Avispa 2 : 3 Fagiano
After losing the Matsumoto game I’d said that we aren’t going to gain or lose a play-off spot in games away from home against teams like Yamaga; this sort of game and result is exactly what is going to cost us a chance to reach the play-offs.
I am feeling a sense of deja-vu to last season where we were placed on the edges of the play-offs heading into summer, but then went about 6 games against decent opposition and lost every one of them.
We have now played Matsumoto and Fagiano (both in the play-offs) and lost them both, and have games against Kyoto, Shonan, Nagasaki and Jubilo coming up in the next month.
This run of games now will decide our season. If we can get 10 points from those games I think we will get a play-off place. We have now gone 2 games with zero points, that leaves 4 games to aim for the 10 points.
If we fail to get the points I think the players will give up like they did last year and we will be faced with another off-season of re-building.
This game had 5 goals, but in reality was very low on entertainment, and even lower on quality.
Fagiano haven’t lost a game in about 3 months, and they showed they are tough to beat, but we would have won this game easily if we had played as we did through July.
Avispa struggled to string together 3 passes in a row through the first half, and with our new philosophy of Kamiyama releasing the ball short and building from the back that was a real issue.
About 8 times in the first half we gave the ball away about 10m inside our own half and invited Fagiano to attack us.
There seemed to be a problem of defence linking with attack, and a large space in the middle of the pitch; a problem we have had for a long time but has seemed much better recently with Nakahara and Takeda providing a platform between the boxes.
Fagiano were playing balls straight through the middle where the defence were not working as well as a unit as they have done. Park Gun playing everybody on side on one attack, but a combination of Kamiyama coming out and making himself big, and Fagiano’s attackers not looking that dangerous meant the scores stayed level.
It was another mistake from Park which saw Fagiano take the lead.
Their run of not being beaten has come having brought Ueda to the club from Omiya Ardija. It is really no surprise, and is exactly the sort of player we really need right now.
It sums up the state of our finances that a player of that quality could go to Fagiano Okayama when it is exactly the player we have needed for about 4 years.
He had a part to play in the goal sending in a decent set-piece from the left which caused Park to get caught between heading and kicking away and end up heading stright down into the danger area.
It bounced off Tsutsumi’s back and was converted easily.
Avispa had not created anything, and it looked like a miracle would be needed to get us back into the game as Fagiano defended very deep with 9 men behind the ball.
We then equalised with our most dangerous form of attack for this season; a corner kick.
I had hoped that Lee Kwang Seon would score more this season, and he did so here jumping highest to head down and in for an equaliser.
Things then got very strange for Avispa as the referee started blowing for flouls from corners when no-one had any idea what he was blowing for.
We even scored from one of these as Hirai got the goal he really badly needs, but the whistle had already been blown. I have no idea why, and neither did the commentators. When Japanese commentators start saying the referee is a bit odd then you know something is wrong.
Avispa then did take the lead with a goal which looked a lot like the sort of thing we usually concede from.
A long ball forward from Jogo at right back was aimed at Takeda running forward, the back-tracking defender tried to head away towards the keeper but the keeper had come to collect and the ball bounced into the empty net.
It was a lead we didn’t really deserve, but if we are going to get a play-off place then we need some wins like that.
Fagiano had to start attacking again and faced with a 4 man defence (The off-form Park had gone off at half-time) used a concerted effort to target Jogo.
They equalised with a ball which bounced around on the left side of the box and teed up nicely for one of their players to smash towards the top corner from outside the box.
It was a good strike, but was from distanec and hit at the near post. I would expect most professional goal-keepers to be disappointed to be beaten at the near post from there.
At that point I was hoping mainly that we could hold on for what would be a decent point, but with the attack failing to really test the Okayama defence we looked more and more like conceding.
The goal came with just 5 monutes left to play. Again with an attack down the left against a visibly tired Jogo. Okayama had loaded the left with 3 players and played a ball inside Jogo at right back for a runner to shoot at the far post.
Again you can’t really fault the finish, but it all looked a bit easy for the striker.
I think this could be a bit of a tide-change in the team for a few games now. For all his limitations I think the team would appreciate Koga coming back into the back-3, and as much as I want him to succeed there I think that this game will have dented Jogo’s confidence to play right-back for a while.