Archive for July 2013

vs. Kyoto Sanga (report)   Leave a comment

Kyoto Sanga 2 : 1 Avispa Fukuoka

After a few games against some of the ‘weaker’ teams in the division which has seen us climb into the play-off spots we have now started a run of games against the absolute hardest clubs in the division, which are either going to make or break our season.

First up were Kyoto away, and after playing in Kagoshima last season it was actually in Kyoto this time.
Pusnik continued to tinker with the team a bit, understandable as we were up against a very different proposition to the teams of recent weeks, with a draw a good result. It did however mean that Okada was brought back in from the start, a player I think is fairly limited; and the guy who made way was Ishizu, someone who has been a bright point in recent weeks with his energy and running for 60 minutes.

It did look to have made sense at half time with the game still goal-less, and the experience of the Avispa players really counting against a team trying to pull us out of shape. Well, the midfield was experienced, the defence included Tsutsumi and Park at centre-back and Mishima at right-back again; but it says a lot for those guys that they are now an established and comfortable looking unit to the extent that Koga really isn’t being missed.

Both teams had chances to take the lead, and it was looking a little bit like whoever would score the first goal would take the game.
Avispa had the best couple of chances, both falling to Jogo who was coming off his wing to the middle and being picked out by balls when on the shoulder of defenders. As expected Kanakubo was the guy who was most effective in playing balls through to him, and is someone who will hopefully stay fit and be a key player until the end of the season.

It wasn’t a great game to watch, and with both teams evenly matched it looked like a mistake might decide things.
Unfortunately that mistake came from Nakahara. Avispa were trying to build slowly, and Kyoto showed that a level of directness can be an easier way to score goals, especially on hot days when everyone is getting tired. Nakahara tried to chest down a long ball forward and succeeded in only giving the ball straight to a Kyoto player who was able to run straight at goal. After his initial shot was blocked the ball came out to the edge of the box and was finished into the far corner.

Avispa had to chase the game, and this made more space at the back which Kyoto could exploit to get a second goal and seemingly make the game safe.

2 goals down and with a defensive looking line-up on the pitch Pusnik had to throw caution to the wind and brought on 3 attacking players in Ishizu, Kanemori and Nishida.
We started to go for it, and the substitutes showed that attack can be a good form of attack as the pushed Kyoto back and clawed one goal back.

It was a decent goal with Nishida showing lots of running down the right wing and putting in a dangerous cross to the near post. Sakata demonstrated that he may be really returning to form with a classy back-heeled finish to give us a chance to get a draw.
If Sakata can start scoring like he did when first coming to the club then it gives us a real chance of making the play-offs and doing well in them.

My Man of the Match – Jun Kanakubo
Very rarely gives the ball away, plays with his head up, and is our most creative player from midfield.
If we are going to make the play-off he needs to be in the team and playing well until November.

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Posted July 31, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Match Reports

vs. FC Gifu (youtube)   Leave a comment

No nicely made highlights package this week, but plenty of people seem to be recording from the stands so I’ll try and make a highlights compilation…

Also take a look at We are Gifu for some photos from the night and a match report.

Avispa start with a few complex passing moves but end up scoring a direct goal as a diagonal ball over the top from Park Gun finds Sakata between centre-backs to score with a good header.

Ishizu gets booked for diving under a challenge from Desmond. There was definitely contact, but a penalty would have been harsh. I guess if it isn’t seen as a foul then it has to be seen as a dive.

A short corner is converted at the far post by another Sakata header but then ruled out for offside. The idea was good, and after an entire season of Suzuki Jun ineffectively aiming corners at Koga’s head at the back post I’m glad to see us more threatening.

Ishizu comes off after giving exactly the sort of 60 minutes hard-running which we need from whoever is playing in the energy role in our front 3. Pusnik is rightly happy, and Kanemori comes on to keep running.

After some good work down the left from substitute Kanemori the ball is recycled back out for Omata to put a cross into the edge of the box. Sakata and Jogo both get a touch before laying it off in space for Kanakubo to finish well.

I’d totally fogotten that after Vincent had had a chance to equalise, Gifu also hit the bar from a short corner after going 2 down.

A good save from the Gifu keeper to deny Kanemori late on.

Is ‘Open Goal Miss’ too strong? He was under a little pressure but I can’t imagine Don Hyon could have imagined an easier chance coming his way on debut.

I love it when Jogo gets angry, only happens once or twice a season but is always funny to see. This one was particularly good as he was telling everyone to calm down immediately afterwards.

Pusnik’s impromptu team-bonding at his opening press conference has now spawned Avispa’s cheesiest tradition.

Many thanks to youtube user nadeshiko yamato for some really good stadium videos.

Posted July 22, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Match highlights

vs. FC Gifu (report)   2 comments

FC Gifu 0 : 2 Avispa Fukuoka
13′ Sakata, 63′ Kanakubo

Avispa lined up with what I think it probably our most attacking, creative line-up of the season at Gifu. As one of the lowest scoring teams in the division I think this is probably a good idea in games like this, and saw midfielder Mishima play at right-back and a midfield pair of Funayama and Kanakubo who both look to get to the edge of the box and shoot from distance.

Ishizu is ideal in this formation as a left-winger who can drop back and get the ball, dribble as a winger, and is very willing to shoot; and while Jogo doesn’t seem to really like playing right wing he scores a lot of goals from there and has the freedom to drop back as he can without leaving no-one up front.

Gifu had the fairly surprising decision to include Kanye Vincent from the start having only signed him in the week and presumably not had much time to work together. He looked like he had some good movement early on, but unsurprisingly didn’t really link up with his team-mates and drifted out of the game as things went on.
Gifu’s primary tactic seemed to be to target Mishima at right-back. A fairly sensible decision seeing as he isn’t the best defensively, and would stop him adding a body to midfield, but as it turned out Mishima did very well, rarely being beaten one-on-one or getting caught out of position.

At the other end I had previously been impressed with Desmond, but could see why he has attracted some criticism in this game. He is a big guy and rarely gets beaten, but didn’t seem to move very much from the D of the penalty box through the game.
Avispa were holding the ball and trying to break down the Gifu defence which was getting increasingly busy when a simple ball over the top from Park Gun landed in space between the centre-backs. I don’t know who was supposed to be picking up Sakata, but nobody did and he finished very well with his head. Until the Ehime game I don’t think I’d ever seen Sakata score with his head and now he’s scored 2 very good ones.

AVispa continued to try and break down the Gifu defence patiently, but were putting as much effort on not being caught at the back. Sakata did manage to get the ball in the net with his head again after a short corner but was correctly ruled off-side, and the 4 immediately behind him (Ishizu/Jogo/Kanakubo/Funeyama) were all putting in long shots of varying quality which kept the keeper on his toes.
I think it is of upmost importance to our game that we keep doing these long shots. If opposition teams know they can’t just sit back and congest the box then it will make more space for us to try and pass through.

Pusnik didn’t change anything at half-time again, something I was very pleased about again, and it allowed Ishizu to go out and give 10 minutes hard running before Kanemori came on first change.

It looked at times like we might give Gifu a way back into the game as the game wasn’t killed off, and Vincent should have got a debut goal after being picked out with a cross straight onto his head which he tried to head into the near corner but missed. I imagine that he hasn’t always been a target man, but coming to Japan it will become more of his game as someone a little taller than a lot of the defenders around him and he needs to be thinking about going far post with headers in this situation.

Kanemori had a good chance to score on a quick break, and would have scored but for a good strong hand from the Gifu keeper before Kanakubo got the goal his preformance had deserved to make the game safe.
After again being able to get the ball to the edge of the box it was then placed into the top left corner after work from Sakata and Jogo had made a bit of space for Kanakubo to line the shot up.

Okada and Nishida came on to keep the pressure on, although with the game safe I would have liked to see Ushinohama given another chance to show what he can do in a game.

There was a late chance for another debut goal, this time from Gifu’s new Korean striker, but he skied a shot under pressure after being in the right place at the right time to collect a Kamiyama parry.

My Man of the Match – Yuta Mishima

He wasn’t fantastic, and perhaps Tsutsumi or Sakata gave a better all-round performance, but was targetted for the first half an hour as a 19 year old playing out of position, and didn’t let himself or the team down. I don’t know how many times he will play at right-back before that is his position, but if he enjoys it it certainly could be headed that way.

Posted July 21, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Match Reports

vs. FC Gifu (preview)   Leave a comment

After an excellent 3 points, and one of the best performances of the season so far last weekend it would seem we have an easy 3 points this weekend against bottom club Gifu.

I wouldn’t say I’d be happy with a draw, but certainly don’t expect the game to be an easy win. We’ve not had an easy ride against Gifu in the 3-4 years I’ve seen us play them. I’ve seen us lose and draw against them at home, and were very fortunate to get a win this season after they were harshly reduced to 10 men and still ended up only losing 2-1.

While they are still bottom of the table they have closed the gap to the teams above them with some good results in recent weeks and will be looking to get off the bottom with a win this week.

Having said all that we did have our best result last weekend with a midfield which looked a lot more dynamic with Funeyama brought in to start, and then also have Kanakubo back from suspension to add to that attacking threat.
An added dimension will be another chance for us to try and cope with a back-3 which we have struggled with at times this season.

Avispa News
Kanakubo is back from suspension and should be in contention for a starting spot. His ability to play in almost any of the front 5 positions helps with Avispa’s fluid attacking trident formation. Pusnik might keep the same middle 3 as last weekend after their good performance.

The back 4 is likely to stay the same with Mishima growing into the right-back spot, and against one of the ‘weaker’ teams who could be pushed back by playing a midfielder there. I still think Miyamoto has been very unlucky to not be playing every week as he was our best player at the start of the season.
The central 2 should stay Tsutsumi and Park after a good performance and clean sheet last week.

The front 3 get rotated so much it is almost impossible to pick yo is going to get a game one week from the next but would guess we’ll have Sakata, Kanemori and Ishizu up front, with Jogo in midfield. After his goal last week Nishida might get the nod ahead of Kanemori.

Gifu News
He seems to attract criticism from time to time, but I’ve been impressed with Desmond every time I’ve seen him. He’ll be key for Gifu at the back, and whether the 2 younger players can drag him about and attract attention while Sakata provides a central target.

Gifu have signed a few new players in a bid to boost their survival hopes, but I think it is likely to come a little too late to come into contention for this game. If they do manage to get registered and trained in time then it’s anyone’s guess whether they’ll rise to an amazing debut or take time to bed in.

My Prediction:

FC Gifu 1 : 3 Avispa Fukuoka

Gifu are good enough, and playing differently to the start of the season when the shipped goals and I can see them fighting to get a goal.
Beyond that I do hope that we have the attacking quality to score a couple and then make the game safe as they chase at the end.

Make sure you check the excellent We are Gifu blog to see things from the opposing view.

Posted July 19, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Preview

vs. Tochigi SC (report)   Leave a comment

Avispa 2 : 0 Tochigi SC
66′ Ushinohama, 75′ Nishida

I’d said before the match that this felt like it could be a key point of the season, and I really hope that it turns out that way as Pusnik can probably look at this match as one where lots of things really clicked.

The ball was still being rolled out by the keeper, but apart from a couple of scary moments when Nakahara gave away possession cheaply, was being supplied to the front 3 with far better regularity.
It isn’t obviously down to one thing, but there were a few little tweaks which seemed to make it work better.
Sakata. His movment is always good, but in the 2 matches I’ve seen him as Captain he has worked even harder than usual. It seems to suit him, and has the added benefit of Okada not starting….
Ishizu/Funeyama. Our midfield the previous week was so undynamic. With these two in the team we get the energy, but also 2 players who will run with the ball and get stuck in. They will both pick up yellow cards as their tackling isn’t the most sophisticated, but what we get in attack is of greater benefit. With Kanakubo now fit we have the numbers to cover suspensions. Okada can do a destructive job when we are up against it, but not so much when we need to make the game.
Nakahara. With the 2 in front of him playing a little higher it gave him more space. He still passes sideways and backwards a little too much for my liking, but there was one point in this game when he turned and ran with the ball. It immediately destroyed Tochigi’s shape and he will hopefully gain confidence from it.

We held a lot of the ball in the first half, and while there were chances for Tochigi (mainly from us giving them the ball) we looked generally better.
We could have taken more shots when in good positions round the box, but were definitely doing enough to keep Tochigi thinking, with Omata again being a major source of crosses into the box.

It was quite clear how Tochigi were going to approach the game as they warmed up by repeatedly jumping and shoulder-barging each other, and they did prove to be good enough to withstand corners fairly easily.

Mishima is growing into his right-back role more now, and clearly knows he should be trying to get forward when he can. He was up against the fattest professional footballer I’ve ever seen in Yusuke Kondo, and the game had it’s key incident 14 minutes into the second half as he was just too fast and got sliced down by Kondo after beating him for pace round the outside after knocking the ball past.
It was titally the correct decision to give a yellow card, but apart from that the referee was awful.
The J-League still have a problem with their referees. It seems to me they are very young, and look for the spotlight a little too much. Maybe a good first step would be to never print their names, tell managers and clubs who they are getting but it certainly seems a few are playing up to ‘be a part of the action’ and maybe denying them publicity would be a good first step.

Pusnik hadn’t made any changes at half-time, a decision I really support, and it meant that now playing against 10 men he could freshen the team part way through the half.
Everyone was very happy to see Taku get thrown on. While Kanemori and Mishima are getting chances as bright new things the Avispa fans haven’t forgotten Taku and what he showed us 2 seasons ago. I don’t know if he doesn’t perform in training and so hasn’t been picked, but in matches he makes things happen. So it proved here as with his first touch he collected a ball from outside the box, took a couple of steps towards goal and placed a shot across goal which went in off the inside of the post.
Pusnik could feel very happy with his change, and Ushinohama had immediately shown that he shouldn’t be forgotten.

A goal up we didn’t sit back totally but changed things a little with Nishida coming on for Ishizu. Ishizu had run with the ball, and put in shots at goal, collected free-kicks round the box with his quick feet, and generally never allowed the Tochigi defence to settle.
Nishida would now provide more of an aerial threat, while still forcing the defence to run.
Avispa matched my 2:0 pre-match prediction with their best goal of the season. Crisply passed around a tiring defence the ball came out to the left wing where a cross into the middle was clinically headed home by Nishida Go.

It was a goal which put us into the play-off places, and a goal which came about exactly from how Pusnik has been trying to get us to play. 2 substitutes had scored 2 good goals, having seen an opposition player sent off trying to tackle a teenage midfielder playing at right-back. If Pusnik need a game to show what he is trying to achieve here this was it.

Official Man of the Match – Shunsuke Tsutsumi
A surprising choice, but a very good one. The whole effort was only possible because the defence stayed solid at the back. Park also did well, but as the senior member Tsutsumi again showed that when his mind is on the ball he is among the very best defenders in the division.

My Man of the Match – Ryuichi Kamiyama
Again maybe a surprise, but for all the improvments in midfield, with Sakata and Ishizu keeping the oppositions defence on their toes it would not have been possible with 3-4 excellent saves after possession had been given away cheaply.

Posted July 15, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Match Reports

vs. Tochigi SC (preview)   Leave a comment

We’ll be playing Tochigi in a few hours, and I’m trying to be optimistic, but worried that this is possibly the crucial part of the season for us.

Tochigi have been something of a bogey team for us, they seem to be able to bully us in midfield a bit and generally have some foreign strikers who are able to finish their direct attacks effectively.

A big difference today may be that Paulinho is still likely to be out injured, and Cristiano managed to get yellow carded twice in injury time last week so will be missing too. Maybe this is our chance to get all three points for the first time in years.

To do that there is going to need to be a lot more organisation in defence to deal with the aerial threat of Savia, and a much clearer outlet ball for the midfield to build attacks.

Avispa News
Avispa have problems in defence as Mizutani and Koga are both out injured, I believe Kim is too but hasn’t been used much this season anyway.
Kamiyama has come in as keeper and done a great job, but the organisation of Koga is harder to replace. Tsutsumi and Park didn’t do very well last weekend and may well be changed. The only real option would seem to be Kazuki playing.
Miyomoto should come back in as right-back.

Midfield looked much better in the second half last week when Funeyama and Kanakubo offered much more dynamism. But Kanakubo is now suspended. I’d like to see Funeyama start, but he doesn’t seem to last a match.

Up front I think the youngsters should take a couple of weeks out and use the experience of Sakata, Nishida, Jogo and Osmar to make up the front 3 and first change.

Tochigi SC News
The Tochigi manager must have been quite annoyed after having his Captain and midfield playmaker long-term injured his replacement Cristiano managed to get booked twice in the last minute the week before playing a team who can leap-frog them in the table with a win.

Tochigi will keep the same basic 442 formation, but probably move Alex up into midfield. He has genuine class, but is now 35 and should be able to be pressed if we play with energy in what will be quite hot conditions.

Sabia is a fairly small striker, but quite good in the air. Similarly I think we should be targetting him with some close tackling, and hopefully not have an overly fussy referee to kill the game.

My Prediction :

Avispa 2 – 0 Tochigi SC

Generally I wouldn’t give us a chance against Tochigi, but they are missing a lot of what would be considered their key players.
They’ve not had a good couple of weeks, losing to Yokohama and drawing with Toyama, and in fact haven’t won a game in over a month.

Posted July 14, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Preview

vs. Consadole Sapporo (report / youtube)   Leave a comment

Consadole Sapporo 3 : 0 Avispa Fukuoka

So a win here would have taken us into the play-off positions with a couple of points to spare, but we blew it big time.

Excuses could be made that we didn’t have a full-strength defence out, but the match was lost on way more than just the defence.
Throughout this season we have suffered from something of a disconnect between midfield and attack, and it has at times invited oppositions to come and test the defence when we have turned over possession. To be fair to the defence and keepers they have then done a pretty good job at withstanding those attacks, but today Sapporo’s attack clicked and we were always facing an uphill task.

I understand what Pusnik is trying to do in asking the keepers to build from the back and then pass along the floor. Each consecutive pass should have a relatively small chance of failure, and while the opposition don’t have the ball they can’t score; this is in comparison to a long clearance which might have a 50% chance of being retained by us, but has as much chance of giving the ball straight back.

The problem in this game (and much of this season) is that the midfield 3 are not getting the ball to the front 3 with enough consistency. In this game in particular Okada was terrible in my opinion, really offering very little in terms of an option. Nakahara was even deeper for much of the time, and Jogo is basically out of position (although that then asks the question of what exactly is his position?).

Having said all that Avispa could and should have taken the lead. Kanemori was trying to be busy us front and pot onto a loose ball with just the keeper to beat, but panicked a little and gave a defender time to get back and make a challenge.
Consadole had a similar sort of chance at the other end and the game looked like it could have some goals.

The goal did come and it was largely due to some bad defensive positioning, and a good finish from the edge of the box.
With possession cheaply given away the ball was directly and quickly played up field, and managed to be played onto the edge of the box for the Sapporo captain Okamoto to place just inside the post from the edge of the box.
Avispa seem to spend a lot of time trying to pull defensive lines out of shape, but not really succeeding; here we had an example of it being done to us with simple, direct football. Okamoto had time to take a couple of touches on the edge of the box and still have no-one within 2m of him to put the ball exactly where he wanted it.

Having been out of position and looking lethargic for the 1st goal the central back 2 looked even worse for the 2nd. With Park Gun drawn way to far to the right and too far forward, to basically be in no-mans land; Tsutsumi in a not much better position behind him, a simple ball cutting out the entire back line could be played to the unmarked Arano who finished well on the half-volley.
Omata looked across in hope for an off-side flag, probably wondering how there could be so much space in the middle, but it was just a defence in disarray which left the space.
It was the sort of defensive positioning which suggested Avispa might need some old-school Arrigo Saachi ropes tying players together training to make them hold their shape better.

If Avispa could get a goal before half-time the game was still open enough to suggest there was a way back in but Consadole closed the game with a 3rd which Park Gun won’t be adding to his youtube highlights reel.
Again horribly out of shape, the centre-back pairing were totally dissected by a diagonal ball which Park got tangled up on trying to reach and leave Arano with his second good finish of the match.

Half-time saw a double substitution as the squad looked a mess. Personally I would have taken Tsutsumi off. He has been possibly the player of the season so far, but at times in this match looked like the same disinterested, overly casual player of last season. If there was something we could get from this game it would be saying to Hatamoto to show what he can do with the insurance that he wouldn’t be any worse than the first half.

The substitutes who did come on did make things a lot better. Funeyama and Kanakubo provide the dynamism and skill to be able to get the ball in the right places at the right time. Funeyama doesn’t seem to have the stamina to do it all match, or stay on the pitch for longer than 15 minutes without getting a yellow card.
We are still in a very good position in the table and hopefully Kanakubo can now stay fit and we can build from the second half of this match to be a team with greater cohesion in the remaining games of the season.

After last season the aim should still be 6th place as a great achievement.

Some interesting highlights this week. No idea where it is from but it has English commentary with some quite interesting pronunciations.

Posted July 10, 2013 by avispafukuoka in Match highlights, Match Reports