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.