Vissel kobe 0 – 0 Avispa Fukuoka
Finally the losing streak is over! Having been so disappointed at the weekend against Cerezo I was trying to stay relaxed about the game today, but it was by far the most nervy game to watch with Avispa battling hard to keep their first clean sheet, and notch up their first point.
After the terrible defensive display on Saturday there were some ruthless changes made to the defence with 3 of the back 5 being replaced with Rokutan, Kobara and Wada coming in for Kamiyama, Makoto and Kim Min Je. I thought this was a very risky thing to do, and a little unfair on Kim Min Je in particular, but it paid off big time with the defence looking more solid than they have all season. Seeing as he wasn’t even on the bench he may be injured.
Kobara made his starting debut in place of Makoto in the middle of defence and actually looked pretty good making some important challenges in the air and on the floor. Playing up against a meaty Brazilian frontline the defence stayed on top throughout the first half limiting Kobe to one decent chance across the area by Popo which glanced off Kobara for a corner. Despite playing together for the first time they were working the off-side trap well, although they were getting some help with this from the Kobe attackers.
At the other end Jogo had finally been pushed back to his more natural support striker role, and Shigematsu was being our best defender as the lead striker running down everything and forcing a lot of mistakes from the opposition defence and keeper.
We never really looked like scoring, and our tactics seem to be a little confused with some attacking play and crosses from the wings aiming at 3-4 players in the box who apart from Jogo are all under 1.70m. Hideya wasn’t in the team, and if he isn’t injured can think of himself a little unlucky, and does provide a greater aerial threat.
The best chance we did have was a through ball to Yusuke who got a head-start on the fullback but like the start of last week seemed to get easily caught and stand on the ball.
Going into the 2nd half Kobe brightened up a little bit and started to attack a bit more. I haven’t seen many of their games this season, but standing 5th in the table with some decent results and playing at home I was expecting a bit more attacking intent.
As expected their best player (by some distance) was Yoshito Okubo who seemed to be playing in a free role and was getting into a lot of space and causing problems. For about 25 minutes we were really under the cosh, with the closest to conceding coming when a ball was rescued on the byline with a header after a corner, with Okubo hitting the returned ball sweetly with an overhead. It smashed against the crossbar to deny Okubo a goal which would have been replayed a lot had it gone in.
During this period the only real chance we had was a crisp volley from Suzuki Jun in one of his rare runs into the box which took a deflection off a defender which could have gone anywhere, but went straight into the arms of the keeper.
With 15 minutes left to play it seemed inevitable that we would concede, but some decent substitutions saw Naruoka and Yutaka coming on for Suzuki Jun and Matsuura. With scores locked at 0-0 I like to see Yutaka coming on as he always gives you a chance, but don’t want to see him coming on when we are 3-0 down again.
The new players seemed to improve things and rather than concede we had the best chances to try and grab all 3 points. These stated to come on the break as Kobe also tried to get men forward and score. Unfortunately by this time Shigematsu and run himself out of his skin and the final pass was marginally off course a couple of times.
It says it all that the players and manager looked a little disappointed to only get a draw at the end, but in the morning I think they will see it as a good result and can hopefully build onto it against foes from last season (and table topping) Kashiwa.