This must win game from last Sunday was put into context by JEF United losing to Yokohama FC on the Saturday before. The players and fans all knew that if they could get 3 points against the bottom club in the division they would open up a 4 point gap with just 6 weeks left to play.
The team starting the match had a new face as Jong Min Lee came into the team in place of the suspended Nakajima. This was different to the team which had been listed in the match-day program (along with a 2nd change as Jogo was playing in place of the listed Hideya), so may have been a late change.
Playing a against the weakest team in the division it was a good game to making a debut, but even taking this into account he played very well. Looking strong defensively, and accepting the ball in attack it may not be a straight forward decision to put Nakajima back in the team next week.
With Jumbo showing some better form in recent weeks it was no surprise to see him starting, but the team seemed to have more faith in their ability to play and weren’t just pumping balls up for him to try to flick on. They still did this some times, but with the potential to work the wings it was not as predictable and easy to defend against as it sometimes can be.
Kitakyushu were finding it difficult to get out of their own half, with Avispa bossing the midfield in a way I haven’t seen before. Kitakyushu were the weakest team I have seen so far by some distance.
Through continued pressure Avispa were creating chances, with a couple of these falling to Jogo who is still getting into good positions but seems to have lost all confidence in front of goal. Hopefully he will score soon and be back.
Winning a couple of corners Kudo’s delivery was not as good as it has been, with balls being overhit. The second of these was collected on the far wing by Sueyoshi who cut past a defender onto his left foot and hit a better cross right onto Nakamachi’s head. Playing the ball back across goal it was met by Genki to score the opening goal which had looked to be coming for a while.
After the goal Avispa were still looking for another to make the game safe, but were so secure in their lead that Shinoda made Genki and Kudo switch wings. It was the first time I had seen them do this. I don’t know if it was just as an experiment to see how effective it would be with wingers cutting in rather than going round the outside, or if it was just to provide Lee with more cover from the more defensive Kudo.
After 25 minutes a Kitakyushu broke down on the right wing with the ball quickly distributed to Jumbo for a counter. While not the fastest counter-attack in the world the ball did manage to find Tatsunori using his great stamina to have broken forward into a right wing position. Playing a great cross onto Jumbo’s head the goalkeeper was left with no chance of stopping Avispa doubling their lead.
At this point it looked like Avispa were going to be able to score 5-6 goals and open up a good goal difference over the teams chasing them in the league, but this never really happened.
While not really ever being threatened, and not risking getting any further suspensions or injuries the rest of the game was played out at a fairly relaxed pace. 3 points secure and a 4 point gap between them and JEF United with all of the team available for selection against the harder game against Tokushima next week.