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Sunday, June 17, 2007
Frontale waste chance to gain ground on Gamba
KAWASAKI — With their full complement of forwards, Kawasaki Frontale possess a fluid attacking threat able to dissect defenses far better than the one presented by Kashiwa Reysol on Saturday.
But with Juninho suspended and Magnum injured it was down to Kazuki Ganaha and Masaru Kurotsu to come up with the goods up front and they ultimately didn't do the second-highest scorers in the J. League justice in a 0-0 draw that can be chalked down as an opportunity lost to make up ground on league leaders Gamba Osaka.
Ganaha continues to look rusty despite having had plenty of time to find his feet after returning from his doping suspension the Okinawan forward has only one league goal this year while Kurotsu was guilty of wasting Kawasaki's best chance when presented with an open goal with just over a quarter of an hour to go. His provider was Kengo Nakamura, a cut above the rest of the fare on offer as the Japan international played with elan throughout on the sun-baked Todoroki turf.
With Nakamura in such tantalizing form from start to stop, Frontale's brilliant Brazilian Juninho must have been desperate to get in on the action. With those two in tandem, the game would surely have been a walk in the sunshine for the hosts.
But toward the end it was anything but as the tide turned momentarily in Kashiwa's favor. Cote d'Ivoire substitute Seydou Doumbia should have scored late on when he found himself clean through, but a cooler head was needed than the one on the 19-year-old's shoulders, the striker dragging his shot embarrassingly wide.
Kawasaki coach Takashi Sekizuka had no doubts Frontale suffered with the absence of his boys from Brazil and the coach admitted he was forced to play the injured Yusuke Mori, who came off at halftime.
"I feel bad that we made Mori play despite his injury, but because we're missing the two foreigners we had to have him play," said Sekizuka. "Because of his condition we wanted to rest him but he seemed to do well for the 45 minutes he was playing. But it was a big problem that the two foreigners were not there today.
"I felt that we played well, the players connected well and created many chances," said Sekizuka. "We were pushing till the end but it just didn't happen."
A consolation for Frontale was to move up to second place on 24 points, 10 points behind Gamba, which beat Nagoya Grampus Eight 3-1 on Saturday evening. Kashima Antlers thrashed Sanfrecce Hiroshima 5-1 to move up to third, also on 24 points.
Urawa Reds, who with Jubilo Iwata is also on 24, have the chance to reclaim second position against FC Tokyo at Ajinomoto Stadium on Sunday. Kashiwa has 23 points.
Reysol coach Nobuhiro Ishizaki said his players struggled with the scorching heat.
"The players found it extremely hard to play in the conditions, especially the midfielders" said Ishizaki. "We had a lot of chances but we just didn't capitalize on them."
Nakamura nearly opened the scoring in spectacular fashion on the half-hour mark at Todoroki Stadium with a strike namesake and Japan national team colleague Shunsuke would have been proud of, but he pulled his first-time left-foot volley across the face of goal.
Minutes later, Nakamura was again the impetus for Kawasaki when going forward, the baby-faced midfielder passed to the left for Kazuhiro Murakami, who whipped in a left-foot cross only for the incoming Kurotsu to miss the ball by centimeters with an open-goal going begging.
Frontale had the better of things both before and after the break but couldn't find the break through goal. Reysol nearly did in fortuitous fashion minutes after the restart when Eiji Kawashima flapped at Alceu's speculative effort from 25 meters, the 'keeper gathering the ball on his second go.
Kurotsu had a glorious chance to put Kawasaki ahead with just over quarter of an hour to go and again it was Nakamura who was the creator, picking the ball up in the center circle and advancing forward before funneling the ball through, only for Kurotsu to side foot the ball the wrong side of the post.
Sekizuka had seen enough. Off came Kurotsu, on came Satoshi Kukino, but it was Reysol who went close next, when Minoru Suganuma cut in from the left and flashed a wicked shot from the edge of the area just past Kawashima's right-hand post. But neither team could ultimately find the break through goal.