Having been a little nervous about this game I was pleased to see that Makoto Tanaka was back in the starting line-up for Avispa, and that one of Oita’s 2 Korean strikers was absent.
Having said that I was still thinking that I would be happy with a draw in this game, and after 3 minutes it looked like I was correct to be nervous as Oita came close to an opening goal after a very fast counter-attack which led to a 3-on-3 situation. Fortunately there was no goal but the warning about Oita’s ability on the counter-attack hadn’t been heeded and for a second time Trinita raced forwards after stopping an Avispa attack and won a corner after Daiki blocked a shot in the box.
I’ve come to dread corners recently as we don’t seem to be able to defend them well at all, with Kamiyama staying on his line and not a lot of height in the side apart from Okubo who seems to have a timing issue with his jumping. Sure enough number 13 of Trinita had a near free header from the middle of goal and knocked an easy header in to take a 1-0 lead.
Oita have a very fast, clever passing game with 2 big strikers who are very willing to run and battle, and I was thinking my prediction of a defeat was looking very possible as they were going to be able to sit back and continue to fly forward on their excellent counter-attacks.
Avispa didn’t stop playing and with Nakamachi excellent again in midfield did always look like they had the chance to score an equaliser. Playing small triangles with Kudo and Genki down both wings they were always looking to slide Okamoto through the edge of the penalty area. From one of these attacks Avispa won a corner of their own. Right in front of the Ultras in great voice Nakamachi managed to meet the ball unopposed right in the middle of the goal and forced the ball over the line for the equaliser.
He has scored a lot of goals exactly like this in the recent run of good form. He isn’t a very tall player, but has excellent timing and possibly because of his relatively small height is not picked up by opposition teams at corners. If he continues scoring goals like this it won’t be long before other clubs start seeing him as the main threat at set pieces.
Staying at 1-1 until half-time the game occasionally looked like it might get out of control as a few of the players were not happy with the referee and started taking their frustration out on each other.
The 2nd half stayed much the same with Nakamachi working clever passes with the wing players and looking to slide Okamoto or Genki through on goal. Okubo was again mostly ineffective but did do a couple of nice flick-ons which led to chances without ever reatlly threatening a goal.
Having been under pressure for much of the half Oita suddenly had a chance as their Korean #11 showed good technique to hit a volley from the edge of the box. Heading into the far edge of the goal Kamiyama pulled off a great save to tip it onto the post.
After 60 minutes Yusuke Tanaka made a welcome return from injury to replace Okamoto and made an immediate impact. I hadn’t realised quite how fast he is, and he kept running the whole time he was on the pitch; making tackles in midfield, hurrying the keeper, and offering a real threat with pace which Avispa otherwise don’t have.
Looking like the most likely route to a winning goal for either team it was a surprise that Okubo was key in actually getting it. Receiving the ball in the middle of the box and surrounded by 3 defenders he was hacked down for a penalty with 5 minutes left to play.
Getting up to take it himself he took a terrible penalty kick, which the goalkeeper seemed to dive too early for and allowed to slide under himself and be fumbled into the goal to give Avispa what looked to be a winning goal.
The crowd started to celebrate the win, but were left very thankful to Kamiyama again as in the last minute of the game he pulled off a 2nd incredible save after Oita had done another fast counter-attack down the wing with #9 directing a good header into the corner of the goal. They should have still socred from the rebound, but it was instead blazed over the bar to ensure Avispa would take all 3 points.