Avispa 1 : 0 Tokushima Vortis
This was the first game of the season I have missed, but managed to watch a recording of the match the following day. It was a shame that I missed it as it looked like one of the better performances of the season as Avispa have risen from the off-pitch problems and fought for the supporters to quite comfortably beat a club who look like they will finish in the play-offs.
Off the pitch there have also been rumors that things are looking better too, with 2ch full of talk about some big news coming up soon regarding the structure of the club with UNIQLO and LINE being names I’ve read mentioned. Whether these have any truth behind them, or is just wishful thinking I don’t know but the last month has shown any potential new investor that the club has fans who will support the club through thick and thin.
We started this match with what could now be seen as our strongest XI. Oh has done ok at right-back since coming back, Sakata/Kanemori/Ishizu is clearly our best attacking 3, and Mishima has recently been our stand-out player and was asked to play a central role to fill our current problem position alongside Kanakubo and Nakahara.
The one surprise for me was seeing Koga playing again, I thought he may have played his last game, but apart from playing Kazuki there may have been few other options.
We started brightly with the ball being played forward quickly and intelligently in spite of the pitch being water-logged in places. It was a bit of a risk as the ball was ticking in places and I had some concerns that a move could break down through no fault of the players and lead to heads dropping, but to give credit to the team they had confidence in themselves and the system and it lead directly to a goal.
The ball quickly left defence and had some quick passing from Kanakubo and Sakata to feed Ishizu on the edge of the box. Kanemori peeled away in anticipation of a through pass, but as the defence follwed him it opened enough space for Ishizu to hit an awkward shot which bounced just by the keeper to open the scoring.
A statistic which I think of sometimes when watching Avispa’s build-up play is that the club with the highest average passes per goal in the English Premiership is Newcastle with just under 6. If you count Avispa’s passes we are rarely out of our own half after 6 passes, and the sort of quick direct passing which led to this goal is exactly what we need to be doing in my opinion.
Similar moves should have led to a couple more goals. Firstly Kanemori was slipped a ball as he played off the shoulder of the left-back Alex and rounded the keeper to score but was judged as being off-side.
It was the incorrect decision, and I think the linesman was probably duped by the experienced Alex diving to the floor in desperation as he knew he’d been caught out and the linesman raising his flag thinking something must be wrong somewhere. There are many very young referees in J2 at the moment and particularly with the Brazilian imports they are just not up to speed at the moment.
Kanemori was playing with the same confidence which had seen him score in consecutive games before his ban, and then had a good shot well saved as he ran onto a ball with a good diagonal run and hit an early shot aiming at the far corner which was punched over the bar.
Avispa were dominating most of the play. The only negative I might add would be that we had so many free-kicks and corners in that first half and apart from one short corner routine which was well worked were hitting the first man with almost everything else.
Yamaga showed us last weekend how dangerous set pieces can be if really worked upon and we wasted quite a lot in this game, with Kanakubo’s delivery in particular not really good enough.
The second half was not so effective, and we actually gave Tokushima a way back into the game as there was still just the 1 goal lead.
They held most of the ball, particularly in the last 25 minutes but the defence held solid when called upon, and the Tokushima attackers failed to get onto a couple of loose balls when the defence was less stable.
Koga wasn’t great, and got caught out for pace a couple of times, but for a guy who looks like he’s on his last legs it was a pretty brave performance.
In addition to the good passing in the first half the team must be happy to have been able to hold onto a clean sheet as the game finished. If we had been able to do that in the other games we have lost after 90 minutes this season it would be us in the play-offs not Tokushima in spite of everything going on off the pitch.