Avispa Fukuoka 2 – 2 Vissel Kobe
6′ Popo, 24’Yoshida – 60′ Matsuura, 90+3 Shigematsu
I’d said before the game that I thought Avispa needed 8 wins between now and the end of the season to pull off a miracle escape from relegation, and that this was a game they should be winning to bring that total down to 7 more needed.
Having drawn the game I should be disappointed, and I am, but i also hope that the team learned something about themselves tonight and can use that positively in the remaining games.
It is impossible to really talk about the game unless you look at the 1st and 2nd halves seperately.
Avispa were as bad as I have seen them this season.
They started without addressing the problems seen against Kashiwa with both Suzuki Jun and Nakamachi staying within 5m of the central defenders and leaving a big hole in the middle of the pitch.
Sending long balls out to the wingers these were usually easily dealt with by defenders who could watch the ball onto their heads and knock it down for the 2nd ball to be picked up with next to no problems.
Playing in this style they were also limiting Kobe, but then gave away the first goal in ridiculous circumstances. After winning a throw-in on the right wing just outside the Kobe box the ball was passed all the way back to the defence because of the limited options available. Pressed quickly by the Kobe attackers Popo and Yoshida they gave the ball away just outside the box to concede from a throw-in just outside the opposition box.
Sadly it was a fairly typical goal to concede for Avispa, and they didn’t seem to learn from it in any way. There seems to be some confusion in the Avispa defence that they are all Paulo Maldini and can pass the ball around freely to start attacks. There is a reason we have conceded 50-something goals this season, that’s because none of you are Paulo Maldini.
15 minutes later the mistake was repeated as Nakamachi chose to try and pass the ball back to the defence from within his half where it was again intercepted and easily converted in a second 1-on-1 situation by the lively Yoshida.
Fukuoka had had no chances to score in the entire half, and had rarely got the ball out of their own half after deciding it would be a good idea to repeatedly pass the ball along the defensive line while Nakamachi and Suzuki Jun came back to join in the fun.
Despite losing so many games and conceding so many goals this season it was the first time I’ve heard the fans booing during the game.
I was considering going home if they started the 2nd half in the same way, but within 2 minutes it was clear that they had had a strong talking to at half-time and things looked very different.
The front 4 started to try and run beyond defenders when we had the ball, and close Kobe down when they had it. Nakamachi was playing in the opposition half with Suzuki Jun trusted to play a more defensive role alone. With attackers making runs the defenders started trying to pick out players in the opponents half rather than play between themselves. Perhaps most significantly the previously ineffective Matsuura played in a central position.
The difference was immediate. While playing in a more attacking way may have been seen as more of a risk the chances for Kobe totally dried up.
Yusuke started to have some luck down his wing, and with Matsuura’s ability to go either way he started to beat a player occasionally. The biggest change was Nakamachi playing in a more advanced position. Previously the ball was always crossed into the box where no-one could meet it. With Nakamachi on the edge of the box it produced an option for a low cross, and meant that someone was there for the 2nd ball if it was cleared.
Jogo sent a shot flashing past the near post with a difficult volley from the right wing, Matsuura was found in the box after some neat play by Nakamachi and Hideya, and before too long Avispa had pulled one back.
Yusuke touched a bobbling ball past the left-back and crossed along the floor to Jogo where the Kobe defender Kitamoto (who had been dominant in the air until then) touched it back to the edge of the box. With the tweak in formation Matsuura was waiting on the D where he danced away from a couple of players and shot into the corner through a crowded box.
The game was on, with Avispa only looking better after Shigematsu and Kim Min Je had come on for Tatsunori and Hideya. I’m still convinced that Kim Min Je is the best crosser at the club and they need to have him in the team.
Nakamachi continued to make problems with his more advanced position with crosses being aimed along the floor at him and he won and wasted a free-kick on the edge of the box, before Suzuki Jun hit a wild shot from his left foot well over the bar after Shigematsu had opened up some space.
With 5 minutes remaining Kobe were looking to waste time in the corner, and it was starting to look like this would pay dividends as the clock ticked well into injury time.
After 3 of 4 minutes had been played the big Korean substitue from Kobe bundled Daiki over for one last attack. Avispa piled forward and a deep cross by Takumi was controlled sublimely by Shigematsu at the back of the box. Cutting inside to be closed down by 4 defenders he rifled the ball home to complete a great comeback.
We needed the 3 points, but maybe a lesson has been learned about not sitting back and trying to be too patient from defence which may be a bigger help in the long run.