Tuesday, March 16

Vissel 1 - 2 Hiroshima

This was a match I really thought we could win, which makes defeat even harder to take than usual. Coming off a fantastic opening week, it was not too surprising to see an unchanged starting eleven. However, we lacked the flair and creativity shown in the Kyoto match and a defensive error gave them an advantage we just couldn't come back from.

In all honesty, we weren't that bad. It wasn't one of those games where you can single out a couple of terrible individual performances, and I usually don't have much trouble doing that. Hiroshima just came more prepared - a tactical victory which seems so simple now in hindsight. Basically, they played a 3-5-2 when they had possession, and a 5-3-2 when defending, with the two wide midfielders dropping back when we had the ball. I don't watch a lot of Hiroshima games but apparently they do this a lot which makes it more embarrassing. Hats off to their manager anyway.
So, can you play against that tactic?
Yes. You catch them on the counter by playing quick long passes deep into the corners to someone who is fast, can control the long ball and whip in a nice cross.
Not that we didn't try to press them up the sides. Both Vamos Popo and Ishibitsu gave us some hope from the left and right respectively, but they opted to run the ball up either side (Ishibitsu obviously has no choice being a right back) which gave Hiroshima enough time to get their two men back.

Their first goal came after 20 minutes when Nakashima headed in a free kick that neatly targeted a gaping hole in our defense outside the 6 yard box. Enomoto made a valiant effort to save, only to palm the goal-bound header just inside the post. I suspect we didn't train against defending free kicks coming back from the goal line, but you would think it's not that different from dealing with a corner. Incidently, Sato scammed that free kick with a skillfully executed "fall". That's football. We should've defended the cross.

Their second was either pure class or luck. Takahagi met a perfect Hattori cross with a right-footed volley (yes, right foot!) that found the top right corner of the goal.

The match ended even worse for Vissel with Botti's first appearance of 2010 being abruptly cut short following a second yellow only 20 minutes after coming on for Vamos Popo. I was too drunk and dejected to recall if the cards were warranted, so I'll do the right thing and say that the ref got them both wrong.

On the bright side, we are still in 8th place - 2 positions higher than we've ever finished a season!

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