Consadole Sapporo 1 : 1 Avispa Fukuoka
Avispa came within 30 seconds of one of the greatest managerial victories I’ve ever witnessed on Saturday.
For anyone who hasn’t been to Japan it could be viewed as being a place where the football is perhaps at a lower standard than in other countries, so it should be easier to succeed as a player or manager (or any other profession). People who have tried to work here know that actually the opposite is true.
The performance on Saturday was a team which had overcome the deficiencies in players (we only have 1 midfielder), in attitude to the game (the players pressed and worked so hard), and in starting to understand and execute new ideas brought in which go against some of the things they have accepted as normal since elementary school.
I knew the team was going to be a make-shift one; we lost Jogo to suspension, Sakata and Punosevac to injury, and had Kanamori only just coming back from a broken foot.
When I saw the team I was amazed. We were playing the 3xx formation we’ve been using at home (and which I much prefer now), but there was a first game for the season for Kazuki as Tsutsumi moved to right wing-back.
Elsewhere Mitsunaga got his first start (which as an 18 year old no other manager in the country would have done), Park (a centre-back) played with Takeda (a left-back) alongside Nakahara.
Just looking at the team told it’s own story about how difficult things are at Avispa right now, but the team looked really good on the pitch.
I have said many times previously that I think Avispa have indulged in too many luxury players.
Second divisions around the world don’t allow luxury players and in Jogo, Hirai, and Ishizu to a certain extent we have a lot of them. Avispa fans don’t need to see a winning team (if they did they’d follow the baseball) but do want to see players trying their best.
Every player here was doing that and we were repeatedly winning the ball back in midfield and all the players looked to be working for each other.
I think Kazuki deserves a special mention at this point. I’ve given him a hard time on this blog before, but his heart could never be questioned, and he played very well today. Unfortunately he went off with cramp having not played for a long time, which spoiled what would have otherwise been an excellent display from him.
We were creating half chances, and restricting Saporro in midfield so they really couldn’t threaten at all.
Sapporo were my pick as the team to push for promotion this season, and they were coming off the back of a big win against Mito, but will have fewer tougher afternoons than this.
Pusnik looked to freshen the team in the second half with the starting members starting to tire after an exhausting first 60 minutes.
The changes made changed things for the better and worse.
Ishizu came on and scored what looked to be the winning goal. A good break down the right saw the ball reach Hirai who passed along the box for Ishizu who cleverly came back across goal and then switched direction to shoot into the near post.
Hirai had had a part in the goal, but yet again did almost nothing else, at times he looked like the most tired person on the pitch despite only playing for 30 minutes.
The only person who looked more tired was Kota Morimura who came on for Kazuki. In truth I think he may have picked up an injury, but it was again a poor performance.
Park did very well on his return to the team, but as he dropped back to centre-back the midfield lost his tackling and height in the middle of the pitch.
I did wonder at the time if Mishima at right-back with Tsutsumi going inside would be better.
Avispa still looked like they had done enough to win it with the Consadole attacks being dealt with quite easily in a defence where Koga was doing well to play hard which settles the players around him.
With 2 minutes left to play they had 2 chances to clear the ball long to Ishizu who was waiting as the outlet and run the ball into the corner and win the game.
Somehow both opportunities were missed as the ball was returned straight back to Saporro to come and attack.
From one of these attacks the big defender Paulao showed admirable technique to volley home via a deflection from the edge of the box.
To lose the game when they had such big chances to finish it is inexcusable, but the players are not great and worked very well for 93 minutes up to that point.
Everyone deserves the chance to make mistakes, and I just hope that everyone at the club can look past the last 30 seconds and see that what was achieved this June afternoon has the early impressions of something which could be very new and very good.