Matsumoto Yamaga 2 : 1 Avispa Fukuoka
Avispa started this game in front of a big banner saying ‘We need Marijan next year’, and what could now probably be seen as our strongest starting eleven.
It was exactly as I had said in the preview, except for Okada in midfield in place of Funayama. This switch is fairly indicative of one of our big problems on the pitch this season, we need 1 more quality players who is an obvious pick for central midfield. In Nakahara and Kanakubo we have 2 guys who are good enough at what they do, but there is still a big gap in the middle where we miss the third leg of our stool.
Having said that we started the game pretty well, and looked much more solid that we have for much of this season.
Matsumoto Yamaga are a team who try to keep things simple, getting the ball forward early and trying to play on the shoulder of defenders while in open play, and aiming to get set-pieces as often as they can.
Our defence were dealing with the threat quite easily with Tsutsumi looking like he may be going some way to getting back to form.
The biggest threat came from a left wing throw by #47 who was able to launch the ball to the penalty spot. This type of throw-in is difficult to deal with for any team, but especially so in Japan where the number of players and teams who can do this is so small that if Yamaga can train for it each day they have a serious weapon. It was a threat which Avispa should have paid more attention to.
Our best chance came when Nakahara hit a great shot with the outside of his boot from distance which ended up curling a little too much bringing it closer to the keeper who put it round the post.
As the second half started we took a deserved lead. Last game I had said that Ishizu is a good dribbler, but does it in the wrong places. In this game a little space opened up in front of him and he went straight at the box. Bursting through a group of defenders he got some luck, but stayed in the right place and with the ball to pick out Mishima who had taken a gamble that the ball might pop out to him.
He calmly finished to score his first professional goal.
Mishima was again playing well and took confidence from this first goal to turn just out side the box 10 minutes later and hit a good shot at goal. The Yamaga keeper got across well to save.
Unfortunately Yamaga scored just as it looked like Avispa were close to killing the game. Park Gon made a horrible mistake and the ball ended up being cleared for a throw-in on the right. They had already nearly conceded a couple of times and should have been doing everything they could to avoid any more.
The #47 changed angle a little to fire across a flat one which was touched on to be scored at the far post.
Ishizu came off to be replaced by Kihara making his first appearance of the season after injury, and nearly too the lead in similar fashion to the first goal.
Kanakubo this time dribbled at the box and bundled through 3-4 block tackles to be 1-on-1 with the keeper. Rather than score he tried to place the ball with th outside of his boot and hit quite tamely at the goal-keeper.
The game was opening up and both teams had chances to score which I think I may have been able to do better.
The first was when a Mishima run down the right led to the ball reaching substitute Funayama to be the hero in front of his brother, but he spooned an awful shot over the bar.
The second was for Yamaga as their #13 had a free header about 2m from goal but knocked it wide.
It was clear by the end of the game that Yamaga were going to rely almost entirely on set pieces to score, and particularly their long throws. It seemed some players on the pitch didn’t get it and 3-4 times we knocked the ball out for a throw just outside our penalty box. Even if the defender really couldn’t clear up field I think I may have been more tempted to knock it out for a corner at that stage.
As so often has happened this season we ended up conceded a goal in injury time to lose the game. Obviously it came from a long throw which bounced around the box, nearly went out for a goal-kick, hit the post, and was then knocked home by a Yamaga player who have clearly been practicing this sort of penalty box melee in training as their main source of goals.
We were the better team, we lost the game, it has happened a few times this season. It doesn’t really matter, what does matter is getting the club structure sorted so plans can be made for next season without the big gaps in the squad which we currently have.