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.