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.