Archive for March 2014
Just as I was hoping that we could hold on for the draw we showed some new mental character and pushed forward for the win.
Lee Kwang Seon showed the sort of flick header which we had been hoping that Punosevac would be able to do, and Hirai doesn’t need too many chances in the box.
It is the sort of simple goal which Avispa don’t score enough of.
Sending a defender forward like Lee and putting a ball into the box is something which is seen regularly in the Premier League (even for throw-ins with some clubs), but Avispa always seem to play free-kicks from half-way back to the defence to pass around for a bit.
I know it’s what Barcelona/Liverpool/Swansea etc. do with those free kicks, and it is a nice way to play, but it is also good if we have a more direct option like this in our repertoire.
Avispa Fukuoka 1 : 0 Yokohama FC
Thinking back I can’t remember a game which we have won in injury time at the end of the game. There have been many which we have lost, or conceded to draw in that time but none which I can immediately think of having won (maybe beating Kitakyushu in 2010 with a Suzuki Jun free-kick).
It is nice to get blow-out 5 or 6-0 victories, but nothing quite matches winning a game with the last kick of the game.
This victory came at the end of what had up to then been an entertaining 0-0 draw, with both teams having chances to win the game. A draw would have been a fair result, but a 2-2 draw perhaps better reflecting what was going on on the pitch than 0-0.
Yokohama had seemingly taken a lead from Watanabe at Ehime by including a big lump of a striker as Korean Park Sung-Ho started up front, but he was generally pretty immobile and dealt with quite well be Lee Kwang Seon.
More of a problem for us was the channel areas where we can be prone to balls in behind as our full-backs push up to supplement the attack and came ery close to conceding the first goal after 15 minutes as a ball won in midfield was quickly played in behind Abe while he was upfield with a cross drilled in across the box to be hit first time at goal. The Yokohama turned away as if he thought he had scored but it hit the inside of the post and very fortunately rebounded straight to Kamiyama lying prone on the floor with 3 attackers around him.
Avispa had a few chances of their own. Firstly from a quite well worked free-kick which Puni dinked over the wall to Jogo at the far post to head back across goal. It could have gone anywhere, but the Yokohama defence are all experienced at this level and were making themselves well zoned, and difficult to unsettle so cleared easily.
Kanemori was our best player in the first half having his first start of the season. The time on the bench has been time well spent as he came into the team hungry and full of running for the team. He played through Ishizu for a shot just wide of the post from the edge of the box after Puni had intercepted a loose ball, and then had the clearest chance of the half as Ishizu played a ball over the top to him.
He has real pace and broke through the defensive line to be 1-on-1 with the keeper. Cynically I would say he needed to tap the ball either side of the keeper and take the hit to get a penalty and red card, but he stayed honest and tried to score first time with what was a difficult finish and put it past the post.
Punosevac was being a physical challenge for the Yokohama team but was perhaps flying a little close to the wind. For Yokohama Douglas was trying to enforce his physicality on the game (and should have been cautioned for a 2 footed tackle as he jumped in, not making any contact but still a reckless challenge which is now outlawed), but was not being allowed things all his own way by Punosevac.
After 35 minutes Puni went in on a tackle which could easily have resulted in a red card on another day. I believe that the yellow shown was the correct decision, but after nearly a year in the country Puni should now know he can’t give referees in this country the chance to send off a foreigner.
Pusnik wisely took the decision to substitute him at half-time with Hirai coming on as the furthest forward attacker.
He showed why he isn’t started through the second half as he really did very little, but then popped up to win the game at the end. It is quite frustrating that he could be one of our best players, but lacks the work ethic to really take his game to the next level.
Someone he should be looking to copy is Sakata who has been given a new lease of life as similarly to Dwight Yorke when he passed 30 he has dropped a little deeper and taken up a midfield position. We have been struggling to find a midfielder, Sakata’s performance today had everything, running, tackling, energy, tenacity, and if he can continue to play like he is in this position it is very positive for the team.
Kamiyama had been restored to the team and rewarded Pusnik for his return by pulling off 3-4 good reflex saves to keep the game goal-less. All chances coming crosses into the box, or space in the full-back positions where Nozaki was finding space, and #10 Terada was having more and more influence o the game.
The best of these saves was a 1 handed parry from a header by the tall Brazilian.
Avispa were also making chances, with Mishima coming more into the game as his excellent stamina meant he kept pushing up on the right wing and firing crosses into the box.
Ishizu was getting the ball around the edge of the box and doing his trademark dribbles around this area, coming closest to scoring with a cross-shot from the right which caught the diving challenge of the first defender but could have slid past on another day.
The game seemed destined to finish 0-0 as Hirai got himself into a very similar position to the goal against Kyoto having cut back inside and left Douglas wrong-footed, but rather than rifling the ball into the roof of the net he hooked his shot weakly and allowed the goal-keeper to save easily. It was the chance to win the match, and looked like it would cap off a quiet performance from Hirai which when he got his chance he couldn’t score (and doesn’t really have any other role in the team if he isn’t finishing chances).
That all changed as Brazilian Ronaldo gave away a cheap free-kick backing into Lee on halfway and allowed Avispa 1 last attack just as the referee was about to blow for full time.
Pusnik sent the order for Lee to run and put himself onto the edge of the box and try to get something on a hail mary pass from Tsutsumi.
Douglas came out to try to challenge, but couldn’t match the height or jump of the tall Korean who got an excellent flick header on into the box. With Douglas moved out to challenge it opened up space behind where Hirai could collect the ball, turn and hit a shot into the pitch which bounced up and over the keeper to win with 10 seconds left of the match.
Yokohame had not been beaten this season, and we have now beaten them and Kyoto at home (and got a creditable away draw with Jubilo) to give us a league position in the play-offs having had perhaps the hardest start to the season, and leave what is hopefully a happy squad for training tomorrow morning.
Sadly for the J-League a lot of the match tomorrow is going to be about 1 man, Kazu Miura; a one-time National Team star who is now as famous for still playing pro football at age 47.
Last time Yokohama came to Level-5 he did play and there was a noticeable segment of the crowd who were there to watch him, and a gasp every time he got the ball. He isn’t a bad player still, but it is quite sad for the league that they have 1 man pulling so much power almost as a side-show rather than what is going on on the pitch.
What was going on on the pitch that day was a thrashing by Yokohama, 5:1 in the middle of the period when we had basically been declared bankrupt and lost about 8 games in a row.
I expect tomorrow’s game to be a little different. We have been inconsistent so far this season, but still only lost once despite having already played Kyoto and Jubilo.
The performances against those teams would be enough to beat Yokohama quite easily, but we have also seen the team lose and draw to Ehime and Kumamoto.
The result of the match is entirely in Avispa’s control. If we turn up and play we win, if we arrive scared or complacent then we will lose or draw.
3 weeks ago the team was set; Park had played a blinder as anchor, Hirai had come off the bench to add a scoring touch, and the defence had been solid against a Kyoto team possession players with some guile.
Since then Park has seemingly totally lost it, the keeper has been changed and every forward has an argument for selection, but also one for why he shouldn’t play.
Keeper – Depends on if Kamiyama is injured. Shimizu came in and did ok despite conceding 3 goals, but is still 2nd choice for me if Kamiyama is fit.
Defence – Oh Chang Hyon guaranteed that Mishima will play right-back unless he is injured/suspended with a bad performance on his chance last week. Centre 2 stay the same (Lee/Tsutsumi) and Abe has done well at left-back.
I think keeping a settled back 4 is important for this group of players.
Anchor – Takeda is a right-back thrown in there, but so was Emmanuel Petit at Arsenal. He did ok, and was getting much better as the game went on, and has the intelligence to play this difficult role.
Midfield – Nakahara is obvious (despite not playing all that well this season), but who to play alongside him. After being a problem for 3 years we still have no midfield.
I’d play Jogo, but tell him we need him to put in an action performance and make the position his. He doesn’t have the pace to play higher up the pitch, and needs to find a role which suits him.
Forwards – This is where it is tough. Each player has positives and negatives.
Sakata : Our most well-rounded forward, can score, and also tracks back.
Punosevac : A physical presence and works hard, hasn’t been scoring or looking like scoring.
Ishizu : Scores goals but doesn’t do enough when he doesn’t have the ball. Won’t pass to Punosevac.
Hirai : Knows how to score, but does almost nothing without the ball.
Kanamori : Pace to spare, scored 2 goals for the Japan team mid-week.
Of the 3 I would take Sakata as 1st choice to play whoever else plays. After that the best 2 on paper is Punosevac + 1, but there seems to be a problem with some players passing to Puni. That is totally their problem, but unfortunately we have a football match to win.
Personally I would give Sakata – Ishizu – Hirai a chance. This is what I think Ishizu and Hirai want, and if given a chance to show that they should be playing together every week it can either make or break them.
Punosevac and Kanamori offer good game changing options from the bench.
Yokohama have had a decent start to the season, winning 2 and drawing 2 to be in 4th spot, but they haven’t played any of the really top teams (Ehime, Toyama, Tochigi, Yamagata).
They have quite notoriously had a very old squad, and haven’t really changed that this season bringing in decent keeper Minami from Kumamoto.
Along with Douglas at centre-back he is one of the reasons I wouldn’t start Punosevac as they are likely to be quite good in the air, and enjoy the ball coming at them.
As with most defenders at this level they will be much less happy with balls making them turn and chase back and we should be trying to get balls played through to one of our forwards with diagonal balls from central positions with either shots or low crosses meeting the return run.
They are not a team who make lots of varied attacking moves, and have scored goals from set pieces to get their wins this season. Tsutsumi and especially Lee are going to need to be doing a better job at defending crosses and getting balls out far enough to an area where the second ball can be recycled.
Avispa 3 : 1 Yokohama FC
I don’t think the league table truly reflects the standing of the teams at the moment and think that at the end of the day we could be above Yokohama. That needs us to win by 2 goals and should be a target for the players rather than switching off like they did against Ehime.
It seems that Shinji Kagawa may have been lending Wayne Rooney some of his old tapes of J2 matches recently as Rooney tried to copy a move which Jogo had used 2 years previously against Matsumoto Yamaga.
Rooney pulled his off against West Ham United to give Manchester United a 1-0 lead…
He doesn’t get quite the distance that Jogo does, but gets extra points for hitting it on the volley.
In fact watching it back makes me think that maybe Jogo’s was more similar to this one which introduced David Beckham to the world (but still doesn’t get quite the distance the Jogo does)…
Shimizu – 5.5
Made his debut and conceded 3 goals. Didn’t have much of a chance with any of them, but also didn’t make many saves. One good double block in the second half and looks to try and play a sweeper role.
Abe – 5
Lucky not to get badly injured after a terrible tackle just under his knee. Tough evening, and didn’t really get forward. All 3 goals against came from crosses on the right wing.
Oh – 4
Not up to match pace for the first goal, didn’t look any stronger than Mishima in defence, and something strange has happened to him in attack. He just can’t get forward any more. Won’t play again for a while unless Mishima gets injured.
Tsutsumi – 5
Gave the ball away so many times in the first 20 minutes. Hard to tell who he was even trying to pass to at times.
Lee – 6
Better than against Ehime, but still nowhere near the player who played against Kyoto. Unfairly penalised for the penalty, but made up for it with a well taken goal and excellent last ditch tackle in the 2nd half.
Park – 4.5
I really want him to be able to play this position, but as with Lee hasn’t looked the same since Kyoto. The last 2 games will have dented his confidence and may now have some time on the bench.
Takeda – 7
Very slow start where he was 4-5 seconds behind the pace and couldn’t really influence the game. Had 2 good long shots, and got more into the game the longer it went on. Gave away the ball for Jubilo’s 3rd goal, but then made amends by scoring with a clever free-kick which was too close to get up and down.
Nakahara – 6
We really need him to start firing. He’s the player we need to get the ball to our forwards; at the moment he isn’t making that link between defence and attack.
Mishima – 7
A little isolated when he was playing as a forward, but happy to take shots at goal and try to take on the full-back. Comfortable when moved to right-back, but has to keep supplementing attack when he plays there with his main form of defence being his attacking driving wingers back.
Jogo – 6
Part of the move to get the 2nd goal, but still needs to be making himself bigger in games and attacking balls rather than wait for them to come onto him. Not sure why he has the Captain’s arm-band, there were so many talking points and he wasn’t talking to the referee.
Sakata – 6
Honest performance as he was playing all over the pitch, and basically as Captain in the absence of Jogo saying anything. We need him in attack however and if he drops too deep we lack movement up field.
Ishizu – 7
Excellent goal and an injection of energy when he came on. Unfortunately the team can’t carry him and he has to put in defensive work as well. Hopefully he will add this and play every game, he said he knew he needed to in his post-match interview.
Hirai – 6.5
Him and Ishizu are our most natural striker partnership. I think they are similar sorts of players, and maybe similar sorts of people, and if they can both start doing what they need to in respect of helping the team could be part of the best strike-force in the division.
Kanamori – 6
Tries to defend more than Ishizu and Hirai, but isn’t great at it and has picked up 3 yellow cards in 4 games now. Had a shot to win the game late on. If he keeps trying to improve in defence he will one day be our best player.
Jubilo Iwata 3 : 3 Avispa Fukuoka
Being a Saturday night game against what until this year has been J1 opposition meant that we had a lot of people watching the game last night, and supporters from a lot of teams have been saying how good we played (and how bad the referee was).
It also means there are a decent set of highlights uploaded of the game quickly…
10s: Oh Chang Hyon commits the cardinal sin of turning away from the ball at the crucial moment, and fails to step up with his central defender. He isn’t marking anyone, and leaves the striker with a fairly straight-forward header to give us an awful start.
24s: I have no idea what the referee is thinking; maybe about a big suitcase of cash from a Hong Kong betting syndicate; maybe about how he used to score a lot of goals with Maeda on Winning Eleven; maybe that the Korean guy shouldn’t be standing his ground against a Japanese player. Who knows?
48s: Good glancing header from a corner. Lee should score a few this season.
1m:03: Excellent team goal to get the ball forward quickly, but still Ishizu’s goal as he had a lot to do when he got the ball. Great first touch into space and early finish. Him and Hirai look like they can play together.
1m:46: Terrible back pass from Takeda catches the defence out of position. Still had enough time to try and do better with a cross aimed in at a forward 20cm shorter than them.
2m:30: Clever free-kick from Takeda as he kicks under the wall. Gets a lucky deflection, but deserved it and got a debut goal.
Jubilo Iwata 3 : 3 Avispa Fukuoka
There were a couple of surprises in the Avispa starting line-up as Oh Chang Hyon and Takeda came in to make their first starts of the season, with Takeda also making his debut for the club.
The inclusion of Takeda was one which I had hoped for as we were always going to need some more tenacity in midfield against an Iwata squad who have international quality all over the pitch and although aging, probably best squad in the division.
Oh Chang Hyon was a total surprise, but one I could understand as he is a little stronger in defence than Mishima, but didn’t really look up to speed for match fitness and wasn’t going to get much rest playing against a team like Iwata.
We conceded within the first 5 minutes with a goal which looked like it must be off-side. A cross came in from the right and picked out Yamazaki unmarked about 4m ahead of the defensive line who finished with his head easily.
The huge frustration of Japanese football coverage being that they won’t really show off-side decisions properly meant it is impossible to see if it was a valid goal, but watching the replay it seemed that if anyone was playing him on it was Oh who was a couple of seconds behind his team-mates; pretty unacceptable for a right-back to be behind his central pair.
Avispa were not playing well.
I know that we don’t have a great team, but I want us to at least force other teams to have to play and build attacks against us. If they are able to do so then we have to hold our hands up and say they were better, but in the first 20 minutes here we kept giving the ball away again and again in our own half.
Jubilo weren’t having to press or tackle to get the ball back and attack, we would just pass it to them. The worst offender in this regard was Tsutsumi who needs to get his passing and concentration sorted out.
This was the first game I’ve not watched at the stadium this season and was close to reaching for the TV remote control after 21 minutes when the referee again looked like he wanted to spoil the game.
A fairly innocuous looking cross came in again from the right which Maeda moved to go for but went shoulder-to shoulder with Lee and went down. Lee didn’t change his run, lift his arms, move towards the player, or anything else to warrant any sort of foul.
To be fair to Maeda he didn’t appeal for a penalty, but the referee made the bizarre decision to give one. It was one of the craziest decisions I’ve seen at a match in any country, perhaps only beaten by the late goal from JEF against us away last season.
Maeda and Matsui did rock-paper-scissors to see who would take it and Maeda scored. I have no idea what is going on at a club where players think that is an appropriate thing to be doing to choose who takes a penalty, especially a club who missed one and lost just 3 weeks earlier.
Having gone 2-0 down Avispa started playing. Takeda had been so far behind the pace of the game for the first 25 minutes, but slowly started to catch up and have a bigger impact on making the game a bit scrappier.
We won a corenr from a decent shot by Mishima and Lee showed that he is going to be a threat from them this season with a well-taken glancing header across goal to pull one goal back.
We were doing a little better, but it was quite clear that things needed to be changed up at half-time and Pusnik wasn’t scared to do so. I’m usually dead against half-time substitutions, and definitely double substitutions, but a gaol down and with quality goal-scorers on the bench it was the right thing to do here.
I don’t really know what to make of Park. Against Kyoto he was a rock and looked like our most important player for this season. In the last 2 games he just hasn’t been doing what is needed of him, and Takeda was correct to stay on having developed into the game after a poor first 25 minutes.
He continued to get better in the 2nd half and hit his second long range effort which was tipped over well by the keeper. On his ability to break from his defensive position and shoot alone he has done enough to play next game in my opinion.
Ishizu and Hirai were looking more threatening going forward than what we had had in the first half and linked up well for an equalising goal.
Takeda passed forward to Hirai who headed down to Jogo and continued his run to be picked out in the right wing position with a retun ball. Crossing into Ishizu on the edge of the box he still had a lot to do but got past his defender and slid the ball under the keeper to score.
Avispa were now on top and Iwata were worried into a set of quick substitutions. They could have then been down to 10 men after an awful tackle by Ferdinando. Coming in late on Abe he put his foot over the ball and just below Abe’s knee. He stayed down for a while, but was lucky to not get really badly injured. I was waiting to see if it would be yellow or maybe red for the Brazilian, but the terrible referee didn’t even give a foul.
He did at leat get one decision right when a loose ball put a Jubilo player running free at goal but Lee made up for ‘giving away’ the earlier penalty by putting in a good saving tackle which the stadium called for another penalty but on the replay could clearly be seen to have got the ball.
Avispa were on top but then gave the ball away again as Takeda played a ball to no-one and allowed Jubilo to run on goal with the defence out of position. They still had work to do and as Yamada put a cross in from the right he somehow managed to pick out the 170cm substitute striker with our 2 centre-backs each side of him not even challenging for the ball.
Maeda was bleeding from somewhere by this point, but the referee continued his total lack of knowledge of the rules of the game by allowing him to stay on the pitch with blood running down the back of his shirt. It certainly seemed to be a referee who was in awe of being on the pitch with a player at one-time the best striker in the J-League.
At that point I expected Avispa to crumble. They did well to come back from 2-0 down but to then go behind again with 7 minutes to play would be psychologically tough.
The Avispa team this year look a little stronger mentally however and did come back to take a share of the points.
Again it was a goal of redemption as the player who gave away the third stepped up to score from a free-kick. Having been brought down on the edge of the area Hirai shaped to take a free-kick which was probably ‘too close’ to score from.
In fact just a bluff Takeda came in to shoot low under a wall he has guessed were going to jump. It was a clever goal from a player who seems to be quite intelligent on the pitch. If he can use that intelligence in the anchor position which needs someone who understands the game then he could take over from Park in the position I still think is the key for us this season.