Giravanz Kitakyushu 0 : 2 Avispa Fukuoka
This game ended with Nishida Go hitting a banner at the side of the pitch calling for the Avispa players to show some guts after scoring our second goal in the 95th minute.
It was a fitting image to end the game which had been low on overall quality for Avispa, but had seen the players putting in a real shift and fighting for balls all over the pitch. The supporters at Avispa are a very forgiving bunch, and all anyone asks is for the players to play like this and win, lose or draw we’ll be happy.
As it was we won the game, and one of the first things I wondered was if we had played with the same intensity against lower-placed teams Yokohama and Toyama we could have got 6 points from those games and been on 53 points just outside the play-offs. There has been a feeling of negativity around the club recently (understandably after losing every game in September and most of them in August) but the fine line between success and failure is a narrow one.
It is too late for a run to 6th place this season, but not too late to get a system in place which could see us start 2014 in a groove rather than the change in managemnet which has happened for the last few seasons.
The game started with no Jogo (possibly out for the remainder of the season with a broken foot), and a couple of new faces to freshen the terrible performance against Toyama.
The most positive thing about the team for me was that although we were missing some of our better players through injury and suspension the ones who were playing were mostly in their favored position.
Oh was at right-back, Mishima playing ahead of him at right midfield, Okada in a defensive midfield type role, and with Kanemori and Sakata playing as forwards behind a target man in Punosevac. The only player who was possibly playing out of position was Tsutsumi at left-back but he was tucking in, and has looked a little out of sorts at centre-back recently so maybe needed the challenge of a new position to keep his mind concentrated.
It might seem irrelevent, or possibly that professional footballers should be able to adapt to any position on the pitch, but in a fragile state of mind the thought that they might be out of position may be enough excuse for some of the players to under-perform, or even just thinking that someone else is out of position.
In truth Giravanz dominated large parts of the game. With our full-backs tucked in there was the chance for dinked balls to be played around them, and Koga still looked way off the pace on his return to the team.
Having said that with players in the box Giravanz were mostly limited to shots from range. It certainly seemed like they had watched videos of Kamiyama and his very limited ability against long range shots, but today found a man inspired.
I wouldn’t say that he ever looked like an amazing keeper, but somehow managed to keep getting something in front of the ball and putting it behind for a corner. In the times when he was beaten he was rescued by the cross-bar which stopped 2 long range shots.
Avispa didn’t really create any clear chances, but scored from the only way it looked like they could after being awarded a penalty.
The young wingers(Kanemori, Ishizu, Mishima) must be encouraged to run at people in 1-on-1 situations, and today we got a penalty after Mishima tried to beat someone in the box, failed, but saw his blocked attempt picked up by Nakahara who was clearly brought down by a late foot on the edge of the box.
It was the clearest example of how even if you don’t win your 1-on-1 by making playing commit and cause confusion you can make things happen, and only in the right area of the pitch.
Sakata kept his cool and converted well.
Sakata was playing very well in a team who were struggling to keep the ball. For a tall man Punosevac was not winning much in the air, but when the ball came to Sakata he managed to hold it up well and never gave away possession. Apart from Kamiyama who somehow kept managing to keep the ball out of the net he was our best player until he picked up a yellow card and was substituted.
Elsewhere Okada was doing much better in a destructive role, without ever offering anything in attack, and Park was the pick of the defenders playing with a bit of battle needed for a derby match.
The final 25 minutes were a case of Avispa trying to hold out against the Giravanz attack (they had had 23 shots by the final whistle) with substitutes Ishizu and Funayama doing quite well to add some more energy. Funeyama had a tough game last weekend, but bounced back here by doing everything asked of him after he came on.
With Giranvanz pushed up in attack we sealed the game as another substitute scored. It was a goal which I guess Pusnik would be very happy about as a strong header from Park in defence was calmly headed down from the second ball by Funeyama straight to Nakahara. Nakahara released quickly forward to Ishizu who turned his man, ran and played through Nishida.
Running straight at goal he cutely finished over the keeper to score a classy counter-attack goal and run to the supporters and celebrate our first win in what feels like a very long time.