Through a combination of Tokushima playing better this season than may have been expected, and Avispa dropping points during April, The two teams played each other today equal on league points with Avispa only ahead through goal difference.
Coming after the game against Giravanz Kitakyushu where Fukuoka had won all 3 points, but done so in fortuitous style, I was hoping there might be a change for this game; especially up front. The manager didn’t agree with me and the team lined up with the same team as last week, Okubo as a target man with Okamoto keeping his place as support striker.
Expecting the worst I was pleasantly surprised by Avispa starting the game at a fast pace, and within 3-4 minutes winning a free-kick after a push about 5m outside the area. Predictably Nakajima lined up to take it, but less predictably he hit it really well, firing a power shot straight at the far post where it hit the post. If the Tokushima keeper did get his fingertips to it, it was a very good save.
Encouraged by this early effort and success of their work rate Avispa started the best 20 minutes I have seen them play this season, passing the ball around within the Tokushima half and not giving the opposition the chance to get hold of the ball. One of the key players within this was Sueyoshi who has developed as the season has gone one, and when playing well within his defensive midfielder role allows the other players to pay at a more advanced level.
After 22 minutes there was a corner from the left which Kudo flighted in well to be met by Nakamachi in the middle. Continuing his goal-scoring run he headed it down, with the goal-keeper only reaching it after it had passed the goal-line. The goal wasn’t immediately given, and Avispa seemed to score again only for it to be cleared from behind the line again with the referee giving the goal.
Avispa continued to stay in control until the end of the half, but were lucky to stay ahead after a counter attack just before half-time was headed just wide of the post after a right wing cross which wouldhave given Kamiyama no chance.
Coming out after half-time Avispa seemed to again have a fast pace at the start and created a chance on the edge of the box where Yamagata hit a good shot low to the left corner of the goal. With the keeper beaten it clipped the inside of the post and rolled all the way along the goal line to hit the other post and bounce out. Just missing Hideya running in it was cleared by a Vortis defender and the chance was gone.
Perhaps energised by their luck Tokushima started to come into the game and started to hold the ball better and make some chances. they were helped in this by Nakajima going off injured and Miyaji taking a few minutes to get used to playing at left-back in his absence.
On one of their attacks the referee decided to award a penalty against the otherwise excellent Tanaka who had been judged to pull back on the striker as he ran into the box.
After hitting both posts it had seemed inevitable that Tokushima would come back into the game, but through a very weak penalty decision it didn’t seem fair. Running up to strike past the imposing figure of Kamiyama in goal the Vortis striker hit hard to the left of Kamiyama. It was a good height for a keeper, but hit very hard, and Kamiyama pulled off an excellent save with his left arm to maintain the lead.
Tokushima continued to make a few chances, but Avispa held the ball with confidence to limit their attacking threat. At the back Tanaka and Daiki were immense and kept stopping attack after attack before a shot on goal to be made.
Late on in the game Oyama was brought on for Okamoto and again impressed me with his running and was part of a couple of very nice moves. More importantly his closing down limited the space of the defence to launch attacks and Avispa were able to hold out for the important win.
A marching band with some cheerleaders waving flags around a bit. It looked quite good, but they played for the expensive seats rather than the far side of the pitch where the majority of fans sit.