Avispa Fukuoka 0 : 0 Shonan Bellmare
After winning every game in June Avispa had a mid-week game on the 30th to try to avoid losing every game in July.
It couldn’t have come much tougher as Shonan came to Fukuoka having won 22 of 23 games so far this season. Could Avispa do what only Ehime have so far managed this season by avoiding defeat against Shonan?
We started with a brave line-up as Jogo was again moved to right-back which gives us more options, especially if he is encouraged to get forward and make the opposition concentrate on what he is doing rather than playing re-actively.
Ishizu also returned to the starting line-up which gave us runners around Sakai who is increasingly looking like a hold-up player for us.
The game had an unexpected other aspect as a thunder-storm an hour before kick-off had left large areas of the pitch water-logged and the turf cutting up in places.
In spite of this Avispa were trying to pass the ball around; a strategy which I thought looked destined for disaster, but which at times meant that Avispa were in hold of the ball and able to mount attacks going forward.
They lacked the final product and didn’t really get many shots at goal, a shame as I thought the Shonan keeper looked very suspect.
In defence they were at times still giving the ball away very cheaply in our own half (as we did against Okayama) as we tried to pass the ball out, but at the times we went long it was clear why we had this strategy as the forward were not able to win or even really compete for the longer ball against the Shonan defence.
Shonan had the best 2 efforts of the 1st half. The first of which was a really good shot from central defender Wataru Endo from out side the box which curled a metre too far and went off target with Kamiyama not reaching it. I guess he will be back in J1 next season, but Endo has been the stand-out player for about 3 seasons now and maybe only his size is stopping one of the top clubs from offering him a move somewhere else.
The 2nd chance looked to be a certain goal as Wellington turned on a loose ball in the box but was thwarted by a snap save to his right by Kamiyama who got a strong enough hand on the ball to deflect it safe.
It was the sort of play which makes Kamiyama so frustrating. He comes out with good enough saves to be a key player, but then makes so many mistakes. In reality this save was partly due to his mistake in the first place as his ball out went straight to Shonan to attack.
The game was scrappy, but 0:0 at half time things didn’t look bad for Avispa, we were playing quite well against a good team.
The game would change in the second half as Avispa went down to 10 men with 30 minutes left to play.
Takeda had already picked up a yellow card for a late challenge early in the half as he stopped an attack with a tackle which deserved a yellow, but then picked up a much softer second yellow after 65 minutes. The referee needed to think about the conditions a bit, it was a wet pitch and his tackle while late didn’t connect, and was clearly going for the ball.
It did seem the referee wished he hadn’t booked him after pulling out the yellow card and realising he had to then send him off, but by then it was too late.
The referee was having a tough game, and seemed to be favoring Shonan in tackles a lot. There were 3-4 occasions when Kwang Seon made great tackles, but was penalised; and then 2-3 times when Ishizu was brought down running in on goal but had nothing given against him.
In our run of defeats now the refereeing has been much better, and we may have benefited from a call in this game as Taketomi was called off-side from what looked a very tight call.
People talk about Ishizu, Jogo, Kamemori as wingers who could go on to play in J1; none of them have been as effective at this level as Taketomi who gets relatively little publicity (and none are as effective as Genki Nagasato for us in 2010 who is now in Thailand having effectively ended his career by leaving us at the wrong time).
Kamiyama then had to pull off another great save to keep the game scoreless with a diving stop from a header which he got 2 hands to and was able to push away from danger.
Games like this show how important the keeper is, when Kamiyama is having one of his good days we are promotion challengers, when he is making mistakes the defence get scared and we can be beaten by anyone in the division.
The other player who showed his importance here was Tsutsumi. He has quietly been quite poor in the last month, but in this game was back up to something like his best and getting blocks in front of what he could and showing a much better level of concentration than he has.
Just as it seemed like we would have 20 minutes of getting 10 men behind the ball and trying to hold on for a draw we nearly scored as Ishizu hit a shot againt the underside of the bar.
My criticism of Ishizu is a lack of effeort when he doesn’t have the ball. Here he tracked back having gone down to 10 men and won the ball to set up a quick break. Recieving the loose ball from Hirai after his initial tackle he ran to the edge of the box and hot a shot which beat the keeper but hit the underneath of the bar and bounced past the incoming Hirai.
There was a nervous last 10 minutes, but Avispa actually held out quite well and didn’t really look as troubled as they might be expected with 10 men against a club who have won 22 of 23 games before this match.
There was a strange side-show towards the end which I saw picked up by the commentators watching the game after I came home. With 5 minutes left to play Ishizu was apparently asking for the 3rd substitution to be made.
I’m not exactly who he thought should come on. Morimura has been hopeless this season, and doesn’t seem to handle pressure. Kazuki and Koga are squad players at best now, and you’d be crazy to break up the defence in this game which was working well.
Mishima could come on just to waste time and run a lot, but I don’t think he’d do better than anyone else on the pitch.
Hopefully he was just saying that he thought someone was injured.
A very good draw. Avispa are still in with a good chance of making the playoffs; will Ausgust be like June or July?