Machida Zelvia 0 – 1 Avispa Fukuoka
27′ Suzuki Jun
Someone once said that playing badly but still winning is the sign of a Champion team. On that basis we look sure to be Champions this year as we played really badly and somehow still managed to leave Machida with all 3 points.
In reality Machida will be wondering how they managed to get nothing from their first J-League game, and Avispa must realise they have a lot to do before they come up against tougher teams in the next couple of games.
The starting eleven was almost unchanged from last week, with like-for-like replacements in midfield and defence as Okada and Kobara started in place of Sueyoshi and Yamaguchi.
The performance was much like the second half last week however as Avispa struggled to play on a terrible surface and repeatedly gave the ball back cheaply for Machida to come on the attack.
Led by the lively Katsumata they managed to deal with the bumpy surface a lot better than Avispa and created 3 clear chances in the first 15 minutes. Kamiyama needed to be on decent form to repel shots from within the penalty area after Zelvia players had been allowed to bundle into the box.
After 25 minutes Avispa were hanging on having been subject to 5 clear chances on goal, and created no attacks for themselves. The full-backs had clearly been told to launch long balls forward, quite wisely bearing in mind how easy it would have been for a ball to bobble away from where it was intended, but Yutaka and Sakata were struggling to get on the end of anything.
Then out of almost nothing Sakata chased down a Zelvia midfielder after their keeper’s clearance and rushed him into giving the ball away to Suzuki Jun 5m outside their penalty area. After a quick touch he launched an unstoppable shot into the far corner to give Avispa an undeserved lead. It is exactly the type of shot I want him to try every game to at least worry the opposition keeper, and here he scored a great goal.
Machida kept pushing forward, with Katsumata still looking lively but being caught offside by an Avispa defence which still looks a little shaky, but is organised enough to at least keep a defensive line.
It was Avispa who came closest to scoring again as Yutaka took on an ambitious volley from well outside the area which had to be turned past the post by a back-pedalling keeper.
The half concluded by Yutaka slipping as he took a free-kick to pretty much sum up the playing surface.
As a small aside there was the novelty of seeing a Scottish player on the pitch as Colin Marshall was giving hope to 2nd division Scottish, 3rd division Spanish, and Icelandic division players everywhere by looking quite tidy when he was in possession of the ball.
The second half carried on much like the first with no obvious change being made to counter the Machida attacks. Much like last week Avispa were inviting their opposition to continualy attack by not really creating much of their own to worry about at the other end.
Jogo was playing pretty well, but playing pretty well as a defender rather than a winger.
Maeda showed he is happy to substitute Yutaka despite him being Captain, with Kihara coming on to play as a forward to try to scare Machida with pace. It didn’t really work, and also resulted in Okada being made Captain which he certainly didn’t merit by performance but was seeming to talk a lot.
Machida were having luck down the wings, and with no Avispa attacks to worry about were sending in worrying crosses to the penalty box. After hitting the bar from a corner, they did so again from open play, and then Katsumata managed to blaze a shot over the bar from about 50cm out although he was being pressured very well by Kim.
Katsumata then turned provider as he found substitute Dimic well with a cross to the back post who struck a good shot which Kamiyama was positioned well to block.
Avispa managed to hold on, and there will be many other clubs who come to this bumpy surface and have a tough time, but they have to start playing with a stronger midfield unit and do the simple things well.