Avispa Fukuoka 2 : 2 Matsumoto Yamaga
For the second game in a week we managed to get a last minute goal to snatch some points from a club in the bottom third of the table.
This time it wasn’t a win we managed to squeeze out, but a home draw against newly promoted Matsumoto Yamaga.
The game started quite well with Suzuki and Sueyoshi playing about 5m higher up the pitch than they usually do, and even if Sueyoshi wasn’t touching the ball much at least our play seemed to be in a better place on the pitch.
Naruoka returning to the team means we play a narrower game as he floats inside all the time leaving the left flank empty. This does help us in midfield, but also means teams can defend a smaller area. I always think he looks much more dangerous when playing as a more orthodox left winger trying to reach the byline and cut in, but his positioning paid off mid-way through the first half as he leaned back to meet a Wada cross 8 yards from goal and loop a header into the corner. His heading game is something very under-rated both in attack and defence.
It is the first time I’ve seen Avispa leading for a while, and I thought our possession game might then be too much for Matsumoto, but unfortunately the team switched off having taken the lead and allowed Yamaga straight back into the game.
Within 2 minutes a ball was played from space in midfield around the outside of Kazuki. While Kazuki is good in the air and fully comitted he has never been fast, let alone after just coming back from an ACL injury, and was easily beaten for pace and then wrong footed by the Matsumoto forward. His shot was blocked by Kamiyama but bounced up for Yamaga’s big #19 to head in from a metre out.
Sueyoshi should watch the goal back many times to see why things aren’t going well for him this season as he gives up space in midfield to create the chance and then has no effort to close it down.
With the game all square Avispa lost some of their confidence and the midfield pair dropped further back. They had been ineffective in the first half, but at least they had been high enough up the pitch so that when they lost the ball we could defend against it.
After giving away a free-kick from a crossing position it was fairly inevitable we would concede after how we have fared against set-pieces this season.
The zone defence for set pieces was shown up for how ridiculous it is as what should have been an easy cross was missed by Naruoka at the front, moved onto and through Jogo before bouncing off Wada for the onrushing Yamaga #19 to meet and bundle towards goal.
This #19 summed up the difference between the two teams. A straight-forward, uncomplicated player who has served time in the lower leagues and works hard scored two ‘ugly’ goals against our team who over-complicate everything and approach games as if they think opposition are going to roll over and let us pass our way through them.
Maeda made a double substitution whih rekked of desperation, and Naruoka moved into central midfield. I still maintain that that is where he should play with our current options there, and he did as well as anyone has this season. His heading ability helped immediately, and willingness to look for a forward pass gave us something we had been missing.
A Yamaga team leading away from home with 15 minutes to play was always going to be very hard to break down though, and in the end we were very lucky to do so.
With absolutely no time left on the clock Koga had been pushed forward to play as striker with balls being launched into the box. After he got onto one of these at the back post Osamr was on hand to force home a header from a central position as the ball came back across goal.
He has now scored 2 goals from 2 games and fully deserved his contract and starting position. It is quite ironic that both goals have come from headers as I don7t think that is his best skill, but Avispa certainly try to put crosses into the box so he might get a lot more practice at it as Sakata is fairly terrible with his head.
It asks the question about why we are still trying to do it rather than play slide passes past the shoulder of the defender, but that is a question only Maeda can answer.