Avispa Fukuoka 1 : 1 Mito Hollyhock
74′ Jogo, 90+3 Hashimoto
The line-up was a little different to last week, but the result and performance felt very similar.
The change to the line-up saw Okada drop down to the bench and Jogo go back into central midfield. It was a change I was very happy to see as I haven’t really thought Okada merited a first team position so far, and have wanted to see Jogo in midfield for about 3 years.
I thought Jogo was great in midfield, our best player. When played up front or on the wing he can drift out of games at times but played in the middle he was forced to be running at the ball, making space and able to connect play very well. His tackling isn’t great, but it is full of energy and I thought it worked well.
With Jogo in this position we held the ball for large parts of the first game, and played most of it in the final third, just trying to find a way through the 2 banks of 4 of the Mito defence.
They were defending well, but very deep, and (as with Consadole) it seemed only a matter of time before we scored. We came a lot closer to scoring than against Consadole, with Min Je again being our main route of attack.
Unfortunately the ball seemed to reach the edge of the penalty box and then be over-played. A couple of times it was calling out for someone to hit it and hope for either a true shot into the corner, or a deflection or parry which one of our many forwards could try to get on the end of.
A common theme in the last few seasons is trying to make the position a little too perfect at times.
The best chances of the half were long shots, firstly one drilled from the edge of the box by Kanakubo after some nice link-up with Sakata, and one screamer from about 35 yards by Tsutsumi which would have been goal of the season so far but the keeper managed to get something on it.
We did tend to get a little predictable at times, with low crosses to the near post. I really like this tactic, and can see it could become the ‘Avispa Goal’ I have been trying to picture for a while, but it will become more effective if mixed up a little more.
In particular there were several times when Kanemori made runs off the last defenders shoulder and was crying out for a dinked ball over the top.
While Mito’s defenders did a good job they were dealing with a lot of balls in front of them. They were a big bunch and the last thing they would have wanted is to be running back at goal chasing an 18 year old. Again, it may not have ended with a goal but it could have made the defensive line a little more nervous to make openings elsewhere.
Things were changed around at half-time with Funayama coming on in midfield and Jogo moving into a forward role as Ishizu came off. I like Funayama and think he deserves a decent chance like that, but did think Jogo was causing them a lot of problems from midfield.
Pusnik could quite rightly point out that his substitutions got the goal with the goal being scored as Funayama didn’t give up on a ball heading for the byline and played a low cross back into the centre. Jogo was there to finish the sort of instinctive shot he doesn’t miss, and if he hadn’t been there Nishida was lining up to score behind him.
The crowd were lifted and as Mito pushed forward more openings arrived. It was only last ditch defending which denied a double strike by Kanemori, and then Funayama; and Mishima had a chance at the near post after coming on for his debut.
Unfortunately the defence started to get very nervous as Mito pushed forward. A team which conceded the number of goals which they did last season must still be low on confidence, and after dealing well with the challenge of 2 aggressive strikers all game they started to look vulnerable.
Everyone must have known what Mito were going to do in this game, but at times in the 2nd half it appeared the defence were testing themselves by inviting the strikers to press them hig up on the pitch.
In the last 15 minutes we got caught out 3-4 times with balls going between our central 2, and had Mizutani to thank for some very good saves, and 1 header in particular which was hit straight at him by the Mito #9.
The crowd started to sing the Thank-you chant with a minute left to play but were silenced by another goal in the last minute, in very similar circumstances to the one against Kyoto.
With the opposition piling forward a ball came across the box to the back post where it fell right onto the head of an attacker about 3m out to give Mizutani no chance.
I’d predicted 3-0 before the game, and we should have win 3-0 at least.
We aren’t on a good run of form but the crowd at Level-5 are quite well-educated and they can see what is happening on the pitch. If the team stays positive, and keeps playing like this then we will win more games than we lose this season.
My Man of the Match – Yoichi Mizutani
Kamiyama could feel a little unlucky to lose his place, but it was also only fair that mizutani got his chance.
No-one could say he didn’t take his chance with a nearly perfect debut performance.
He plays a lot higher up the pitch than Kamiyama, and stopped a couple of chances by being quick off his line. A couple of late shots were called off-side, but he had made the saves before the call was made.
Playing in front of a keeper like this can only help the nervous Avispa defence.