Friday, 1 June 2012

Tosu away 1-1

Ardija travelled to Saga prefecture on the island of Kyushu to play against the surprise package of this year's J1 division, Sagan Tosu. Tosu were promoted to J1 at the end of last season for the first ever time in their history and I guess many touts had them down for a quick return to the lower level but the men of Tosu have proved themselves made of sterner stuff, and indeed their home stadium has become a relative fortress and they are as yet unbeaten at home, and on this day, although Ardija would briefly threaten that record, in the end it would go on to remain in tact thanks to a late calamity own goal from Squirrels striker Hasegawa.

 Hasegawa found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and quite unsure of what do do with the ball and sadly ended up putting it in our own net. Hasegawa is a striker who coach Suzuki usually prefers to bring on as a late substitute, when all other options to score have failed. In this match he chose to start with him, and one would have thought that Hasegawa himself might have been substituted to protect the 1-0 lead, or at least told to stay well away from our penalty box. OK I'm saying that with a large dose of hindsight, but he is the kind of player who should stick to his basic skills, and perform them much,much higher up the pitch. Frustratingly, our coach seems to be unable to get the team to play to Hasegawa's strengths - his height and his build should cause opposing defenders difficulties. However Ardija fail to supply him with decent aerial support, and this seems a waste to me.

From what I saw of the game, Tosu played very well, and in fact were using crosses, long balls forward and long throws to cause problems in our defence. Such tactics we should have been also using against them with Hasegawa on the field. Rafael had started on the bench and when he came on, he immediately got wide and started to get the crosses going in to Hasegawa.

In the 81st minute he went on to supply the crucial pass to Aoki after some neat footwork for a tall guy and Aoki calmly slotted the ball in for a 1-0 lead. The only problem for me is why is Rafael doing this? He is 1m 90cm and should be in the centre also causing the opposition defence problems, not out on the wing. So as the game headed into injury time and with Ardija looking at an unlikely away win, Fujita went for the long throw and Kitano, Omiya's keeper came for it but never got near it, and Hasegawa who was tracking back with the attacker, clumsily tapped the ball in for Tosu's equalizer. To be fair to Hasegawa, it was a great effort that he was back there helping out, but unfortunately the Squirrels don't  need that sort of help.

So just as suddenly as our goal had come and we looked like getting a positive result to move up the table, it was taken away in a flash.

Tosu are a very effective side. They do play to their strengths. It might not always be pretty, but it gets results. They have a never say die attitude, and I was impressed by their directness as the game entered injury time. I have watched many Japanese teams who are losing the game 1-0 as injury time begins and they waste time making pretty passes near the centre circle, when in my opinion time is running out for them and they should take a far more positive and speedier form of attack to try to rescue the point. Tosu can also play some nice football too. They understand the phrase "needs must."

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