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2013-02-27 [ACL Group G] Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0-2 Bunyodkor (UZB)

Posted by stefanole on 2013/02/27

Sanfrecce’s 2013 Asian Champions League campaign got off to a disappointing start as they fell 0-2 to Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor. Sanfrecce were the better team for most of the match, but failed to make their possession pay and were punished by Bunyodkor’s classic away-team counter-attacks.

Manager MORIYASU Hajime made three changes from the side that won the Super Cup, with the Morisaki twins and SHIMIZU Kohei dropping to the bench to be replaced by OKAMOTO Tomotaka and veterans ISHIHARA Naoki and YAMAGISHI Satoru. On paper the changes seemed to be for the better, as the young Shimizu has had problems handling big occasions in the past. Conversely, Yamagishi has proven in the past that he can raise his game when necessary, and he was generally effective in Sanfrecce’s 2010 ACL campaign. He did not disappoint in this match, generating numerous chances with his crosses.

Moriyasu did a good job with trying to balance the senior players out by giving the 22-year-old Okamoto a chance to shine alongside Aoyama in the “volante” position. Like Takahagi, Okamoto has signalled his desire to contribute to the team by taking the #15 shirt, which was vacated by Takahagi when he moved to the #10. Winger Mihael MIKIC also sat this game out, as Moriyasu indicated that he had suffered a shoulder injury at the Miyazaki pre-season camp.

Sanfrecce's starting formation, GK at the bottom.

Sanfrecce’s starting formation, GK at the bottom.

Bunyodkor have a strong recent pedigree in the ACL: they reached the semis in 2008, the quarter-finals in 2009, the “Best 16” (second round) in 2010 and 2011, and again reached the semi-finals last year, losing to the eventual winners Ulsan Hyundai. An interesting piece of trivia is that Bunyodkor’s manager Mirjalol QOSIMOV has fond memories of the Big Arch, as he was instrumental in Uzbekistan’s victory at the 1994 Asian Games which were hosted by Hiroshima.

Sanfrecce’s history in the ACL is very weak in comparison. 2010 was the first time that Hiroshima’s team had qualified for Asian club competition for decades, and three losses in the first three Group H games left Sanfrecce unable to qualify for the second round. Some pride was salvaged with three wins out of the final three group matches, including a win in China, but Sanfrecce finished one point behind second-placed Pohang Steelers (and three points above bottom-placed Shandong Luneng). I think that this experience was very humbling for the Sanfrecce players who experienced it, but equally it may have helped in the development of a team that would go on to win the J League two years later.

Sanfrecce started brightly, with ISHIHARA Naoki blazing over within the first minute, but the game quickly settled into a battle for possession between the two sides.

After a quarter of an hour, Sanfrecce had another good chance as Mizumoto picked out Yamagishi on the left wing, who ran onto the ball and managed to break through a weak Bunyodkor challenge before forcing the away goalkeeper to punch the opposite-corner chip shot away.

Sanfrecce received a scare in the 19th minute however, as Ishihara’s wayward pass back in midfield was intercepted, which allowed Bunyodkor a solid minute or two of possession that they eventually converted into an attempt on goal by their Serbian midfielder Marco BLAZIC that grazed the side-netting.

The Blazic near-miss spurred Bunyodkor to attack further, and Sanfrecce were forunate two minutes later when Bunyodkor’s Ukrainian striker Oleksandr PYSCHUR missed a cross at the mouth of the goal by mere inches.

After this effort the balance shifted back to Sanfrecce, and Hisato was unlucky not to connect with a Yamagishi forward chip in the 24th minute as the captain snuck into Bunyodkor’s penalty area between the attentions of two defenders.

Sanfrecce should have had a penalty in the 30th minute. Hisato was picked out by Aoyama with a long ball into the Bunyodkor penalty area, but before he could reach the ball Hisato was felled by Sakhob JURAEV’s jumping on top of him from behind and landing on his head, leaving his cheek visibly bruised. How it wasn’t called a foul I don’t know, because it looked like some kind of Ultimate Fighter attack move.

Sanfrecce pressed forward and were almost rewarded in the 32nd minute as Aoyama surged into the penalty area after a through ball by Takahagi. Ayoama crossed for Hisato to shoot from six yards, but the ball got caught between his legs, and in any case as Hisato was offside. Bunyodkor’s Artyom FILIPOSYAN was then booked by the referee for a scything lunge on Tomotaka OKAMOTO in the build-up to the attack which was probably meant to intimidate the nimble youngster.

Sanfrecce seemed to be cruising as the first half drew to a close, but Bunyodkor had still not really threatened the Sanfrecce goal. That all changed in the 45th minute as Sanfrecce conceded a free-kick right on the halfway line. Takahagi and Bunyodkor #13 Fozil MUSAEV jockeyed for a high clearance, and it looked like it would be a Sanfrecce throw as Musaev headed the ball out instead of to his teammate. Musaev, seeing that the ball was going out, crumpled on the floor under very light pressure from Takahagi and protested to the referee. The referee dutifully bought the dive and awarded Bunyodkor a free kick. Bunyodkor booted the ball forward, their tall Ukrainian Pyschur won the header from Chiba, and after the ball was crossed back in for Pyschur, he was again able to win the header over Chiba and steer the ball past Nishikawa to make it 1-0.

Halftime came and went, but Sanfrecce seemed to have lost confidence after the goal, their nerves reflected by a pensive-looking Poichi on the sidelines. Another long ball forward by Bunyodkor was kept in by Aoyama instead of conceding a corner, and the ball was eventually recycled to the point where two passes put Blažić through to shoot from eight yards. Nishikawa managed to deflect the shot into the center of the penalty area, but Bunyodkor were again first to the loose ball, as Jasur HASANOV hammered the ball high for a goal kick.

There was some more messy play from Sanfrecce as Aoyama badly misjudged a chip pass and almost put the ball into the stands, and Shiotani ran himself into trouble and almost gave Bunyodkor a counter-attack opportunity (thankfully Shiotani was able to chase the ball down and deflect it out for a throw-in, one of several occasions where he demonstrated his speed and tackling ability).

They were almost able to score on 53 minutes however, as a raid up the right wing and cross by ISHIKAWA Hironori was headed behind by Bunyodkor. The resulting corner was met by Mizumoto, who was level with the far post and on the six-yard line, but he appeared to slightly misjudge his leap and he weakly headed the ball wide.

Sanfrecce tried to build on the pressure on the 59th minute, as a Yamagishi cross forced another punch from the Bunyodkor keeper. Takahagi lobbed the loose ball forward, but it was headed away by a Bunyodkor defender. Ishikawa picked up the loose ball on the right, but before he could cross again, he was incorrectly flagged offside by the assistant referee (it is impossible to be offside if the ball is played by your opponent, but unfortunately these kinds of errors are all-too-frequent in the ACL). This didn’t stop some of the Bunyodkor players from clapping the bizarre decision.

Spurred on, Aoyama dribbled the ball to the Bunyodkor D before being knocked down, at which point Ishihara just failed to squeeze in a shot before the ball was hurriedly cleared by Bunyodkor. Aoyama was again tripped from the resulting throw-in, but the referee signalled for him to get up instead of giving the free kick.

Minutes later, Chiba passed the ball out left to Yamagishi, who was able to tie knots in the two Bunyodkor defenders who he had sucked in before picking out Hisato in the center, whose header was probably going over but was tipped by the goalkeeper for another corner.

Sanfrecce held possession of the ball for a solid ten minutes after this chance, during which time the Purple Archers built the pressure on Bunyodkor by attacking the goal before efficiently collecting and recycling the ball. Ishikawa crossed again for Hisato, but his header was easily saved. The Bunyodkor keeper was then forced to rush out to deflect the ball from Hisato after he had been put through on goal by Ishihara from a Chiba pass. Ishikawa had a shot blocked by a phalanx of Bunyodkor defenders, who seemed to sense that the tide was turning and started to defend more deeply.

MORISAKI Koji was brought after 67 minutes to replace an exhausted-looking Takahagi, and he was immediately involved in the build-up as another Yamagishi cross was headed down and back towards the six-yard area by Ishihara, but Hisato was crowded out and the ball was cleared.

The possession streak was finally ended by an offside flag and another weak free-kick given for a Murzoev dive. As Sanfrecce began to slow from their continued onslaught, SHIMIZU Kohei was brought on for Yamagishi on 75′. They made their final substitution on 79′, in between again forcing the Bunyodkor keeper to punch a cross away, as NAKAJIMA Koji replaced OKAMOTO Tomotaka, whose pencil moustache continues to lend the air of a classic British spiv. Come to think of it, Ishihara has a similar thing going on.

Sanfrecce struggled to make their dominance translate into goals however, as Aoyama shot high from distance on 84′. They were finally punished for their profligacy on 86′, as a wayward pass by Nakajima was intercepted and Bunyodkor broke quickly through the center of midfield. Chiba failed to intercept the flopping Murzoev, and the man whose dive was responsible for the free-kick that put Bunyodkor a goal up was able to slide the ball past Nishikawa from 18 yards to bury Sanfrecce’s hopes of three points.

I was of course hoping that the Sanfrecce who showed up would be the same team who out-scored and out-defended the J League in 2012 to win the title, but instead we had the Club World Cup Sanfrecce who were over-awed and unsure of themselves. They will need to find their balance quickly if they are to avoid being run over by the Sanfrecce B Team Urawa Reds this weekend.

Scorers: Pyschur 45′, Musaev 86′.
Attendance: 6,607.
Official Report

Highlights:

One Response to “2013-02-27 [ACL Group G] Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0-2 Bunyodkor (UZB)”

  1. […] 2013-02-27 [ACL Group G] Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0-2 Bunyodkor (UZB) […]

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