Avispa Fukuoka 3 : 4 Kashima Antlers
If this match is looked at primarily as a training match, one in which to learn some more lessons in the build-up to the new season then I think it was quite successful.
If it is viewed as an entertaining game which will hopefully lead to a big home crowd for the first home game of the season then it was a good advert for the club.
If looked at as a game which we should try and get into the routine of winning, and especially of banishing the memories of losing matches in the last 10 minutes and playing against opposition teams and the referee then it was a disaster.
The match started with a few surprises in the line-up as we played a formation which generally looked a bit like 4123, but really was changing between a few variations of 451 depending on where the game was being played.
The biggest surprise was to see left-back Takeda in midfield where he was playing a terrier like role and doing a fairly decent job of it. He didn’t offer much going forward but put in 45 minutes of running to try and put pressure on the opposition midfielders.
Both full-backs were trying to get forward, but this did leave space behind them which Kashima tried to exploit. This is an obvious problem by using full-backs who try to get forward, but by having Park as a supplementary centre back it isn’t a total disaster if a winger does get to an advanced position as we still have 3 in the middle.
Park went through bursts of doing well, and then being a little behind the play but generally I thought that when he was doing well and winning the battle for the middle of the pitch we were playing well as a team.
We took the lead early on from a corner. Morimura swung an outswinging corner from the left and Punosevac managed to connect well with a header going backwards having taken a step to lose his marker. The ball hit the inside of the post and give us our first goal from a set piece in a long time.
Unfortunately Kashima went straight up the other end and scored. They could have scored within 2 minutes as the right winger pulled a cross back onto Davi’s head at the far post but the ball was correctly judged to have crossed the byline.
It didn’t take long after that to actually equalize and it came from a horrible defensive mistake. Seon looks like a good lump of a defender who throws himself at things, but he doesn’t seem to be able to kick the ball. Given a chance to try to do so after 20 minutes he kicked the ball straight up in the air where the Kashima right wing could cross for Davi to hit it first time past Shimizu.
Davi was winning absolutely everything in the air, and giving a very good example of what is needed as a hard running, target man in the J-league. He was gifted the chance to double his score for the day from another cross from the right.
It looked like a fairly straight-forward ball for Shimizu to gather, but rather than go to meet the ball and at least collect a foul if he didn’t get the ball he shied away from it trying to gather at waist height with the ball coming to him. Avispa won’t come across many strikers of Davi’s quality this season, but you certainly can’t give him an invitation like that and he easily powered in front of the small keeper to score.
Avispa didn’t drop their heads and scored a good goal of their own; probably the only good goal of the game, all the others coming from set-pieces or defensive mistakes.
Park lifted a decent weight ball into the box where Punosevac finally connected with a good nudge header seeing the ball drop down to Hirai. Hirai showed what he can do with chances like that by finishing clinically. He might not do much else in the game, but give him chances in the box and there are unlikely to be many more effective in J2 next season.
The final goal for the half gave Avispa the lead at half-time. The forwards were working hard to close space and not allow too much time to build attacks and were rewarded as a loose ball sent Punosevac free on goal to score.
Maybe the most important part of the goal for me was that when the goal was scored Davi was sitting on the floor after tangling with Seon at the other end. After picking up a bit of a knock he didn’t really want to play any more and was very quiet for the last 10 minutes having dominated the game up to then.
Avispa, and particularly players like Park in defensive midfield, need to learn that giving opposition players a bit of a kick is sometimes the best way to quieten them down a bit.
Going into the second half we changed 4 players with Sakata, Ishizu, Nakahara and Mitsunaga coming on.
The best chances fell to Avispa with Jogo coming more into the game as balls between the centre-back and left-back allowed him to run onto balls in space, but the finish didn’t quite come. Ishizu had a shot across goal, and a very nice inter-play between Jogo and Ishizu saw the ball headed down for Morimura on the penalty spot but he will be disappointed with his tired finish.
With 10 minutes to go I was thinking that maybe keeping a clean sheet was better for the team than to play out another 2-3 scoreline, especially with our history of throwing away games in the last 10 minutes, but instead we threw the game away in the last 10 minutes.
Some of our players were starting to look a bit tired (the pitch was very heavy) and Mishima gave away a necessary free-kick running back into position after one of our attacks.
Mishima then had something which I hope will be a massive lesson for the team going into the season as he was pushed off the ball before the free-kick, with the set-piece taken quickly while Mishima argued with the referee as the defence watched on.
The referee certainly wasn’t watching the game and shouldn’t have allowed the goal (even if it was a good goal in truth, he has to be watching the game), but he shouldn’t have been given the chance to influence the game in this way. A free kick in this position needs Mishima to stand right on top of the ball to stop it being taken quickly, if he gets pushed hard enough that he starts arguing with the referee then he needs to go down. It is a bit cynical, but the alternative is a quick free-kick and a goal being conceded.
There is the chance he could be booked for stopping a quick free-kick, but it should always be possible to deflect attention away by asking the referee if we are playing to the whistle. A Kashima player was very cute in stopping an Avispa attack earlier in the half by taking a quick throw-in when it was clearly an Avispa throw, thus slowing the counter and allowing his team to get back as his ‘confusion’ was corrected.
Kazuki had come on for Seon by this time and was starting to get flustered after what had initially been an ok start. Unfortunately he was on the end of another dubious refereeing decision as Davi pushed through him towards a ball coming into the box. I’m not totally sure what kazuki was thinking, but he ended up trying to head a ball at about waist height just in front of him and then went down as Davi came through him.
Davi didn7t need a second invitation to go down and the referee fell for the bait giving a penalty to award Kashima the victory when a high scoring draw would have been a much fairer result.