Archive for June 2014

vs. Tochigi SC (report)   2 comments

Avispa 2 : 0 Tochigi

Avispa went into their first home game for 3 weeks knowing that a win here would mean they had won all their games for the month of June, and would leap-frog their opponents and likely end the day in the play-off positions.

There have been times watching Avispa when the team have appeared very fragile emotionally, but here today they looked relaxed and confident; like a team who believed they were going to win the match.
I think this confidence has been helped by keeping a consistency to the team line-up and personnel with the team playing almost the same 352 formation since the game we should have won against Sapporo. It was the same here, with the only change being Jogo at right-back (where he had finished against Mito).

The first 10 minutes of the game were a little shaky, with Tochigi able to hold the ball and move it forward to attack, but their attack wasn’t really very high quality with Jumbo doing what Jumbo generally does and Hirose coming from a little deeper and wasting opportunities which came his way.

Rather than panic and lose the game-plan Avispa weathered the storm, with our central defensive 3 throwing themselves at attacks, and Kamiyama being well-placed to make blocks behind them.
The key to our recent run of form has been defensive solidity; we have only conceded 1 goal in June while scoring 10.

The attackers we have at the club mean that we are always going to score goals if it is kept tight at the back (Only Shonan, Jubilo and Matsumoto have scored more than us), and with the team playing with confidence it wasn’t long before chances started to fall our way.

I am always very happy to see Jogo at right-back. I think he is good defensively (something you might not expect), has height, and is still able to offer an attacking threat if he knows he is able to get forward.
He loves scoring goals, but if he gets to know the position he will see that it can actually allow him to drift into the box unmarked by coming from deeper.
He did so after about 15 minutes here and probably should have done a bit better with a shot across goal which looked a little bit like a shot for the far corner and a little bit like a cross. He had more time than he realised, and may have even been able to take a touch.

It didn’t matter in the end as he did score from a similar route 5 minutes later. Again a cross from the left, this time from Abe was sent into the box. There have been times when the crossing from the full-backs has been poor, but Abe has put some good crosses in in the last couple of games. This one bounced along the 6 yard box and evaded everyone until it reached a totally unmarked Jogo at the back post who scored easily from about 2m out.

Avispa doubled their lead 5 minutes later from our new offensive weapon, a corner. Having gone about 4 years with no threat from corners (since Nakamachi left the club) we are now a real danger at corners.
It is obvious the team has been working hard on them, but it is also so simple. I used to write that our corners were so poor, with Suzuki Jun sending every corner to Koga at the back post where he would fail to head the ball. Now we are whipping crosses to the near post with Sakai and Park attacking the ball while Lee and Tsutsumi occupy defenders in the middle.
As has happened quite a few times it was Sakai who met the ball, with the ball coming off the back of his head and into the goal to double the score.

At the other end Tochigi were also winning corners, but they were doing what we used to do. Sending corners deep, where they were able to be dealt with quite easily.

Tochigi continued to try and get a goal back but Kamiyama was having one of his days where he is able to use his size to get something behind the ball.
He did also make one excellent diving save where a well hit shot was going inside his near post but he was able to get a strong hand to it and turn it round the post.
He is proving that he is a good shot-stopping keeper at this level. There have been a lot of keepers at the club who are at a similar sort of level to him (Rokutan, Kawata, Kasegawa, Mizutani and now Shimizu) but they have all left with Kamiyama staying as keeper. He has some clear faults, but I think the club needs to stop bringing similar level keepers as competition for him, and either have faith in him as our keeper (and save money on someone similar), or get someone who is clearly of a much higher standard (which will cost a lot of money, and/or come from overseas).

Avispa also made chances and Kanemori was eager to score to make it 4 goals in 4 games. He came very close with a placed shot which rebounded off the inside of the post, but was substituted for Hirai after 60 minutes without getting his goal.

As the game went on Avispa tucked their full-backs in a little and brought Sakata on coming back from injury to try and hold the ball up a bit in attack and protect their clean sheet.

Ishizu was doing ok on his return to the starting line-up, but he does still appear to me to have favorites on the pitch and can sometimes try to pick out more difficult passes or run with the ball himself when there are better options available.
When it works it is great, but when it doesn’t then his decision making looks like it might stop him from becoming a really good player.

My only other observation of the day was that I nearly stopped watching when I found out that we were going to have Noda (野田 祐樹) as referee, I’ve never watched a game with him that he hasn’t spoiled, but today he didn’t ruin the game.
He got things wrong; mostly good tackles in midfield which he called as fouls, but for the first time didn’t seem to actively change the result of a game.

Posted June 28, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Match Reports

vs. Mito Hollyhock (youtube / ratings)   Leave a comment

June will be remembered for the 5 – 0 away win over Tokyo Verdy in the middle of a good run of form which took us to the edge of the play-offs, but for me this win in the rain against Mito was much more impressive in many ways.

It may have taken a late winner to take all 3 points, but for many of the players I thought they did better here than they had in a blow-out win the week before.

Kamiyama – 8
Was partly at fault for the Mito goal by coming off his line and not getting to the ball, but before and after that had made 3-4 saves which looked sure goals until he managed to get something behind it.

Abe – 6.5
One good cross which Kanemori backheel volleyed onto the bar, but otherwise I thought he had a quiet game.

Mishima – 6
Picked up a soft booking and was substituted. Did nothing wrong.

Lee – 7.5
Showed he can pick a pass to set Jogo free for the first goal. Played Yoshida onside for the Mito goal.

Tsutsumi – 7
He is a player we need to step up if we are to try and get 4th or 5th spot. Hasn’t yet got back to his perfromance level from the start of last season.

Park – 7.5
Solid at the back again.

Nakahara – 7.5
Difficult day for passing, but continued to run and aim for interceptions. He plays as the furthest back at times which means he needs to put his foot in a little more than he does at the moment.

Takeda – 7.5
Turning into my favorite player of the first half of the season. Very good at treading the line between tackling hard and getting a booking. Never gets booked for nothing, and does the most running on the team.

Jogo – 7.5
Good in midfield again, and showed that he is able to play right back with no issues. I still think right-back is his position, the big chance he had to score showing him how coming from deep allows him to drift in unmarked and be very dangerous.

Kanemori – 8
Another goal, 3 in 3 since return from injury and we haven’t lost a game. Hit the bar with a very well improvised volley, and showed his instincts to follow the shot up to score the first goal.

Sakai – 7.5
Glad he could get back from his injury. He is important to the team to make defenders work for their money in the first half and have tiredness a factor for when Ishizu and Hirai come on. I don’t think he is playing a role he ever thought he would, but he is doing it well and getting much better as a footballer as a result. Niigata must be very pleased.

Ishizu – 7.5
Got the winning goal and an interview after the match to show for it. He likes to see himself on TV, and if he understands that being a substitute isn’t a negative but rather a chance to come on and explode he can win us enough games to get us into the play-offs.

Hirai – 7
Doesn’t have the same impact as Ishizu, odd as he looked the man to score goals at the start of the season. Did better than he has and got a good assist.

Morimura – 6.5
Better than he has been, but he needs to work out his future. Is he an attacking midfielder? (in which case he is definitely second best to many players at the club) Is he a midfielder? (In which case he needs to be a lot braver and start going toe-to-toe with opposition and never stop running.

Posted June 24, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Match highlights, Opinion

vs. Mito Hollyhock (report)   Leave a comment

Mito Hollyhock 1 : 2 Avispa Fukuoka

This season is starting to feel a little bit like the promotion season of 2010. Having won promotion that season it is easy to forget about the first part of the season where we played really badly, and lost games at home to Gifu and Saga, because we then went about 3 months during the summer when we didn’t lose a game.
We needed to aim for 3rd in that season (after being in the bottom half mid-way through the season), this year Pusnik just needs to try and find a way to squeeze this bunch of players into 6th place.

In the last month we have come within 30 seconds of an away win in Sapporo, beaten JEF at home, and Verdy away.
In the pouring rain we can now add another away win as the team return from Mito with another 3 points.

Going to Ibaraki is never an easy trip. Mito are a small team, but one which are always well organised and capable of springing surprises on anyone in the division on their day.

Avispa kept the same team as the win against Verdy with 3 at the back and Takeda trying to put himself about in midfield as Nakahara and Jogo try to pick out runs from the full-backs and forwards.
The biggest concern for me is that the match was officiated by the notorious Mikami. Playing games with him as the referee is like playing Russian Roulette; it is impossible to guess what he will do next. He made mysterious decisions again in this match, but not ones which hurt Avispa too much.

Understandably given the weather conditions (pouring rain and a water-logged pitch) the game was very scrappy, with Takeda being the most effective player for Avispa as he tried to break up opposition moves.
Avispa were trying to pass the ball, and with some confidence from recent games their moves were working at times, but this wasn’t really the day to be working smart triangles through midfield.

Mito were getting a succession of corners, and from one attack forced an excellent save from Kamiyama. For all his faults he does sometimes pull off these really good saves which will win us 10 points in a season. In this game he did 2-3 saves which kept us in the game.

Avispa were trying to build attacks at the other end, and with Jogo and Kanemori on the pitch we always have the chance of making a goal if the defence can keep it socreless at the other end.
Jogo ran down the right wing and put in a good low cross to Sakai who hit a shot at goal which with a wet ball the Mito goal-keeper spilled back into the danger-zone. Previously that would be the end of the attack for Avispa but with Kanemori on the pitch we have a player willing to take a risk who anticipated a chance and finished well with a flash shot from the rebound. It was his 3rd goal in 3 games since returning from his broken foot and is starting to look like the real deal.

Avispa just needed to keep their lead until half-time where they would be able to get dry, re-group and try to close the game out.
Unfortunately Mito scored with 5 minutes left to play as a long ball was played out from defence and the impressive Yoshida ran onto it with the defence having a big gap between the centre-backs and Abe. There was still a lot to do, and I believe that if Kamiyama comes out for the ball he absolutely had to get the ball. He was too slow and Yoshida managed to knock past him and score past Tsutsumi and Lee who had run back to defend from the line.

The 2nd half saw Jogo go to right-back for the yellow-carded Mishima, a position I’m not sure if he likes but I really like to see him playing.
Mito had a few half-chances to take the lead, mainly through crosses into the box, but failed to get headers on target (and when they did Kamiyama was well-placed to make good saves to make up for his earlier mistake).

The biggest chace fell to Jogo who had drifted into the box from his right-back posiion and was picked out in the 6-yard box where his first touch took him inside the defender with just the keeper to beat. You’d put money on him to score it, but after blasting the ball at goal it was just too close to the keeper who did well to get something on the ball and deflect it over the bar.

The referee was handing out yellow cards (playing in these conditions the referee needs to use a bit of common-sense to know a few tackles might be a little late, or turning isn’t going to be easy) and it was inevitable someone was going to be sent off (well done to Pusnik for substituting Mishima).
With 10 minutes to play it was one of the Mito players who was the unlucky man. His 2 fouls could both warrant yellows, and you couldn’t say the referee was wrong but it wasn’t a nasty game and I’d prefer to see 11 vs. 11.

With Ishizu and Hirai on the pitch for Kanemori and Sakai the Avispa bench had players who could win the game.
It is very difficult to maintain a happy squad with players not getting the starting member kudos, but when I look at our bench and we have Ishizu and Hirai coming on against tired defenders with 30 minutes to play I always think we have a good chance of getting a winning goal.

So it proved here as a good move throught h emiddle saw Hirai receive the ball on the edge of the box and back-heel it into the path of Ishizu. Ishizu beat one player with a touch and finished smartly to win the game.

Well, we hadn’t quite won the game. We needed to do what we couldn’t manage against Sapporo and see out the last 10 minutes without giving away possession cheaply.
I know it is something they will have worked on in training, but I also wonder if the players have been watching games at the World Cup, as they seemed much much better at seeing out the last 5 minutes in a very professional way.
They took the ball to the corners, passed into space to maintain possession and didn’t panic or try to rush at goal and held the ball until the final whistle with no dramas.

Posted June 21, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Match Reports

vs. Tokyo Vredy (ratings)   Leave a comment

Kamiyama : 6
Didn’t really have anything to do all afternoon. Still kicking the ball straight into touch, sometimes in our own half.

Mishima : 7
Has come back into the team and runs all game as is his main skill. Still hasn’t put in a decent cross, and I fear that his confidence has been shaken quite badly.

Abe : 7
Did everything needed of him.

Lee : 7
Will be disappointed not to have got a couple of goals in a game which had 4 scored from set pieces, but his main job is defending and we kept a clean sheet.

Tsutsumi : 7
Distribution a little careless, and he needs to be willing to step up into midfield at times if he is playing in a back 3.

Park : 7.5
Starting to look like a player who can genuinely play 2 positions. As such he should be the middle defender who goes into midfield, but I do wonder if his communication with Lee might be better than Tsutsumi’s.

Nakahara : 8
The player who has improved the most in this recent run of form. He really likes to have 3 behind him and a running midfielder as it takes some pressure off him.

Takeda : 8
Excellent delivery from the set pieces. Honest player who will always give 10km+ and not let the team down.

Jogo : 7.5
Much better performance on his return to the team, and it was all about energy. Understandably tired, but showed himself and everyone else how he should be playing.

Kanemori : 8
Infectious energy. 1 goal, 1 assist, it is no coinicdence that his return to the team has seen our best form; and all of this from a player who no-one expected to be playing games at 19.

Sakai : 7.5
Gaining in confidence and leaving it all on the pitch. Picked up an injury when on a hattrick.

Ishizu : 6.5
I really hope he is seeing that he could be the main man for Avispa if he just does the work and dedication of some of the other players. Has all the talent, but needs the application.

Hirai : 5
I don’t know what has happened to this guy. He plays like an Elementary school student who knows he is better than everyone around him so doesn’t do anything but wait for the ball to be given to him.

Morimoto :5.5
Confidence is gone. All he can do in this situation is run, but doesn’t seem inclined to run through his bad form.

Posted June 19, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Opinion

vs. Tokyo Verdy (report / youtube)   Leave a comment

Tokyo Verdy 0 : 5 Avispa Fukuoka

Football can be a funny old game. The last 3 weeks have seen us playing 3 of what would historically be considered some of the harder teams in J2 (Consadole Sapporo, JEF United, Tokyo Verdy), and with at least 2 of our 4 biggest earners at the club (Koga, Sakata, Jogo, Hirai) missing from each game, but has seen our best run of form for the whole season.

Maybe it isn’t such a mystery, maybe it just shows that the most important things to take onto a football pitch are mentality and attitude, and the players who have played in the last 3 weeks couldn’t be faulted in this respect.

Jogo returned to the team from suspension this week, and having seen his team-mates fight for every ball in the previous 2 games looked a lot hungrier than he has done at times in his career.
Playing in a midfield role he was asked to get forwards, and cme back to help get the ball back and looked the part. This is his natural position in my opinion and he needs to maintain this level of energy.

At the back we were missing Koga through deserved suspension, but this allowed Park to come and play alongside country-man Lee (and Tsutsumi) in a central 3 which I have been looking forward to seeing. It has height, aggression and pace, and will be hard for any team to break down.

It did mean that we missed Park in midfield, but with Takeda back into the team, and Nakahara going through a good burst of form the team was still balanced.

Up front Sakai was continuing in his makeshift target-man role. He isn’t ideal for this position, but he is gaining in confidence and gets himself around the pitch battling for loose ball and challenging for headers.
It is clear that this is the position which Punosevac would ideally be in, but it hasn’t really worked out for him for various reasons.
This game showed clearly the vision behind the team in my opinion, and made it more of a shame that Punosevac hasn’t been able to fulfil the role that Sakai is now trying to fill every week this year.

After weathering a close offside decision from which Tokyo could have taken the lead the game was all Avispa.
Tokyo never looked like breaking down our defence and we have enough in attack to always give ourselves a chance if we can keep a clean sheet at the back.

Something else we have added this season is a threat from set pieces. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a game where 1 team has scored 4 set pieces but Avispa managed it today to make us the most dangerous team in the division from set pieces statistically.

The first goal came as a good cross to the near post was headed on by Park, with the Verdy keeper not doing very well and a Verdy defender trying to boot clear from the goal-line. Jogo was closing in and it hit him and ricocheted into the goal.

Our second goal was the only one from open play. After winning the ball from our pressing game in midfield Jogo went direct at goal and played in Kanamori in the box. Riding a couple of challenges and winning the ball back he smartly back-heeled to Sakai on the edge of the box who hit it first time just inside the post.

Tokyo Verdy were finished and it must be quite depressing watching them this season.
Our 3rd was a well worked training ground move as the big men from the back attacked a set piece from Nakahara, but left Kanamori in the middle of the box unmarked to score with his head again.

The 4th came from a near post corner again, and again hopeless defending as one defender tried to clear but picked up a deflection into the goal. This time coming off his own defender for an own goal.

Predictably we scored again from a corner in the second half with Sakai meeting a header at the near post which he could flick inside the far post having had the keeper and near post defender taken out of the game by a clever run from Park Gun.

Our goal difference was taking a healthy hit, I feel it might be important if we are somewhere near the play-offs at the end of the season, but there were no more goals.

Hirai and Morimura came on and yet again were ineffective. Ishizu should have scored with a header late on, but the game had already been won by that point.

The only other point of note from the game was that Mishima was fore-armed in the face deliberately by a defender, away from the ball, right in front of the linesman, but somehow the offender wasn’t sent off.

It is the 2nd game in a row where an Avispa player has had an opponent raise their hands to their face. Neither time has the Avispa player made a big fuss, and both times it has only been a yellow card.
Football fans around the world don’t like to see players dive to the floor and roll around, but twice in 2 games we have had players struck and the referee hasn’t taken the correct action.

Posted June 18, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Match highlights, Match Reports

Japanese referees (part 2)   1 comment

From what I have witnessed over the last 12 months at Avispa games I’d say it was inevitable, but on the biggest stage Japanese referees were embarrassed this morning as Yuichi Nishimura gifted an opening game win to Brazil (who seem to have some sort of hero status among the Japanese press/public/media).

Taken individually then any of the key decisions could be seen as slightly favorable for Brazil, after 4 or 5 of these (as I’ve seen over and over again at Avispa matches) it spoils the game and takes away from what should be a sporting spectacle.

In the Brazil-Croatia game:
i) Didn’t show a red card to Neymar after striking an opponent in the face (I believe a yellow was correct in this case, but a red is possible).
ii) Penalty given to Brazil with minimal contact from the defender (see Lee Kwang Seon on Nakashima vs. Toyama). No foul in my opinion.
iii) Foul against the Brazil Keeper by the Croatia winger jumping for the ball. Julio Cesar jumps too early, the Croatia player is watching the ball the whole time and gets a full contact on it with his head. No foul in my opinion, could have resulted in an equaliser.

Reading the English press, and listening to English radio today it was been almost unanimous that these decisions are wrong.
There are calls now that key world cup games should not be awarded to referees from Japan, or other minor leagues around the world as they are not capable to deal with the pressure decisions which need to be made.

Is this what the J-League had hoped for?
I believe that it has had a negative effect on opinion on Japanese football around the world.

The saddest part is that it is entirely predictable, and entirely avoidable.
Referees in this country live an entitled life with none of their decisions ever put under any scrutiny, so have no incentive to try to improve the quality of their profession.

When people have come in and said that standards need to be improved (such as Pusnik in the last 18 months) then they are seen as being unreasonable, angry and I feel currently at Avispa made targets of.
What the J-League now needs to do is try to listen to these people, especially those who have experience of the game outside of Japan and can try to give insight into how it is played around the world, rather than fight against them.

Next time Pusnik complains that rules are not being applied correctly in a game, maybe the referees should actually review the tapes and see if actually he is correct, rather than see him as an angry gaijin and send him to the stands while ignoring everything he is saying.

You’ve been embarrassed on the world stage J-League; maybe now it’s time to start listening.

Quotes from the Croatian team:

Manager Niko Kovac : “If anybody saw this was a penalty anywhere in the stadium, raise their hands. If you continue like this you will have 100 penalties.

If that was a penalty, we don’t need to play football any more. Let’s play basketball. It’s a shame. We talk about respect, but that wasn’t respect – Croatia didn’t get any. If that’s how you start the World Cup, we’d all better give it up and go home”

Defender Dejan Lovren (who gave away the penalty):
“I can hardly hold back the tears. Why don’t they just hand out the trophy to Brazil right away? Everything is going their way, everyone is saying they must win it, so why do we play then?

The ref didn’t even speak English. I asked him why did he give the penalty and he just mumbled something. My team-mates tell me the same thing – how can you have an international ref who is officiating the opening match, but he doesn’t speak English and you can’t even speak to him?”

Captain Dario Srna:
“It’s hard to stay cool-headed after a defeat like that. We expected the referee to be biased, but not like this … You know, they always tell us about fair play, the refs even hold meetings with us captains about that – and then they do this. But we must begin our preparations for Cameroon, in five days nobody will ask us how we lost to Brazil.”

Had this happened in a J-League match then none of these quotes would have been published in any newspaper or magazine, or broadcast on TV in any way.

The saddest thing being that this guy is probably the best referee in Japan and when he refereed for us against Kyoto was clearly better than any other referee we’d had in other games this season.

Posted June 13, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Opinion

vs. JEF United (ratings)   Leave a comment

Kamiyama – 7.5
Kept the clean sheet, and made some good saves with decent positioning without ever doing anything amazing. Best work was a near post block on Yazawa early on.

Mishima – 7.5
Solid defensively, and works well when going forward and passing short. Still has problems with his crossing; if that can get sorted he’ll be a decent player.

Abe – 8
Ran all game, his endeavor lead to our goal. Heads the ball well for a short guy. Has the demeanor of someone who doesn’t seem to care, but at times that can be good as he seems calm under pressure.

Lee – 8.5
Got his head on everything which came his way and attacked the ball well when he thought he could get near it with his feet. My Man of the Match.

Tsutsumi – 8
Blocked well. His long passing is decent, as shown by the cross for the goal. Needs to be prepared to step up more often and let the midfield move 5-10m higher.

Koga – 6.5
Was doing well and adding needed physicality to the team. Others play better when he is in the team. Got himself sent off after making a horrible mistake on a back-pass.

Park – 7.5
We need his height and aggression in midfield. Could do a little more to be closer to the ball, but works well when he is in possession.

Nakahara – 8
Best game I’ve seen from him in a while. I still want more long range shooting, but his tackling, running and passing was great. Needs to stay aggressive.

Kanemori – 8
Tired as the game went on, but like with Koga his aggression is infectious and makes the rest of the team step up. Took his goal very well.

Ishizu – 7
Would have hoped to have scored, and was doing a bit much on the ball at times. Looks a threat whenever he is on the pitch.

Sakai – 7
Worked hard. I would have given him a 7.5, except he spoiled it a little with his last touch of the game, shooting from distance after seeing he was about to come off.

Hirai – 6.5
One good run in the box. Tough game for him, asked to defend as soon as he came on after Koga was sent off.

Ushinohama – 7.5
Doesn’t disappoint when given a chance. One run he went on relieved the pressure on the defence and lifted the crowd and team.

Yamaguchi – 7
Made no mistakes, and helped keep the game scoreless after coming on.

Posted June 9, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Opinion