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.