Avispa 0 – 3 Albirex
69′ Bruno Lopes
12 Shots 13
7 Corners 3
3 Yellow 1
1 Red 0
At half-time with the scores at 0-0 I’d said that even if Avispa went on to lose the match there had been enough positives in the game to not really matter. 3 sloppy goals and a red card later I can’t say I was quite so positive.
The game started with Avispa showing off 3 of their new signings in Kim Min Je at left back, Matsuura on the left wing and Sho Naruoka playing in the hole behind Jogo. Shigematsu and Shimizu started on the bench with Hideya a surprising choice for right wing.
In an entertaining opening to the game Kim Min Je and Matsuura were the first to catch the eye with some all action play down the left wing. I was a little concerned by Kim Min Je before the game as he is the only left back we have really so if he didn’t work out there could be problems. I needn’t have worried as his attacking intent, full blooded tackling and willingness to play made him a favorite with the fans within about 10 minutes.
Matsuura is also a player who looks to do something with the ball every time he gets it, even if he is next to his own penalty box. He seems to have the close control and low centre of gravity to pull it off but will surely get caught out at some point during the season.
It was these two combining which led to the first clear chance of the game as a cross from Kim went right across the penalty box to Hideya who should have done better with his shot. Sueyoshi did a little better with a follow up but it went wide.
The game remained open and a chance fell to Naruoka after a headed clearance from a corner on the left, but his shot lacked power. At the other end the Avispa defence were pulling out some great challenges in one-on-one situations to get the better of Niigata’s 3 foreign strikers, and when they did get caught out were thankful of some terrible finishing by the Brazilians. Firstly a horrible slice from the outside of Michael’s foot when it looked like he was trying to be too clever, and then a shot blazed over the bar by debutant Bruno Lopes; both unopposed on about the penalty spot.
The teams went into the break level, with Avispa perhaps enjoying the better of the first half and thankful that what looked like a nasty injury to the lively Matsuura wasn’t bad enough to have him substituted.
Straight from the kick-off in the second half some awful defending from Albirex allowed Naruoka a chance inside the area as he broke through a challenge but he shot tamely. Naruoka wasn’t having an outstanding game, but was picking up enough chances to be called a promising début. Unfortunately wasn’t getting along with the referee, having picked up a first half yellow card and a regular talking to for innocuous looking challenges.
On 52 minutes the crowd was silenced by the otherwise excellent Kim Min Je being caught on the wrong side of Niigata’s Korean winger who slid a clever ball into Michael in the box who made amends for his bad first half miss by calmly slotting it home in front of the away fans before indulging in a bizarre groin thrusting celebration in front of them.
Rocked by conceding a goal while being the better team Avispa crumbled a little and allowed Niigata their best spell of the game and the score was doubled to 2-0. Set up again by the Korean winger, this time on the left wing, a useful cross was easily headed home by Bruno Lopes after Kamiyama had at first come out for it, then gone back, and allowed a free header from about 5 yards out.
Avispa sent on Shigematsu for Hideya and he looked very good. I’m hoping he gets more of a chance, hopefully at the expense of Jogo who doesn’t seem to realise that he is the lone striker in the team and should be getting on the end of crosses into the box, and not turning back and waiting for support every time he gets the ball in an advanced position.
Shinoda went looking for a goal by throwing on Yusuke and Suzuki Jun and getting Sueyoshi to play as a makeshift right back. The decision almost immediately back-fried when the Korean winger easily cut across the right-back position and had his cross-shot knocked in on the line by someone to give him a hat-trick of assists. I don’t know how it can’t have been off-side, but the referee seemed to be giving Niigata all the decisions all day so it wasn’t surprising to see it allowed.
His worst decsiion was yet to come when he gave Naruoka a second yellow card on debut after he seemed to get fouled on the edge of the box and then got the ball back. Players from both teams seemed fairly mystified as the ball was clearly knocked away in the challenge, but the referee had his day in the Sun as Naruoka could trudge off upset at a sending off on debut.
Lots of positives from the game, Kim Min Je and Matsuura look great, Shigematsu is lively. In my opinion it should have been the draw I predicted, and 3-0 is definitely a harsh scoreline and the Avispa fans gave the team a good reception in acknowledgement of that.