Giravanz Kitakyushu 3 : 5 Avispa Fukuoka
Before the match I had predicted a tight game which might end up goalless, or could be decided by a single goal by either team. I got that totally wrong as the teams shard 8 goals, with 7 different scorers to keep the big away support entertained on a rainy evening in north Kyushu.
One thing I did get right was that there would be an Avispa win, but this had looked very unlikely at half-time as the team went in 2-0 down having never really looked in the game.
Kitakyushu play a very simple strategy, but play it quite well. They have large numbers behind the ball; at times they had 2 full banks of 4 in and around their own penalty box, and try to absorb attacks and release their attackers quickly with direct balls forward.
Avispa had a couple of warning shots as Kitakyushu forwards were caught narrowly off-side a couple of times, but didn’t stay close enough together as a unit and allowed a first goal to be conceded.
Playing with 3 back there really wasn’t any excuse to leave the space between Lee and Mishima, space which was compounded by both Koga and Tsutsumi being in elevated positions with little pace to get back and Giravanz’s #11 had a free run on goal and took his chance well.
Kitakyushu sat back and defnded in numbers trying to get another 1-0 win which has been a common socre for them this season, but were then gifted another goal by Kamiyama.
Coming out to clear a ball which was already being covered by a defender he sliced his clearance into the middle where a Kitakyushu midfielder hit his clearance first time and nestled the ball just inside the post.
It looked like the wheels had come off the Avispa play-off bus with a second defeat in a row, but Pusnik changed things up for the second half and we immediately looked much better.
Earlier in the season I had said I wanted to see us play with 4 at the back and Park just in front of the back 4 to allow us to slip into a 3 if the full-backs pushed forwards.
(My post on this in April…. Back-4 with anchor).
Playing a back 3 has been successful at times this season, but in both the Yokohama game, and very obviously again tonight we changed to a back 4 and looked better.
We had pulled 1 goal back within 2 minutes as a set-piece from outside the box was slid square to Tsutsumi who hit a very good low shot through a crowd and inside the left post. This long shot from Tsutsumi was clearly something which had been recognised as an area we might do well from as Tsutsumi had already taken 2 long shots in the first half having never really done that ever before.
It worked here and is very nice to see that someone at the club has recognised this opportunity, and Tsutsumi said after the game that he had been practicing his shooting in training this week.
Avispa didn’t sit back and had equalised within 10 minutes with a very well worked goal from open play.
A move started by Kanamori looking like his energetic best winning the ball back and dribbling at goal before passing to Hirai, saw him then pass onto Jogo who spread the ball wide, continued his run into the box and headed home a very good lofted cross from Sakai.
Someone close to Jogo needs to tell him that this is where he should be playing. As a striker he hasn’t really scored or played very well this season. Coming from deeper in midfield or even right back he has scored more goals than he has as a striker this season.
2:2 after a poor first half was a result I would have taken, but Kanamori put us into the lead within 2 minutes. I am not the biggest fan of Sakai at times, his touch can be poor and as his shooting in the first half showed he can lean back too far and sky shots he should be getting on target, but he was key to this goal again.
Causing problems with his aerial threat on the edge of the box the ball bounced down for Kanamori who hit an early shot unstoppably just inside the post. It was a very good send off just before he goes away with the U21 team.
Full of confidence and finally hitting the weakened Kitakyushu central defence Avispa scored 2 more.
The next was from a set piece which Takeda hit to the back post where Kwang Seon had told him he would be waiting to head back across goal. Flicked on by Tsutsumi, panic caused by a defender’s bicycle kick from Park the ball ended up at the back post where Sakati got the goal his performance deserved. It was quite lucky that he reached the ball first as Jogo was waiting to score but would have been called off-side had he done so.
With Punosevac gone, Ishizu gone, and now Kanamori leaving for a month it is important for some squad strikers to now step up. Our 5th goal was good in that it involved both Morimura and Hirai.
Morimura found Kanamori with a good slide pass into the box and Kanamori took the ball on and passed intelligently to Hirai in the middle who displayed a good finish to get a goal he really needs.
Kazuki then stole the show from everyone by making the highlight of the whole game as he came on for a cramping Kwang Seon. After first running towards the pitch in just his vest he managed to put his shirt on backwards in his rush to get on the pitch.
Giravanz pulled one goal back with a late goal but it didn’t really matter.