashiwa and Marinos passed the chance of keeping him).

Matsumoto Yamaga v. Ventforet Kofu 3-3

A strange match took place at the SUNPRO Alwin Stadium on Saturday: this could have been easily a game between teams running for a playoffs’ spot, but both are struggling. Surely Kofu were in a better place, being seventh despite a three matches-winless run. Different matter for Yamaga, who revolutionized the roster and kept their savior manager Kei Shibata, but it wasn’t proving to be enough.

Matsumoto were mostly in need of another victory, after having defeated only Blaublitz Akita until now. As you might have witnessed from their starting eleven, though, they were struggling find the pace they had in the second part of 2020: Sakano started from the bench, Lucão is still nowhere to be seen and then Shibata relied on young Ayumu Yokoyama (class 2003) in front of Kunitomo Suzuki and Shuto Kawai.

Some absences were clear also in the starting eleven of the guests, who saw Arita on the bench and Mitsuhira missing from the matchday’s squad. Gakuto Notsuda has been tested as a center midfielder, while Motoki Hasegawa is playing alongside Jun Izumisawa – who’s in our view in the MVP conversation for 2021 – behind the lone striker, another young gun, Yoshiki Torikai (class 1998).

Despite Yamaga took the lead pretty soon – Kunitomo Suzuki’s header was enough to beat Okanishi –, the guests exploited what Matsumoto are lacking this season: a solid defense. That wasn’t there either even when the Ptarmigans had their amazing run in 2020, but at least they were scoring a lot. Now, instead, the defense looked pretty bleak, with keeper Kentaro Kakoi being the most valuable element of a shaky department.

And yet, it was indeed Kakoi who misjudged a corner and gifted young Hasegawa the equalizer, while Yamaga proved to be insufficient in marking the opponents, leaving them alone to score: first Hasegawa from a simple cross in the 35th minute, then Mendes on a corner four minutes later created a two goals-cushion for the guests. All seemed gone for Matsumoto, who instead struggled to create real chances without a proper target man.

When Shibata put Sakano in for the second half, things gradually shifted. In a certain sense, Ventforet just tried to do time management, hoping to not concede anything. Once though Kunitomo Suzuki found his second goal, the game drastically changed and, in the end, Suzuki was able to celebrate his hat-trick after taking advantage of a wonderful assist by Hiroyuki Mae and the confusion in the Kofu’s defense.

The game gifted goals and emotions, but delivered a couple of crucial conclusions. Kofu are still too volatile to administrate the match, even when they’re cruising: they lacked the calm to close the game once they conceded the 2-3. Meanwhile, Yamaga had to look themselves in the mirror: they’re now nineteenth, with the third-worst defense of the championship and they’re far from away from the good they showed in the final run of last season.

Thank you all for following us on different channels. As you know, Twitter and the website are the main pillars of this operation, but the activity is growing on Instagram. We appreciate your support: 本当にありがとうございます and we’ll catch up soon for another round of both leagues. Stay tuned.

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