Avispa Fukuoka 1 : 1 Gainare Tottori
If you look at supporting a football club as a method of entertainment I can’t really fault Avispa; the things which have happened on and off the pitch in just the few years I have been supporting the club means that while the dedicated fans could wish we’d won a few more matches they couldn’t say they’ve been bored.
Pusnik must be wondering what to make of Japanese football having experienced what he has so far this season. This game alone had messages from the president before the match, messages from the fans and players at the match, a referee who I hope was paid a lot of money (if he gave that performance for free then he has really missed out), goals disallowed, ghost red cards, what looked like a retirement mid-match, a near defeat against a team who hadn’t won since July, and an eventual comeback from 10 men playing 11 for over a half of football.
The game started with a big message from the fans saying that we just care about the football club and don’t want to have to rely on sponsors as they will invariably come and go. It’s an interesting message, and one which within the core support I definitely think is true; Avispa fans aren’t the sort who are hungry for success each year and I think would be happy just to have a team who try their hearts out each week. It isn’t for everyone, but in the correct sort of situation (I’m thinking an Athletic Bilbao type Kyushu only, not obsessed with J1 each season) could be a real opportunity for a development based manager who values patience from the crowd over immediate success.
We looked OK at the start and were passing the ball around with some success. I’m still not convinced by Punosevac as the best option as an exotic foreign import, but he does have some nice link-up play in attack. He looks like someone who has spent much of his career not being 10cm taller than everyone else and while he can now get his head to the ball regularly seems to have better touch and distribution on the floor.
We looked to have taken the lead after about 10 minutes as Nakahara drove at goal and struck a shot which dipped over the keeper onto the underside of the bar. On first impressions I thought it had gone over the line, TV replays suggest that it at least bounced goal-side but may not have had 100% of the ball over the line. If we had scored at that point I think Gainare would have slipped back into their awful slump and given us an easy win.
I don’t know what to make of the performance by the referee. It is horrible to think that he may have been bought by someone to do as badly as he has, or maybe there is someone with a huge dislike of Gifu at the J-League. Certainly the only refereeing performance which ‘helped’ us was the penalty and red card against Gifu, and now we have had what may have been an even worse performance than the joke against Kumamoto. That guy just totally lost control, this one (榎本 一慶) just seemed to be doing whatever he could to get the win for Gainare.
His coup de grace came in the last minute of the first half when he gave Punosevac a second yellow card. I couldn’t see what it was for at the match, so watched the whole replay at home too. It seems he may have committed the offence of being a foreigner standing near a Japanese defender (much like the Brazilian guy for Ventforet a couple of weeks ago). The referee was suggesting he had elbowed the #28 at the corner, but that may have happened only in his mind.
By that point Avispa had already conceded a goal as a quick counter up field after Tsutsumi had been pushed off the ball saw a cross come in from the left for Koga to set up Genki Nagasato with a smart assist. It still needed a lot of work, but Genki must love playing at Level-5 and smashed a volley into the far corner.
It wasn’t the only poor piece of play from Koga, and then after 40 minutes he suddenly went off. I still don’t really know what happened. It looked like he may have hurt his leg, or he may have hurt his back, but looked more like he had just had enough. I’m sure there will be an explanation at some point, but at the time it just looked like he had an on-pitch epiphany that he just couldn’t do it any more and left the pitch to go and be sick.
So we started the second half with 10 men, having also had our Captain go off in unknown circumstances, losing against a team who hadn’t won since July and have conceded well over 100 goals in 2 seasons of football without making any real chances.
It looked like things weren’t going to go well, but then after switching to 3 at the back the players seemed to wake up and think that without the expectation of a win they could just go out and try to win.
We had much more luck down the right as Mishima was our stand out player, and Kanakubo started to run a bit. He was still giving the ball away more times than he was doing something positive, but at least he was doing something.
Ushinohama came on and looked like he wanted to win, Nishida came on and ran around a bit. Crosses were going into the box which with a striker on the pitch would have been converted but the 10 men of Avispa were still finding ways of filling the spaces.
An equaliser did come in the end, and it explained why Tottori are bottom of the table. Ishizu hit a hopeful shot from distane which took a bit of a scuff off a blocking defender and rolled agonisingly slowly past the Tottori keeper.
Both teams had chances to take the win. Most notably when Nakahara blocked on the line after a Tottori player found himself with too much time in the box to think about where he was going to score and shot straight at the midfielder on the line.
Pusnik can come out of the game really happy with 4-5 players, and totally fed up with the rest. The important thing going into the close season is will he be able to do anything about keeping the good players and replacing the bad?