April 28, 2007: In the nine-year J.League history of Kawasaki Frontale, April 2007 will go down as a breakout month.
Not only did they leave Saitama Stadium with a landmark 2-1 victory over Urawa Reds, it was also when they displayed their true colours on the Asian stage.
Their two victories over Chunnam Dragons have enabled them to take a six-point lead in the AFC Champions League Group F with only two matches to play, and they will surely go on and clinch a place in the last eight.
Japan's poor record in the Asian Champions League is well documented, so for a J.League club to beat a Korean rival away and then at home on consecutive match days is a significant step forward, as they followed up their 3-1 victory in Korea with a 3-0 win at Todoroki on Wednesday night.
Unlike in their previous Champions League home game, the lame 1-1 draw with Bangkok University, Frontale were in J.League mood, and it was too much -- even for the robust, desperate Koreans.
They were strong and aggressive at the back, creative and hard-working in midfield, and fast and dangerous up front -- the combination of power, pace and organisation that has transformed them into one of Japan's most-feared teams.
I like the way the back three of Minowa, Terada and Ito really attack the ball when it is in the air, and don't wait for it to bounce. This is when mistakes can happen and confusion can set in, but the lack of errors, and the lack of risks, is what enables them to maintain their consistency.
The home game against Chunnam was actually closer than the 3-0 scoreline suggests. Turning round 1-0 behind, the Koreans really went for it in the second half and enjoyed long spells of possession. For a while it looked like Chunnam were the home team, taking the initiative and winning free kicks in dangerous areas, and Frontale the away team, soaking up the pressure and attacking quickly on the break.
But when the dynamo Juninho, who had opened the scoring, set up Jong Tae Se for Frontale's second in the 81st minute, the three points were in the bag, and Jong added a third just for good measure.
Jong (to use his AFC spelling, as opposed to his J.League name of Chong Tese) did a great job in the place of Ganaha, taking up good positions across the line and flying into challenges in true, swashbuckling Korean style.
The football month is not quite over, though, as Frontale have a home game with JEF United on Sunday. But whatever happens at Todoroki tomorrow, April 2007 has been a vintage month for the Kawasaki team.