Archive for May 2014

vs. Montedio Yamagata (report / youtube)   Leave a comment

Avispa Fukuoka 0 : 1 Montedio Yamagata

After what had been a fairly optimistic start to the season where it looked like we might be able to sneak into the play-offs this has now become a disappointing start as the team slumped to another defeat when a win would have seen them remain just outside the play-offs.

Yamagata are a decent team who were in J1 at the same time Avispa last were, but on this evidence they have recovered much better.

They represent a lot of the antithesis of what Avispa players represent.
They have no obvious star players, but a group of players who work hard, stick to a plan and play to the best of their ability.

We have star players, but on days like this when guys like Jogo and Hirai are almost entirely absent then we are left with big gaps. Unfortunately the days when the players who we try to depend on don’t show up the team is very poor.

Those days might increase in the coming weeks as Jogo is likely to miss a few games after doing some hand gestures in various directions, and Sakata went off with some sort of ankle injury.
I am half wondering if it will cause a few players to step up and try to fill the gaps. In this game every single Yamagata player was better than every single Avispa player.
That would be a bad situation in any game, but to make issues worse every Yamagata player was also trying a lot harder than every Avispa player. For a team playing at home it is difficult to understand how that can happen.

Once again we looked to be playing with absolutely no midfield.
Previously this had happened against Nagasaki where Nakahara was the lone midfielder being embarrassed as the ball bypassed him. In this game Nakahara was suspended so Takeda was the only player in midfield.
On paper it looked like we should have had a lot of players in that area with a 4141 formation, but unfortunately the second row of 4 was Ishizu-Jogo-Morimura-Sakai, and none of them were making any effort to get back and help in midfield.
There isn’t a second division in the world where you are able to rely on luxury players. Avispa were carrying 4 of them.

It is easy to then ask why the team is being sent out like that. The reality is that there are no other options for anyone who could play there.
With Nakahara injured the only other midfielders at the club are 19 year old Nozaki or Chris.

I have no idea what anyone can do with this team any more. Whoever is in charge of player recruitment at the club needs to explain why for the 4th season in a row (since we gained promotion with Nakamachi and Sueyoshi) there have been no midfielders at the club.
We played with 1 in this game and he was a guy brought to the club as a left-back.

Posted May 28, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Match highlights, Match Reports

vs. Shonan Bellmare (youtube)   Leave a comment

The 2 – 0 scoreline doesn’t reflect the game, Shonan had a real scare against Avispa in this game.

They scored their 2nd goal after we went pushing forward looking to get a deserved equaliser.

After weathering the early storm and seeing Taketomi leave the pitch (I believe Shonan’s best player) it just took one lapse in defnce as a ball was able to be sent back and forth across goal twice, and then have all 3 centre-backs sit back and leave space in the box for the Shonan substitute to turn (and finsih very well).

What these highlights don’t show is that after 70 minutes we came the closest to scoring of anyone all match as Nakahara hit a well struck shot against the post.
Had that goal gone in we would have held on for a surprise win.

Posted May 20, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Match highlights

vs. Shonan Bellmare (preview)   5 comments

I’ve heard people say that the English Championship is the hardest division to get out of in the world (to get promotion to the Premier League) because it is so competitive between so many teams.
I’m now thinking that promotion from J2 might be even harder.

Each year there seem to be 1-2 teams who have a budget and squad which is far superior to every other team in the division, and then another 20 teams who are of a similar sort of standard fighting to get into the play-offs.
Tomorrow Avispa travel away to play 1 of those 2 teams which are far superior to everyone else as they go to Shonan Bellmare.

Shonan have started the season on fire. After putting together 13 consecutive victories they have the chance to equal the J-League record with a 14th win to start the season.
Avispa have the chance to spoil the party.

Bizarrely I think it might help Avispa. The players shouldn’t need any more encouraging than to know that they have the chance to be on the front of every web-page on Sunday night by stopping the record, and showing that they are some of the best players in the division.
I also think we have a chance with the referee. Referees in this country like to be the centre of attention, and what better way than to be in the middle in a game everyone is watching to see if a record can be broken.

Avispa News.
I think Avispa have 2 clear options for this game after 2 matches where they have performed quite well at times.
In the match against Okayama we did 343, and against Toyama we did 4141.

Personally I preferred the 4141, with Takeda and Morimura running and battling. But it needs all the players to be working hard. If we play it and they get scared of the occasion then it could turn into another Nagasaki.

343 is perhaps a little safer with bodies in the middle.

Either formation works better with Jogo at right-back. If he is happy to continue to work there then he can really help the team and continue to show he is a complete player.

My Prediction:

Shonan Bellmare 0 : 0 Avispa Fukuoka

I guess few people would predict no goals, and it would be an excellent result for Avispa which made the rest of the division take notice.
I think we will be set up to defend and play on the counter and it will suit us well.

Posted May 16, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Preview

vs. Kataller Toyama (ratings)   Leave a comment

Kamiyama : 7
Has done well since his return to the team. Caught the ball well, and released quickly to help the counter for the 2nd goal. Kicking still poor and put the pressure straight back onto us with a kick into touch after 92 minutes.

Abe : 7
Has a cool head, isn’t as good as he thinks he is though. Could be a plyer, but only if he starts developing his forward game. Good in the air for a short guy.

Jogo : 8.5
Nakajima won’t have many tougher days this season. Tackled hard, won every ball which came his way, led the team by example. I’d like to see him get forward more, it should be his strength from full-back, but actually his defending was his key skill today.

Lee : 7.5
Cleared off the line again. Teams can’t put balls direct into our third, he gets his head onto everything.

Tsutsumi : 7.5
Solid in defence. I like him trying to get forward when he can, he can pick a pass.

Takeda : 7.5
Intelligent player. If he keeps getting better in the anchor role it is going to really help us put together a push into 4th/5th.

Morimura : 7.5
His best game for us. Needs to keep running and tackling hard, that is his zone and helps him to stop thinking about what he is doing too much and relax into the game.

Sakata : 8.5
I was really glad he got awarded Man of the Match. At 31 years old he has become a whole new player and set the pace for the rest of the team with his running, battling and tackling.

Sakai : 7
Got the goal. Had a few decent touches and is actually quite powerful in the air and as a hold-up player.

Ishizu : 8
Great goal. Should have had at least 1 penalty with his direct running. If he could just add a little better decision making he’d be a top half J1 player.

Hirai : 5
Came on as the team got tired and immediately looked the most tired player on the pitch. Does nothing more than score goals, and when he doesn’t that means he does nothing.

Punosevac : 5.5
Was brought on to try and hold the ball up the pitch and help a tiring team. Did it a little bt, but still doesn’t really get off the ground much.

Mitsunaga : 7.5
Great little cameo. Looks like he is already the best crosser of the ball at the club. Will be playing left wing by the final 10 games of the season.

Posted May 13, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Opinion

vs. Kataller Toyama (youtube)   Leave a comment

Obviously they don’t show any of the contentious decisions which people might want to see again, but you can see the goals at least.

0s : Sakai gets his name on the scoresheet but it owes more to Morimura’s delivery than his header.
It owes more to Jogo’s tackle on the halfway line which led to the corner even more but that isn’t shown on the highlights.

41s : Another goal from the training ground. Insteda of pulling the ball to his chest and admiring his good work Kamiyama starts an instant counter which Nakahara delivers perfectly in front of Ishizu. He still has a huge amount of work to do, but helped by sakata taking away the defender just enough he scores an excellent goal.
To give some idea of how good Ishizu could be check out the defender who can’t run as fast as Ishizu can dribble.

1m37s : There is contact between arms (as there is whenever any players are running alongside each other), but the referee can’t wait to give the penalty fast enough. He had earlier denied Ishizu a penalty which had much greater contact.
Credit to Nakajima, he got what he could. He is going to be a very good player, and would have loved to see him at Avispa (as well as Sakai has done in spells I hope he hasn’t cost close to as much as Nakajima would have).

2m45s : Well worked training ground set-piece gets another goal. It’s the sort of goal which could be given; Sakata was a long way from goal, but I wouldn’t complain too much that it wasn’t given.

3m : Nakajima shows his quality again with great running and vision. Kokeguchi has excellent touch (but needs 25% better fitness to be a J1 player), and for the second time this season Lee heads off the line.

4m 15s : Toyama miss the equaliser which the referee had been hoping for with #2 somehow miscuing from 1m out. It was directly from this chance which we had the most obvious penalty I’ve seen refused as Ishizu went up the other end.
But that isn’t shown on Japanese TV; it might embarrass the poor referee.

Posted May 13, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Match highlights

vs. Kataller Toyama (report)   Leave a comment

Avispa 2 : 1 Toyama

I’d really like for one of these match reports to not be mainly focused on the actions of the team and not referee, I am paying money to go and watch football after all; unfortunately yet again it is a match where most of the discussion afterwards was about the decisions made by the referee.

There were times in this match when I actually really liked the referee; he let the game flow in face of some hard tackling. This was helping Avispa as the players looked up for the game, and were fighting (in a fair way), with Takeda and Morimura in particular putting in some hard running and battling for the ball.
Coming from England this is the sort of game I like to watch. It meant that a hard tackle on Nakahara (he got scissor tackled from one side and kicked at the same time) went without a yellow card being brandished, but in terms of making an enjoyable game to watch I could let that go.

I have said from the start of the season that I believe the midfield anchor role is the most important position for us, despite all the attacking talent we have, but I didn’t expect Takeda to be the player to put his name on it. He came to the club as a left-back, but similar to Emmanuel Petit at Arsenal has made a transition to the position and is starting to look good there.
His biggest attribute is his intelligence, and he knows when it is important to make a tackle, when to make runs forward (which go untracked as he is coming from deep), and what particularly impressed me when to stand on the ball for an opposition free-kick to stop it being taken quickly. All the time also managing to stay clear of a booking.

Takeda and Morimura were having their best games for us, not giving midfield any time on the ball and the high press which Pusnik has tried to bring to the club was working very well.

A little surprise in the formation was Jogo being played as a straight wing-back. I’ve said I really like him here, but am not sure if he is willing to play the position.
He gave what might be the best performance I have seen from him in this game. He didn’t score any wild goal, or do some sublime skill, but for 90 minutes work this was up among the best he’s ever been. He was up against Shoya Nakajima in this game. From what I saw in this game Nakajima will surely one day play for Japan (his low centre of gravity, speed and running was Maradona-esque at times), but when up against Jogo he didn’t get any time to do real damage in this game and ended up moving centrally to try and do something.

Jogo’s diving interception led to our first goal as he slid in and got the ball forward to be knocked out for a corner.
Morimura put in a fantastic cross which landed directly onto Sakai’s head to score and maintain our new ability at corners.

We then looked like we could double the score through a penalty as Ishizu was brought down between 2 players as he ran into the box.
In reality the contact was fairly small, and mostly arm fighting rather than across his legs. The referee waved play on (but should have booked Ishizu for diving if he really thought it wasn’t a penalty, but was obviously not totally sure), and I was happy with that as he had up to that point showed he wanted to players to stay on their feet where possible. Unfortuantely he didn’t show consistency on this for Kataller’s later goal.

Avispa did score again quicly afterwards through a lightning quick counter. After catching a header at goal well Kamiyama didn’t stop to admire his work and released the ball to Nakahara quickly. Nakahara plays so much better with Takeda behind him and found Ishizu with an excellent ball into space.
Ishizu didn’t stop to look around, running straight at goal. With Sakata taking a defender away he had space to run to the edge of the box and double the lead with a shot just inside the far post.

Avispa were well on top and could have made the lead 3-0 and finished the game just minutes later.
Againt showing excellent work on the training pitch Pusnik told Takeda exactly what he wanted him to do; dupe the defence close together, collect a ball around the crowd and hit at goal.
It worked almost perfectly, and would have been a goal which everyone could be really pleased of. The referee decided to discount it for off-side despite Takeda shooting from outside the box; in the stadium I had no idea why, and with no replays it was very hard to understand what had happened.
Watching the game back later I think that actually it was a very good decision:
no goal
There’s no point in complaining about referee’s if you can’t also say when they get a decision correct.

The referee would then undo his good work by an awful 2nd half performance.

Almost as if he wanted to make the game ‘more interesting’ he gifted Toyama a goal.
Nakajima had come inside to try and force something to happen, and had the skills to cause us problems.

Bursting into the box he powered past Lee, but overhit the ball and saw it was going to be collected by Kamiyama. Taking a chance he went to ground with very little contact. If the referee had given the penalty for Ishizu earlier I’d understand why he gave this one, but there was much, much less arm fighting on this than in that decision but he couldn’t give the penalty fast enough.
No-one really knew who the foul was given against, and he motioned with a closed fist that Lee had pulled Nakajima back. That definitely didn’t happen, and Lee motioned towards the big screen to watch how badly he had got the decision wrong (although obviously there was no replay, this being Japan).
no penalty

With Toyama given momentum it was exactly the situation we had faced with Oita, and we came very close to conceding an equaliser with the impressive Morimura and Takeda off the pitch for an ineffective Punosevac and Hirai.

Fortunately the Toyama #2 managed to miscue a shot unmarked from about 1m out to keep us in the lead.

There was time for the single worst piece of refereeing I have seen this season as the ball was quickly delivered to Ishizu upfield where running into the box he was scissor-tackled from behind by a desperate defender.

I couldn’t get a clear angle from TV, but twitter user Tatakikatsuotook this photo where you can see what sort of a tackle it was.
That would be a foul regardless, but what the angle doesn’t totally show (and I could see from sitting directly next to it) was that the ball was about 1.5m in front of Ishizu at the time with the player not getting anywhere near it.

I’ve seen a few people on twitter and blogs saying that they think referees were correct in some of the other decisions which I’ve thought were crazy. I’d be interested to see if anyone can defend this one!

Posted May 12, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Match Reports

vs. Kateller Toyama (preview)   3 comments

Avispa have been having a fairly bad few weeks around Golden Week but had a much improved performance in their last game against Fagiano Okayama which hopefully shows that they might be turning a corner and be on the way to better results.

They will definitely be hoping for a win tomorrow as they face a Toyama team which had quite a lot of money put into them at the start of the season, but haven’t justified the investment with results on the pitch and lie second from bottom in the table.

The last time Toyama travelled to Level-5 they left with an away win courtesy of 4 goals, including a hatrick by support striker Kokeguchi.
He is likely to be the main danger men again tomorrow with his intelligent movement between lines and I would definitely play a dedicated anchor player. We have often tried to play with a more adventurous, attacking line-up at home, but I think the team now needs to build confidence with a fixed line-up, and hopefully a clean sheet from defence.

A 0-0 draw isn’t a good result, but apart from an Avispa win is the best result for us tomorrow to help the defence.

Avispa News

Kanemori is still injured, and Hirai and Punosevac didn’t do enough off the bench to displace Ishizu or Sakata in my opinion.
Sakai might be in more danger despite playing well as Mishima returns from suspension.

I would keep the same 3xx formation from last week which the players performed much better with, but as Mishima can come back in at right wing-back (a position which I think suits him more then full-back) It would allow Jogo to push up a little more in a more familiar forward role.
I like Jogo at right wing-back, especially if he learns that it potentially will give him more opportunities to avoid being tracked as he runs from deep, but I’m not convinced that he wants to play there.

Nakahara plays much better with Takeda alongside him to free him up defensively, and should continue trying to shoot from range.

Kamiyama stays in goal.

The big question will be the 3 at the back. Koga came back in for his first appearance against Okayama and did ok without ever looking spectacular. Will Pusnik have faith in Park, or keep with Koga? I think the other players like to have Koga in the team, and would keep him in for now so the team isn’t changed from a half-decent performance.


My Prediction:

Avispa 2 0 Toyama

I’m still hopeful of a big blow-out win to get out season up and running, but would settle for a win any way it comes.

Posted May 10, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Preview