FC Gifu 1 : 2 Avispa Fukuoka
68′ Sakata, 82′ Santos, 85′ Ishizu
Having beaten Yokohama FC last weekend we went into this game with a line-up which seems to be our ‘away’ formation with 2 central midfield volante-type players in Nakahara and Park sitting in the middle of the pitch with the forwwards trying to press high and make runs when we had possession of the ball.
The player who made way for Park to return to the team was Punosevac, with the rest of the squad unchanged.
The first half of the game was a fairly low quality encounter with little in the way of entertainment as Gifu sat with men behind the ball and tried to set runners free with balls delivered from within their own half.
The Avispa off-side trap was working surprisingly well (by the end of the match we’d caught Gifu players offside a fairly astonishing 14 times) with the central 2 playing high up the pitch and the full-backs maintaining concentration to not be left behind.
It was a tactic which clearly showed why Koga (and Kazuki) aren’t really going to be able to be used this season. They may both be ok standing on the edge of the 18-yard box and heading balls away but the strategy for today needed defenders with a little more mobility.
It didn’t work perfectly and Gifu had a couple of good chances to take the lead after well-timed runs allowed them to run in on goal, but Kamiyama was playing well and able to sweep a couple of balls away, and then made himself big to block a tip-volley shot away with Lee Kwang Seon getting back to head a second shot off the line.
Gifu’s Colombian striker looked like a bit of a handful physically and will score goals this season. There were times he was able to use his physique to make space and turn to run at goal, and has quite good pace for a man of his size. He should have done better with a shot from 6 yards after a cross from the right, but again Kamiyama was quick to come out and did just enough to put the striker off enough to shoot wide.
At the other end Avispa were playing a direct, almost long ball tactic which I’ve not really seen from them before.
It was creating very little, and seemed to have a bigger emphasis on keeping our defensive shape than attacking. The only real goal-scoring chance made was from a good ball into the channel by Tsutsumi which Abe ran onto and crossed with Ishizu very close to making contact with as he ran to try and meet the cross.
Other than that it looked like our only chance for scoring might come from a set piece, and Sakata nearly got to a Park flick-on at the far post but as with Ishizu earlier couldn’t quite stretch far enough.
Hirai came on in the 2nd half again and again didn’t really impose himself on the game. He is a player who always gives you a chance of getting a goal, but is very quiet when he isn’t doing that.
Avispa started to retain the ball much better, but nearly fell victim to a headed goal from the Colombian who met a cross well but again Kamiyama pulled off a good reaction save. He has many deficiencies, but when it comes to reaction blocks he has kept us in a few games already this season.
Jogo came closest to scoring for Avispa with a tipped volley as he beat Kawaguchi to a bouncing ball, but the shot went narrowly over the bar.
Something I have felt we have needed in this division is someone who can launch the ball into the box for throw-ins; in games like this where the defence is remaining solid with 7 men behind the ball it can get teams the odd goal which changes a draw to a win.
It turns out we don’t need to look for anyone as Jogo can reach the penalty spot with his throws. As something which had clearly been practiced in training for this game (along with the more direct long ball approach) Jogo threw a ball to Sakata near the penalty spot who turned and shot in one movement to give us what looked like it might be the only goal of the game.
Having gone a goal down Gifu became a bit more attacking in their outlook and were rewarded for their wing play as #17 managed to hold off and beat Tsutsumi near the byline and put in a cross which Mishima didn’t get enough on to clear and Alex Santos coolly finished in the top corner.
It is a goal which Tsutsumi won’t want to look back on much as he had plenty of opportunities to make the tackle, but other than that he had a good game alongside Lee, getting himself in front of shots and organising the line well.
The Avispa team of last year would have got very nervous, and probably ended up losing the game, but as with the Jubilo game the player at fault went to the other end and changed the game for the good.
Up field after a corner Tsutsumi went in for a 50:50 and got the ball, bundled through a player and passed the ball to Hirai on the edge of the box.
Rolling the ball across for Ishizu on his left foot, Ishizu hit a first time shot which beat Kawaguchi at his near post. It was a goal which any keeper wouldn’t be happy to concede, but I assume that Gifu are paying Kawaguchi a lot of money and as with many times before I was not impressed by him.
There was time for Jogo to head a second shot off the line, but Avispa held on to get a win which makes this a good start to the season and a probably place in the play-offs at the end of the day, possibly level with 2nd on points.