Avispa Fukuoka 3 : 1 Jubilo Iwata
So far this seaon we have beaten Kyoto, JEF and Tochigi as teams competing with us for a play-off place, drawn away at Sapporo and Okayama as 2 more teams aiming for promotion, and drew with Shonan as 1 of only 2 teams who hadn’t lost against them this season.
It shows that when the team are focussed and stick to a plan, working as a team we are a match for anyone in the division and should be getting a play-off place.
No result or performance was as good as we were in this game.
It was definitely the best performance of the season, and thinking back through my 5 years of supporting the club it might be the single best performance I have ever seen from the club.
We didn’t just beat Jubilo (a team which still has J1 quality players, including a National team player Inoha), we took them apart time and time again and limited them in attack to the point that the goal they scored was their only real shot on goal.
It was an evening when everything just came together. There were changes in the team as Jogo moved up to a midfield/forward role alongside Nakahara and Sakata, and Takeda came back into the team at left-back.
The back-3 was an all-Japanese line with Tsutsumi and Kazuki either side of Koga.
All of these changes had a big effect on the game in my opinion.
I really like Jogo at right^back, not because he is a great defender, but because the position forces him to get involved in the game and lets him play with the ball ahead of him. His tackling is good, but he can sometimes go missing from games. In this game he took some of the things he has been forced to do at right-back and added then to his game higher up the pitch. He may not have enjoyed his time at right-back, but it has made him a much better player as a midfield/forward.
Before the game I’d said Takeda had been a surprise in the Fukuoka midfield, but here is returned to his previous role as left-back and was even better. As with Jogo the time he has spent in a new role has developed his game so that he was defending well as a left-back, but also had composure on the ball, could pick a pass, and took opportunities to get forward.
The result of this game depended a lot on how Koga and Kazuki would perform on their return to the team. Both were excellent, and of even more importance Tsutsumi stepped up his game and gave the sort of performance which he was doing at the start of the 2013 season.
Why the big improvement in performance? It is probably a combination of factors. The players do seem to like having Koga in the team, it is like a sort of father figure who helps to calm the nerves a bit. Communication is much better due to all of them being Japanese, and because they know that each player has their own deficiencies so they worked well to try to avoid Koga being caught in a foot race, or to make sure Kazuki was doing the things he does better like heading and blocking (but that is slightly unfair on him, he also played some good balls out from defence).
The results against some of the better teams in the division has shown that this bunch of players can compete with everyone, the mental side of the game is where they can suffer and these small factors all added up.
It also helped that we got a goal very early in the game.
Sakata collected a throw -in from Mishima and with a great first touch muscled past the Jubilo left-back to get to the byline and hit a cross into the box. Our crossing has been a little patchy this season but Sakata has spent enough time in penalty boxes to know where the ball should be going and pulled a low cross into the danger zone where a small deflection off a defender sent it into the path of Jogo who hit it first time and into the goal.
There was then a small incident, probably largely forgotten which Ithink had a huge part in the game. Jubilo’s Brazilian forward chased a ball into the channel and got totally cleaned out by Koga coming across from defence. It was a really hard challenge, and correctly called a foul, but exactly the sort of tackle which I want someone like Koga to be making. By virtue of being Koga he got up and jogged away without being spoken to by the referee; a lesser known player or Korean would have been carded in my opinion, and I could see the Jubilo strikers were playing like they were wondering if they were getting a kick for the rest of the half.
Quickly we had doubled the score and again Sakata was involved in a big way.
Playing as a left-back now comfortable in midfield Takeda stepped up and pressed a lazy touch in midfield from Jubilo, with Ishizu tracking back to help win possession (something Iwish I’d seen him do more during his time at the club) with both players exchanging passes to get the ball to Ishizu on the edge of the box.
A simple ball to Sakata was again collected with an amazing first touch which allowed Sakata to turn and shoot at goal to score.
It was a goal which all Avispa fans know Sakata is capable of, but apart from his first 8 games with us in 2012 he hasn’t really looked confident in front of goal. If he can now go on a run of scoring then we are sure to finish in the play-offs.
Avispa then controlled the game for the rest of the match. Kazuki was doing very well in getting some part of himself in front of the ball and not being caught on the wrong side of forwards, Tsutsumi was concentrating, and Hirai was moving as a striker.
Hirai has been the biggest disappointment of the season for me. I’ve previously said that if he doesn’t score he adds nothing to the team. He didn’t score in this game, but did more for the team than I have seen before as he kept running, using good movement and energy to open up space on the pitch. If he can keep this team ethic he will be a very useful player.
Jubilo didn’t look like they could get anywhere close to the box to try and score, but then with their first meaningful attack they did.
The Brazilian guy broke the off-side trap down the right and put a deep cross to the back of the box which was hit first time across goal to score.
It was a good finish, and showed how well Avispa had been defending up to that point. These players have real quality and if they were allowed chances would score, they just weren’t being allowed to make any chances by a midfield and defence which was keeping shape and working hard.
A nervous buzz went round the stadium, we have been in positions like this before, but the game was finished with a wonder-goal from substitute Kanamori.
As Avispa defended deep and tried to protect their lead the ball came to him alone on a break having been cleared from the edge of the box. He rode a couple of tackles and ran straight at goal past 2 defenders before smashing a screamer in off the underside of the bar.
It was direct running against tired defender and exactly what you want from a 60th minute substitute. Kanamori has the potential to win games, and should look as the role of a substitute as one where he can cause real damage with fresh legs and pace. This was a goal his idol Neymar would be proud of.
All the team needs to do now is try to make sure that they keep working as a team like they did tonight until the end of the season.
They had the emotion of Ishizu’s last game here to drive them forward, but they won’t have that again and need to find a way to work for each other and to a plan in the remaining games.