Avispa Fukuoka 1 : 0 Kyoto Sanga
I hope that this is the day when people can look back and say that the players finally clicked. The players played with a level of intensity and focus which few teams in the division could have lived with. Kyoto had their chances, but we were the better team all over the pitch and in addition to taking 3 points have hopefully also put a few demons about conceding goals in the last 5 minutes to bed.
If it took the bad loss to Kumamoto last weekend to make a few of the players realise that they had to increase their efforts by 15% then it was worth taking the defeat for what happened today.
The team looked much better balanced, with Park moving up into midfield as I had wanted, but we kept strength at the back as Lee Kwang Seon was back from injury and able to play the whole match.
To say we kept strength is a little unfair on Lee, we got much stronger as he had the best debut I’ve seen at the club, and one of the best defensive performances all-round too. It wasn’t faultless, but he got himself in the way of nearly everything, with Tsutsumi alongside him raising his game to strong and aggressive against a Kyoto team which has some talented attacking players and ability to move the ball quickly around.
I had really hoped that Park would find the anchor position quickly, but I didn’t expect him to be this good so quickly. While Hirai got the official man of the match I thought the whole performance was based on Park’s hard tackling, defnesive protection and ability to allow the players in front of him to play.
We had a formation it probably isn’t really possible to categorise such was the fluidity of movement between players, but was generally a 4141 with Park sitting back, Nakahara able to play a little higher up (which he did well, filling the big hole we have had there and using some of the defensive work he had a season practicing last year to tackle as well as conduct the play), and Sakata, Jogo and Ishizu taking turns between going forward and helping out in midfield.
The first half had few clear chances with Seon and Bajalica being solid walls in defence at either end of the pitch. Avispa were getting the ball to Nakahara in a more advanced position than they have previously, and with Park behind him he had a lot more confidence to influence the game in attack.
We should have had a penalty after 35 minutes as the ball came into Punosevac in the box who turned and shot at goal. The defender had no real chance to move his hand, but the ball was going straight at goal and was blocked by his hand 25cm away from his body. The referee missed it and it looked like another day we would be looking back at a refereeing decision costing us.
Jogo had one break of note down the left but was bright down by Bajalica as he ran at goal. He wasn’t the last man and was correctly only given a yellow but it was a chance and booking which changed the game a little as I felt that carrying a yellow card he had to be a little more careful and his performance dropped a bit.
As half-time approached we nearly got caught out by a sucker-punch as Kyoto somehow managed to fire a shot right across goal twice in 15 seconds with Oguro looking like time may have caught up with him in the 4 years it has been since I last saw him play with a performance in which he was largely controlled by Tsutsumi and snatched at his chance when it did come.
Going into the 2nd half we just needed to keep the level of intensity at the same level. Ishizu came close to scoring with his 3rd or 4th shot from outside the box in a performance in which he was a threat at goal, but also worked hard to help the team.
After 60 minutes the referee seemed to make up for his missed penalty in the 1st half by giving a penalty for handball after Jogo had broken through on goal and had his shot saved by the keeper but then seemingly handled by the Kyoto #30. I didn’t see it myself, it certainly wasn’t as clear as the one in the first half, but Kyoto couldn’t complain having got away with that onw.
Sakata missed from the spot with quite a weak penalty which was parried by the keeper, with Jogo drilling the rebound onto the bar. Sakata looked really gutted to have missed, but up to that point had been all over the pitch and working hard, and should be happy with how he had played beyond the penalty miss.
Avispa still looked the better team and now have what looks like a strong bench to call upon and give more energy for the team. Hirai, Kanamori and Sakai came into the attacking line with balls still finding their way through to them in good positions as Avispa’s midfield worked much better.
As another ball was smartly worked through to the penalty area as first Sakai and then Jogo made good quick passes Hirai looked like he may have taken too long before shooting, but showed he is a real goal scorer by finding a way through to a better position and calmly scoring. It was a goal which the performance deserved, but still eft Avispa with 20 minutes to hold on, something they have failed to do many times before.
This match was different with the players looking much more composed. Both full-backs were doing well and kept on running, but Abe in particular had a very good game. He doesn’t seem to tire or panic at the end of games and has done enough now to convince me he should be left-back until he needs a break.
Sakai should have scored with one of his first touches after good work by Kanamori on the right, but in the end it didn’t matter.
Kyoto hit the post with 10 minutes left to play with a shot which was blasted at the near post from 4m out, and it says a lot about the general performance that while we got a very good win against one of the top teams in the division Kamiyama din’t really have a very good game or get called upon to make any saves of note.
This was a performance in which the players did what they had been asked and stuck to the plan. I hope that going on from now they keep the same mentality and intensity against all teams and we will have a good season.