Montedio Yamagata 2 : 1 Avispa Fukuoka
Pusnik has had to pull a few surprises this season to try and get 11 players on the pitch who could beat the opposition and continued that pattern for this match as we reverted to 3 at the back with Jogo asked to play in a right-back position with Oh Chan Hyon returned from Nagasaki playing in the unfamiliar role of left-back.
I can guess that the immediate question might be as to why one of the players considered our premium attackers was moved back to play in a wing-back role, but the reality is what other option do we have? In Sakata, Ishizu, Kanemori, even Kanakubo and Nishida we have players capable of doing a job in attack, but are really stretched in defence. Tsutsumi can play right-back well, but is more important in central defence at the moment. Mishima is suspended. Miyamoto can do a job defensively, but does he deserve to be in the team ahead of any of the attackers listed earlier?
Whatever team got put out you could never plan for the start which we had as Yamagata were awarded a penalty within 4 minutes after a ball played over the top made Park Gun turn back towards goal, but slip and end up falling into the attacker in the box.
It was clearly a fairly bizarre accident, but contact on the attacker was made and a penalty seemed the only real option. I don’t know if it is possible to make a case for obstruction and an indirect free-kick, but it was a terrible start for Avispa.
The game went on with few clear chances for either team, but Avispa then conceded a 2nd goal as Bandai sprung our defensive line.
It looked like it was impossible that it couldn’t be offside, but through the frustrating aspect of Japanese television of not showing these decisions clearly it’s impossible to really say for sure. Tsutsumi definitely correctly stepped up leaving the attacker 4-5m offside from him, but Koga and Oh were a little slower to do so. Even so it still looked like the attacker was clearly offside.
I have no definite answer as to whether it was or not due to Japanese TV being awful in this sort of situation but can say it was either the sort of horrible refereeing decision we have had several of this season, or Koga not being fully up to speed and making the sort of horrible defensive mistake which presumably he was bright to the club to organise and eliminate.
Kamiyama made a good first save with his leg but the rebound was quickly knocked home to make the score 2-0.
It does seem like this season we have had an enormous number of bad refereeing decisions, which have directly led to us losing points. People say these things even out over a season and they haven’t done so far. I can only remember the Gifu game when I’ve thought we were on the positive side of a decision, but 9-10 where there have been clear bad decisions against us.
I hope it is just bad refereeing decisions rather than something more sinister but is something which the J-League needs to sort out; and the way to sort it out isn’t to ban television from showing replays of contentious refereeing calls and punishing managers if they speak out after horrible decisions.
After the break we looked to have gone to a more familiar 4 at the back formation, and Jogo was getting forward with more regularity. Avispa continued to get some bizarre refereeing decisions, Sakata in particular not seeming to be able to go near an opposition player without being judged to have fouled him.
I do wonder if referees in Japan sometimes respond to criticism of them and fellow referees by taking it out on the team which has doubted them. With Pusnik speaking out, and Sakata telling the referee in this game that he was getting things wrong, it seemed like the referee was taking some sort of revenge by ensuring we wouldn’t get any positive decisions.
When we got a goal back it was a very well finished one by Kanemori. Jogo showed what he can do attacking down the right with a burst through a player and into the box. A low cross to the near post was cleverly flicked into goal with a back-heel by the youngster.
Avispa were controlling the game and not looking like a team in a bad run of form. I felt that if we scored before the 80th minute we would easily go on to win the game after the 2 silly goals in the first half. We nearly did so as Kanakubo placed a shot towards the corner which was palmed away and didn’t quite fall for Kanemori at the back post.
Sakata was judged offside from a clever free-kick routine which was headed just wide, and then as the game reached the last minute headed a ball across goal and onto the cross-bar with the goal-keeper beaten.
It turned out to be the last kick of the game as we tasted defeat again. It is a horrible run of losses, but I hope the players watch the games back and see how close things are to being ok. If they need convincing then they should look back at some games from this time last season when we were losing just as many games, but never looking like we could ever win.
Toyama next week and it is starting to feel like a must-win game. Not for any small chances of sneaking into the play-offs, but just to give the players the lift they need to try and finish the season on a high and think about what good things have been achieved this season.
My Man of the Match – Daisuke Sakata
Didn’t stop running in spite of terrible performance by the referee. Last season he rarely lasted longer than 65 minutes, this year he is still running at the end and nearly saved us a point in this game with a header in the last minute.