After Kenta Hasegawa said we needed to improve on the quality of our play despite the 2-0 win against Ventforet Kofu on Saturday, we turned on the style against lacklustre Shimizu S-Pulse in front of 10,898 fans in this must-win weekday tie. Going into the game we were level on points with the visitors but showed them our superior quality in an exceptional performance.
There was only one change from the team that started against Kofu, that being a forced one as Shu Kurata was suspended having picked up his 4th booking of the season, allowing new signing Patric to earn his first start following his move from Fortaleza at the start of the month. On the bench, Tatsuya Uchida dropped out for Okazaki whilst Lins took the spot vacated by Kurata in the squad.
With Shu in good form one could be forgiven in thinking that his loss would be huge but Patric was out on a mission with a starting place in up-coming games firmly on his mind. Keeping a winning team together was a smart move from Hasegawa despite games coming thick and fast with Usami and Patric leading the 4-4-2 line-up.
Scoring as quickly as we did against Kofu was going to be key in this game and it took just 6 minutes to take the lead through Abe. Usami’s excellent shot was pushed over by Aizawa but he could do nothing to prevent Abe’s effort from the edge of the area fly into the bottom corner following a short corner from Endo and a tiny touch back from Usami. The start could not have been better.
But it did get better. Long balls were used to stretch Shimizu with Patric running onto them too easily too often. A pass from throw-in taker Yonekura set the Brazilian away down the right and he had to look up just once to pick out Omori on the penalty spot who calmly fired past the unguarded Aizawa. Kudos to Usami on his run to take his marker away from Omori who netted his first ever goal at Banpaku – the other 4 coming on the road.
This difficult-looking game was becoming a rout without the rewards that come with it. Only the poor S-Pulse keeper Aizawa could save his team’s blushes with superb saves from Patric twice and an Iwashita header. We never took our foot off the gas and the high energy performance from both midfield and defence was excellent, paving the way for the attack to do as it pleased.
Omori put Abe through on goal just after 30 minutes but he poorly poked just wide whilst the rest of the team prevented the visitors from having a single shot in the entire half. We looked solid and unbeatable in defence – the team looked reborn and full of confidence, in part thanks to Shimizu, but also in our organisation and work ethic. We ended the half 2-0 but it should have been at least 5-0. We were looking empathic.
The sooner it turned 3-0 the better. Patric was stretching their defence all over the place whilst Usami ran the show, creating the first chance after bursting into the box and crossing beautifully for the Brazilian who headed just over. It took the visitors 52 minutes to register a shot on goal but Patric soon made them forget about that with a deserved goal, meeting a superb cross from Yonekura on the dive. His determination to get to the ball summed up his entire match – he wanted to prove his worth and worked tirelessly, netting a goal on his first start. Deserved.
It was game over for sure at this point. Although Iwashita did well to avoid a yellow/red card for a poor challenge which sent Afshin Ghotbi nuts, calling for a red card. Iwashita fortunately avoided that and a booking! With 20 minutes left, the goal-scoring duo of Omori and Patric was replaced with Futagawa and Sato with both looking to prove their points, being joined some 15 minutes later by Lins who came on for Abe.
All three subs combined for our final goal. Sato crossed poorly to Lins but the ball came to Futagawa who back-heeled the ball first time through the defender’s legs to Lins, who dummied and came in on his right foot, bending his effort into the far corner for a much needed confidence boost and a well-deserved 4th goal for us. Lins looked relieved and the fans were relieved for him.
That ended a wonderful match. We took a great step up the table but more importantly, the performance took a massive step up from the Kofu game, just as the manager and players had wanted. I could not have asked for more.
Two clean sheets in a row and 4 wins from 5, bang in form!
Man of the Match
To a man, every player was exceptional. For me though, Patric was outstanding, given that it was his first start with his new team-mates. Patric did done more than Lins in just one game. He dragged the defence all over the place, created chance after chance and earned an assist and a goal. He more than covered for the loss of Kurata which is no mean feat. If you were looking for the all-round perfect debut, that was it. Usami was a close second-place in this award with his dominating display in the opposition’s half, showing us what we missed in the first half of the season and pointing out that we need to do everything we can to keep him free of injuries. Major applause for every single player, subs included.
Higashiguchi – 8
Yonekura – 9
Nishino – 8
Iwashita – 8
Oh Jae-Suk – 8
Abe – 9
Endo – 9
Konno - 9
Omori – 9
Patric – 10
Futagawa – 8.5 (Sub)
Sato – 8 (Sub)
Lins – 8 (Sub)
With the win and teams around us again failing to win, we rose to 11th place with 21 points on the board, 4 points ahead of the relegation zone. Kofu v Cerezo was a draw as was the stunning 3-3 tie between Sendai and Nagoya. Omiya picked up a point away to Kashima. S-Pulse fell down to 15th, just outside the relegation zone. Positively for us, we reached +1 goal difference which will definitely come in handy.
Photo taken from Gamba Osaka’s Official Website. No copyright infringement intended. Original taken from the Home Page.