Avispa 2 : 2 Consadole Sapporo
As anything meaningful this season is pretty much over for Avispa, we’ll finish somewhere between 17th and 11th and it won’t change anything about the club for which position we end up.
What we can do which is useful is try to find a solution to the problem which has existed at the club since the summer and seen us pick up just a handful of points against teams in the bottom 6 of the table while previously being in 7th spot and primed for a run at the play-offs.
I was very pleased to see the defence lining up in a back-4 in this game. The only performance of any note since Ishizu left the club has been the second half against Kitakyushu where we scored 5 goals after switching away from the 3xx formation.
Immediately we looked to have got an extra man from previous performances as the full-backs (Takeda and Oh) continued to try to push up with Park able to sit deep if an extra man was needed at the back. It is a formation I have hoped for for a long time, and we looked a lot better straight away.
Unfortunately it looked like everything might unwind very quickly as the defence went totally to sleep and gave away a goal inside 3 minutes. The referee awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box after Kanamori had chased a ball (and definitely not fouled, I was 10 metres away from what was called a push).
It may be seen as a frailty caused by changing away from 3 at the back, but the reality was we had everyone back in the box, and the change in defensive shape made no difference as Consadole’s tall #39 was allowed to run unmarked and head simply into goal past a statuesque Kamiyama.
Avispa didn’t drop their heads and went on the attack with a shape which allowed runners from the front line to be hit by passes from Nakahara or Tsutsumi. First Kanamori ran through but took too much time to take his shot allowing the keeper to get close enough to block the shot, and then Sakata hit the post with a diving header from a cross on the right.
It was a mystery hoe we didn’t score when the ball was parried back into the box from a Park shot, but Consadole managed to throw enough men behind the ball on the line to somehow keep it out.
Avispa looked the better team, and got the goal they deserved. Acorner from the right was headed on by a Consadole defender and looked like it might be heading in as an own goal, but was forced home by a jumping Jogo at the back post.
The players went across to the bench to celebrate with Kazuki who’d just become a father.
We looked to keep on the offensive and Sakata was the best player on the pitch; playing with an energy which belied his status as the oldest and most established player on the pitch, as well as one just coming back from injury. If the other Avispa players could play with his commitment we’d be in the play-offs for sure.
Despite having a man less in defence than we have since July the back-4 didn’t really look any more vulnerable, but we were much better going forward and were gifted a goal by a poor clearance which fell straight to Jogo. He clearly looks like a player really low on confidence and didn’t trust himself to take on the goal and run himself, but did manage to slide the ball through to Kanamori who finished well to take the lead.
At this point I looked at the table to see where Sapporo were because we were making things look wuite easy against them and were clearly the better team. They were in 8th place and on the edge of the play-offs, which really showed how things could have been different if the players had shown more commitment since August.
Acontentious moment saw the Sapporo #39 grab Kanamori’s face right by the corner flag. I’m very pleased to support a team where the players don’t react with a huge fuss to incidents like that, but referees are so reactive in Japan maybe they need some convincing. The #39 had been winning everything in the air, he should have at least received a yellow card and applying the laws of the game a red.
Unfortunately we then gifted another goal right before half-time as a scrappy period of play on half-way saw Sapporo cente-back Nara break forward into the right-back position as an extra man. He had so much space, and looked a little like he’d chased down a ball which everyone else had given up on he had so much space. He put in a cross to the box, but coming from a centre-back it was a floated cross which should be easy to deal with.
Inexplicably not a single Avispa centre-back challenged for the ball again against #39, and Kamiyama again just watched the cross come in to be headed inside the post with no challenge.
The Avispa back 2 are quite good at dealing with balls in the air coming at them straight, but seem to have serious problems with crosses. Kamiyama, despite what all the stats seem to show, has a reason why Shinoda, Asano, Maeda and Pusnik have all dropped him at times (for Rokutan, Kamata or Shimizu).
The first half had been entertaining, but the second half went a bit damp.
Both teams had chances, the best falling to Kanamori from an early hit Oh cross, and Consadole nearly sneaking it in the last 10 minutes as a player was set free 1-on-1 with Kamiyama, but a lot of the energy had gone.
For Avispa this was largely because Sakata got taken off, and despite his good play also didn’t really look totally recovered from injury, walking quite gingerly after going on some of his runs tracking back.
Sapporo may have chosen to sit back a little more as half-time results would have shown them that their chances of sneaking into the play-offs were looking slim regardless of whether they could find a goal, but a draw is probably a result which neither team is that happy with.