After a 3 week break after the earthquake Avispa played their first game at Level 5 stadium in a charity training game against Kyushu brethren Oita Trinita.
It was actually more like 2 training matches, with 4 sets of 45 minutes and the team almost entirely changing between the first two 45 minutes and the second two 45 minutes. As such I will treat it as 2 different matches. 2 different matches with very different results.
Set up looking a lot like the first XI, the team set about playing exactly as they did in the game against Niigata. Holding the ball and having sporadic nice interplay along the wings, but lacking any penetration into the box.
In the absence of a striker with any obvious attributes (no pace, no strength, no height) the ball was often being played around the defence waiting for an opening which didn’t happen. Half the time they would get pressured into giving away possession, and half the time it would be played out to one of the speedy wingers who would then be stuck with no obvious target to aim for.
Jogo and Shimizu are both technically proficient, and had bursts in the game when they had some nice touches, but are not strikers. You could take a picture of the Oita penalty area at any time in the match and very rarely see any threat on the goal. There was one farcical moment when a ball was crossed into the box with only 145cm Matsuura jumping to try and get his head on it.
Oita were allowed to play at a level higher than their 15th place in J2 would suggest, with their big #20 striker being allowed to bully the defence to score 2 easy goals with a 3rd to follow.
At the other end Oita defender #25 was being made to look like Paulo Maldini as he was given space to head clear all crosses into the box. Daiki played a great ball over the top for Jogo to run onto at one point, but #25 was able to turn around and run past him to get to the ball first due what looked a fantastic lack of pace by Jogo. This is a guy who was released by Shonan at the end of last season, the team who conceded the most goals in J1 history last season.
Yusuke managed to get a consolation goal as he got something onto one of the many crosses into the box having taken it upon himself to come off his wing and fill the gap in the middle.
Final score : Avispa 1 – 3 Oita.
Yusuke~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Morishima (2), Mitsuhira
The biggest problem in the first match (and against Niigata) was the total absence of a striker willing to get into the box and take a gamble on getting on the end of a ball. The second match had the instant remedy to this with Hideya, Yutaka, Naruoka and Shigematsu all being players who love to break into the box. Added to this was new midfielder Taku Ushinohama who looked very positive, with some direct running with the ball and good ability to know when to pass.
Having watched 90 minutes with almost no Avispa players in the box you could now see 2/3/4 players wanting the ball in the box and it was scaring the hell out of the Oita defence. Suzuki Jun was playing in the central pair, (rather than as one of the higher 3 I prefer), but was pulling the strings well. His range of passing makes him very good for this role and he looks to play the ball forward giving the defence an easy option to play the ball to him at ‘quarterback’.
Avispa opened the scoring through Hideya (the stand-out player) as he collected a cross from Ushinohama after the youngster did a sublime bit of skill on the right wing. The score was doubled as Shigematsu turned on a ball in the box and surprised the Oita keeper with an early shot to beat him at his near post.
Oita equalised through a header from a set piece as substitute Kasegawa failed to command his box, and then seemed to have equalised through another set piece which was then chalked off for off-side.
Naruoka Sho was again having a decent, if unspectacular game, but had what looked like a nasty injury after challenging for a high ball with the keeper and landing awkwardly. He had to be carried off and was replaced with Yoshihara.
Adding Yoshihara just added more pace and energy and Avispa became far too hot for Oita. The neat passing started to work, and more importantly it started to work in the final 3rd with players breaking into the box. Yutaka got a poacher’s goal as he was first onto a loose ball, Hideya scored another (I think), and then laid one on for Yoshihara to score unopposed from 4m out. The young team was playing with a smile on it’s face, and an energy I haven’t seen from Avispa previously.
Suzuki Jun completed his good game as Captain with a goal as he fired a free-kick inside the near post as the keeper and defence was waiting for a cross.
The youngsters had shown the crowd, the manager, and the rest of the squad that there is real competition for places. Hopefully Shinoda will have taken note and we will be seeing a lot more of some of these players rather than the easy option of playing the more established players each week.
Avispa 6 – 1 Oita
Hideya (2), Shigematsu, Yutaka, Yoshihara, Suzuki Jun~~~~~Oita player.
Avispa squad players thrashed Oita squad players, but that hides the real story. I think the Avispa squad players would have also thrashed the Avispa first XI. I hope Shinoda was watching this and has come to the same conclusions about who should be playing against Shimizu in 4 weeks.