On one of the hottest days of the year so far Avispa welcomed a Yokohama side carrying National Team legend Kazuyoshi Miura (not playing today)and a run of bad form which would make even Avispa fans worried.
Before the game even started Avispa looked like a team who had overcome their run of 4 defeats earlier in the season, and looked ready to push for an early goal. Choosing to kick-off they worked a training ground routine with Okubo playing down the right wing to try to collect a ball into the corner. This worked quite well, with a half chance created and missed, but also seemed to wake up Yokohama who also started at a high tempo.
The referee seemed to be keen to blow for any tackle around the box, resulting in one for Avispa which Okubo inevitably headed for a goal kick, and a couple for Yokohama from each side of the pitch. The second of these being headed in by the Yokohama #9 to take the lead. I don’t know if the Avispa team weren’t ready, or if it was just terrible marking, but despite being top scorer in the division he was totally unmarked, with Kamiyama not even challenging for the ball despite it being about 2m in front of him. It was particularly annoying to concede to this as it had been a very soft foul by Genki.
Avispa tried to answer the goal immediately, with Genki going on the attack and creating a chance for Nakamachi to strike from a central position in the middle of the penalty area. He struck it well, but the Yokohama keeper pulled off a very good diving save to prevent the equaliser.
As in previous games Avispa seemed to be concentrating solely on the left wing to create attacks, with the central midfield area being won comfortably by Yokohama. After a neat piece of skill by the Yokohama #18 a free-kick was rightly awarded in the same area of the pitch as that which had resulted in a goal, and after the ease at which Yokohama had scored he first it seemed inevitable Fukuoka would be 2-0 down. Fortunately Daiki was around to make a last ditch clearance about 1m from the goal with Kamiyama still rooted to his goal-line.
The game was still very open and an Avispa corner was spread back out wide after an initial clearance with the subsequent cross being headed onto the bar from a difficult angle by Daiki.
With about 15 minutes of the game still to play Yokohama seemed to realise they were in the lead and closed the game down a bit. Still controlling the midfield their #9 was starting to show why he is division top scorer with some good movement to always be between the central defenders and available for a through ball from Yokohama’s tricky midfield.
During this passage of play the Avispa midfield was providing very little assistance to the defence, while striker Okamoto managed to find himself tackling back in the left-back position to try to get the ball back, to then find there were no options in attack.
The half-time break couldn’t come soon enough, and when the team emerged early they seemed to have been revitalised and playing much better.
Genki was playing like a man possessed, which was a very nice change from previous games where he had gone missing when the team was behind, and started making chance after chance. From one of his runs on the left a free kick was awarded which was duly aimed right at Okubo’s head, only for the Yokohama #20 to clearly elbow him in the head. Missed by the referee it could have easily resulted in a penalty and red card.
Yokohama were starting to put 9 or 10 behind the ball, and Takahashi was brought on for Okamoto for some fresh energy to try to force a goal. The penalty shout had just seemed to make Genki more attacking and he kept beating defenders, creating chances and winning free-kicks. One of these free-kicks was hit straight at the defensive wall by Sueyasu but ballooned up into the penalty area where Daiki got into a bundle with the goal-keeper and a couple of defenders with the ball boucing out onto the bar. Coming back out to Tanaka he kept his composure to send the ball back into the unguarded net and equalise for Fukuoka in the 72nd minute.
Having scored one it seemed likely that a buoyant Avispa team attacking like this would be the more likely to get a winner, with Takahashi playing like a man competing for his first team place and pressuring the defence at all opportunities.
A mistake in the Yokohama defence allowed Takahashi through on a 3 on 2, having been out of the team he was probably entitled to take a shot but would probably have been better advised to cross into the middle as his shot was blocked for a throw-in.
The resulting throw-in was sent right into the box with Avispa pushing a lot of men forward to attack and was allowed to bounce in the area by Yokohama. Bouncing straight over the #20 who was lucky to still be on the pitch, Genki slipped in front of a defender to slide the ball under the goal-keeper. The Avispa fans went wild, and #20 seemed to be visibly riled by the jubilation being shown by the home crowd.
With 5 minutes left to play the home crowd started to celebrate the win, to the further annoyance of #20 and #14 for Yokohama, but may have been doing so too early as Kamiyama was called upon to make a good diving near post save, and then seemed to have been told to come off his line for a couple of corners which wasn’t totally convincing punches clear, but better than staying on his line.
Avispa Fukuoka 2 : 1 Yokohama FC
Half time entertainment
Some people from a local TV News station came and announced the results of Avispa Fukuoka’s best looking player. Results: 3rd – the 3rd choice goal-keeper. 2nd – Miyaji. 1st – Nakamachi.