As expected Avispa came out with an almost unchanged team from the thrashing of Yamagata, with Makoto Tanaka coming in at the expense of Yamaguchi for his send off game and Yusuke returning at right-back as a more attacking option.
The bench did see some changes with Daiki and Jogo coming back to join Nakamachi as substitutes. Seeing those 3 warming up apart from the first team squad highlighted our biggest problem from this season. The three most important players have failed to live up to expectations when we needed all three to take responsibility if we ever had any chance of staying up. What happens next to those three will have a big say in whether we get promotion next year.
Avispa started the game more brightly with Matsuura wanting the ball on the left wing, and both full-backs attacking with energy down the wings. It leaves spaces at the back but even against an Urawa team with Escudero playing quite well, and one of last year’s stand out attackers Marcio Richardes they weren’t massively troubled at the back.
Both teams had chances to open the scoring with some fairly abject near post finishing from Urawa seeing the ball flying over the cross-bar, and Yutaka not really fulfilling the role of striker as balls were crossed into the box but not finished.
It was Avispa who did open the scoring after Kim Min Je made a typically dynamic run up the left exchanging passes with Matsuura. One of his return balls arrived at Hideya who took the ball of Matsuura’s foot and found the far corner with a shot from the angle of the penalty area. It is the sort of goal which Hideya can (and has) scored many of. He is willing to take shots at goal, and would score 6-7 goals in a season for any team (without ever working hard enough to get 20).
The goal cam 8 minutes before half-time and with a noisy Urawa crowd it was crying out for Avispa to kill the game until half-time. Kamiyama was getting the ball at his feet in open play with no pressure from any Urawa player and launching attacks as Urawa fans whistled.
This showed a worrying naivety from a team who should have learned more from J1 this season. With the other team needing to chase the game they should be making a striker leave midfield and open more space before sending the ball back to the other team to attack. Fairly predictable Urawa scored deep into injury time after one of Avispa’s attack broke down. I ball into the box wasn’t dealt with well by Makoto teeing up Urawa midfielder Kashiwagi on the edge of the box. His shot took a huge deflection and left Kamiyama with no chance of saving with the last kick of the first half.
After that the game was only ever going to end with a win for Urawa. The half-time talk would have written itself, the fans started to really push the team and the players could sense that safety from relegation could be achieved today.
Urawa took a much firmer grip of the game, and apart from the continuing excellence of both Avispa fullbacks in attack they looked much more likely to find a way through.
Avispa’s best chance of the half was for Nakamachi who struck well at goal after a nicely worked move, but saw his shot parried by the keeper. Bouncing back into the middle of the box it showed our need for a striker as the rebound could be easily cleared. Nakamachi was working quite well with Naruoka as a player who can read what he will do next, but wasn’t the stand-out player we witnessed last season.
Urawa then took the lead through a penalty which was ordered to be retaken. Springing the off-side trap after 7-8 times trying Sueyoshi was chasing a runner back and put his hand on the attacker’s shoulder. Sensing his opportunity the attacker went down immediately and Sueyoshi had to be sent off as last man. Again Avispa were shown what it takes to play in the top level with an experienced striker working to get into the box and then going down under any touch to get a penalty and sending off. Unfortunately it is something Avispa players will need to think about if they are to succeed as top J1 players.
Having gone down to 10 men Avispa continued trying to pass the ball around, which while admirable was also never going to work against a team like Urawa. It was calling out for Ramazotti to come on and have long balls dropped onto his head to see if something could come out of nothing.
All three substitutes were used up after Yusuke got cramp, and the chances of Avispa sneaking something from the game evaporated.
In the post-match ceremony the fans said good-bye to Asano, Makoto and Shimizu who it was pretty much known to be leaving, Ramazotti who doesn’t look like he could agree on a deal, and Tatsunori who it was a surprise to me to be leaving.