After two away trips in a row in various competitions, we return to Banpaku this weekend to face fellow early strugglers Omiya Ardija with the kick-off being 16:00 JST. After a tough first 7 fixtures, this is the one that we can definitely say that we should win and we would be disappointed if we do not win it.
Omiya sit one point and one place above us in the table in 14th place having won 2, drawn 1 and lost 4 of their opening games. The away side for the weekend have taken 4 of their 7 points on the road with a stunning and surprising 4-3 win over Kawasaki Frontale as well as a 2-2 draw against Kashiwa Reysol. They have not won in their last 5 games.
The last time the two sides met came in a lacklustre Emperor’s Cup 3rd round match that ended 0-0 and saw Omiya triumph on penalties. In the league however, Gamba won 3-1 back in August 2012 at Banpaku to raise our hopes of survival with Leandro netting a brace and Kurata adding the 3rd in a deserved win inspired by substitute Akihiro Sato. The other game that season ended in a 1-0 Ardija win on what was Atsushi Kimura’s Gamba debut.
Takashi Usami should be back to full training sometime next week which is excellent news. An injury did come with that however, as Akira Kaji is almost certain to miss out following a foot injury that he picked up in training during the week. With that said, you can expect Oh Jae-Suk and either Kurata or Omori to retain their places whilst the 9 players that were rested following the Osaka should come back into the first team after a superb performance. If Konno does make the game this weekend, then both Omori and Kurata should take their places in the starting line-up but I think the former should be fine. If it was me, I would play Kurata over Omori simply because we probably do not need the hard work and tracking back that Omori gives us if we have Abe on the pitch as well, especially in such a winnable game.
The match will highlight the return of Akihiro Ienaga to Banpaku for the first time since he left the club last summer following the end of his loan from Mallorca. He categorically said in the training match that we won against Ardija during pre-season that Gamba are, as always, not so strong. Time to put your money where your mouth is Akihiro and prove it. Although he was pretty poor during his stint in J2 last season…
I am looking for the guys to push on from the great performance against Cerezo Osaka last weekend and win this game to get us looking up the table instead of down it. Guys like Lins, Sato and Kurata have to start finding the back of the net, then I am sure they can do it on a regular basis once more. We have to take the game to a weak Omiya and make a statement. I have every confidence that we can do that this weekend.
Our 3rd win of the season in all competitions came in Tosu as we downed hosts Sagan Tosu 2-0 to make it 2 wins from 3 games in the Nabisco Cup to put our qualifying campaign back on track. 4,972 people turned up for the midweek game which saw us take our first victory from Tosu in the professional football era.
What was even better than the win was the amount of players who had come through the youth team throughout the years that were part of the squad. 10 changes were made from the Osaka Derby from the previous weekend with Kotaro Omori the sole survivor as Kenta Hasegawa looked to rest his main men for the up-coming game against Omiya Ardija. Professional debuts were handed to Yuto Uchida and Yosuke Ideguchi, and surprisingly Akito Takagi, the 16 year-old striker still part of the Gamba Youth team and only in his second year of high school – he became the youngest player to make an appearance, even ahead of Takashi Usami. Kohei Kawata finally made his debut for Gamba as goalkeeper after loan stints in J2 and J1, whilst the mix of veterans and youngsters was great to see. The full starting eleven is to the right.
What was even more interesting was the inclusion of only 6 substitutes on the bench, two of them also still part of the Youth team. Midfielders Shota Yomesaka and Mizuki Ichimaru, known to have played in training games from time to time, got their chance to be part of the squad, both just 16 and 17 respectively. It may only be a matter of time before their get their debuts too. The other players on the bench were Kimura, Evson, Sato and Ogawa, the latter probably steaming that he was not chosen over Takagi.
Unfortunately, I could not watch the game because there was no stream available, so I will just talk through the goals and the significance of the game.
There was not a lot of goalmouth action throughout the entire game but with our 5 shots, we scored 2 goals. In the 34th minute, Kurata was at the heart of the goal as he traded passes with a couple of guys before driving inside on his left foot and firing a shot towards the bottom corner which the goalkeeper could only parry straight to Omori, who had done superbly to keep himself onside, then to race in on goal and smash the ball under the keeper from 6 yards to net his 2nd goal of the season. Lovely work by Kurata to drift freely as he does so well in the role behind the striker.
Sagan barely threatened during the half with just a couple of tame efforts that were simple for Kawata in goal, who was looking to make his debut a memorable and clean sheet one.
Takagi was changed immediately after half-time for Sato, the youngster putting in a good 45 minute shift in his unexpected debut. Kurata should have made it 2-0 after Omori drove forward and played a ball over the top of the defence but Kurata, who maybe did not expect the ball to come to him, took a touch to control then fire narrowly wide with his left foot – he will get there, it is just a sticky patch right now.
Even though the hosts threw on talisman Yohei Toyoda, he could not find a way to goal and stop his team falling another goal behind, with Ogawa coming on for Omori and netting immediately. Futagawa picked the ball up from Kurata and sent in a whipped cross from the left which found the excellent run that Naoki made and he got the slightest of touches to flick the ball onto the inside of the post and eventually into the back of the net, 17 minutes remaining.
There was little Sagan could do from there after and even though Oh Jae-Suk (now suspended for the next Nabisco game) and Kurata were both booked, we seemed to float to the finish line. There was even time for Evson to make his debut deep into stoppage time, coming on for Futagawa for seconds of action – happy he at least made it onto the pitch.
What was most impressive about the win was the number of youth products used – 11 of the 17 squad members graduating from the youth team. Even though three players got their professional debuts, we seemed to easy to the win and the young guys got nothing but praise from fans and the manager. Youth is power.
Gamba Man of the Match
I can only go by what Gamba fans have said online, and therefore Yosuke Ideguchi gets the vote. He was as we would expect him to play, with no fear and quite delightfully controlled the game. There was nothing but a buzz of excitement on Twitter from fans watching this guy for the first time and we all know that his future is going to be a very bright one indeed. He will be aiming to a place on the bench on the weekend and it would not be a surprise if he made it. Delighted for the kid.
We stay in 3rd place after this win, level on points with Shimizu S-Pulse but they have a game in hand. FC Tokyo lead the way on 7 points after a 3-0 win over Vissel Kobe whilst Kashima Antlers took a 2-1 victory away from Sendai. Sendai, Kobe and Tosu all look like the outsiders at this point whilst we have everything to play for. The next round of games for us will come around this time of the month in May.
Photo taken from J’s Goal. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.
Another trip down to Tosu to take on Sagan Tosu in just a few weeks comes next on the list in the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup with Gamba looking to get their qualifying campaign back on track after a blip on the road last time out. The game kicks-off at 19:00 JST and the game will be held at the Best Amenity Stadium.
Gamba lost 1-0 to Shimizu S-Pulse last time out after Nagasawa gave the hosts in that game the lead in the first half and we were not able to find the equaliser despite being the better side and creating a tonne of chances. Sagan have played just one game thus far having sat out match day 1 but they lost 3-1 in match day 2 at the hands of Kashima Antlers away from home. They will be looking for their first win to place them level on points with us after the game has ended. We will be looking to be in at least 2nd by full time.
The two sides met just a couple of weeks ago in the league in Tosu and it was the home side that took the three points, winning by a 2-0 scoreline. Gamba were dominate without avail in the first half and were made to pay in the second half through poor defensive mistakes which allowed Toyoda and Kim to punish us. We played okay but that defeated started our run of 3 games in a row lost and without a goal.
A large amount of players have not travelled with the squad to Tosu after the team left from Itami Airport this afternoon, all this information with thanks to a friend on social media. Higashiguchi, Kaji, Iwashita, Fujiharu, Endo, Konno, Tatsuya Uchida and Abe all stayed in Osaka with all but Konno being rested – Konno might be back for the weekend after limping off during the Osaka Derby. What we do know is that Yuto Uchida and Yosuke Ideguchi will get their professional full debuts as reported by Sponichi yesterday. Kohei Kawata should also make his Gamba debut in goal, Oh and Nishino to join the defence, Myojin, Kurata, Futagawa and Sato all likely to start. Kenta Hasegawa clearly has one eye on the league match against Omiya Ardija on Saturday and rightly so, as the game is very much winnable. My predicted side is to the right.
We will be looking for the players who were on the bench for the Osaka Derby to make a statement and a claim for a recall to the starting eleven in the league whilst the young players like Uchida and Ideguchi to show us why they are so highly rated and give us a good performance. A positive result is more than acceptable for me and I am hoping that the guys show us some fight and passion, because I really want them all to do well.
A thrilling derby saw both sides take a point each after each took and squandered the lead in front of a packed Nagai Stadium holding 42,723 spectators and even though we were the away side, you would have been forgiven to think that The Pigs have no real fans and we were at home. Both teams will claim that they should have won and a draw was probably the right result.
Daiki Niwa, despite the speculation, kept his place at the heart of the defence next to Keisuke Iwashita which saw the back 5 unchanged. In defensive midfield, Tatsuya Uchida surprisingly (but wonderfully for me) returned after being kicked out of the team last weekend which meant Endo pushed forward into his fake 9 role behind Lins. Uchida took the place of Sato whilst Omori can in for the out of form Kurata, who also dropped to the bench. Uchida’s inclusion saw Ogawa drop out of the match day squad. Kenya Okazaki had a set-back in training on Friday, spraining his ankle, and will be out for at least another two weeks, the poor lad.
Coming into the game, given the league positions of both teams, I would have taken a draw. Every little helps especially when you lack your main man up front as well as having your forward thinking players in a period of uncertainty.
Cerezo started the brighter of the two teams, testing Higashiguchi twice in goal within the first couple of minutes, first Kakitani and then Yamaguchi getting the goalkeeper to make a couple of decent saves. Their high tempo did not last long though and we took control of the game after those scary moments. Abe was the first to shoot but his effort was dragged well wide of the post but we were quick and smart on the break, looking dangerous each time we set away after a Pig mistake or a snapping challenge. Abe had another chance in the 17th minute but Lins’ short cross to hit was knocked out for a corner just ahead of our number 13. At this point, Endo was pulling the strings in his free role, finding space easily in the opposition’s half.
So we only went and conceded to that guy Forlan. Cerezo went on the counter and switched the ball to the right and with Omori and Fujiharu not communicating, Kakitani found Yamaguchi in some space in the box and he laid off a simple pass to Forlan who took a touch and poked the ball home. Niwa and Iwashita were not tight enough to their men in the box and Kakitani was allowed time to play his pass. Forlan was never marked – he sat in-between the line of defence and midfield – and finished clinically. I thought at this point that it was going to be one of those days again for us.
Cerezo pushed for a second but found our defence hard to beat whilst Konno was unjustly booked after slipping and falling into his man whilst Yamaguchi was bizarrely getting away with everything. Konno then injured himself at a corner that bounced to Lins, who chested the ball down and had his scuffed shot at goal blocked. Konno was replaced by Sato, pushing Endo back next to Uchida. Kakitani had a couple of half chances but that was all they were.
Kaji was dived at by Yamaguchi who magically avoided a yellow if not a red but we scored from the resulting free kick, with Endo’s cross being flapped at by Kim in the Cerezo goal under no pressure and he laid it into the path of Abe who steadied himself before smashing a half-volley into the top corner to make it 1-1 just before the break. A deserved equaliser and a superb finish – excellent technique and precision on his weaker foot. Wonderful goal, and all square at the break.
We started the second half excellently, pressing the Pigs high up the pitch and hard which allowed Endo to pull the strings even more. He picked out Omori and delivered a wonderful ball over the defence and Omori drilled a shot across goal that Kim could only push into the path of Lins but a goal saving tackle denied him right at the very last moment. That pressure continued and a clearance was cut out by Uchida, Abe picked it up and turned his man, shrugged him over and bent a 25 yarder around the defender which unsighted Kim and the ball nestled into the back of the net. Another class goal, a deserved lead and Hiroyuki’s first ever brace. Even Higashiguchi came forward to join in the celebrations which shows that the team is united as one.
The Pigs had enough of Kim in goal and changed him for former Giravanz keeper Takeda and moments later that were given a debatable free kick 25 yards from goal after Niwa was perhaps harshly penalised for hand ball. Forlan curled the resulting free kick into the bottom corner on Higashiguchi’s side, the keeper fatally taking a step in the opposite direction otherwise he would have saved it – the man himself blamed himself after the game. Things were going to get rocky again.
Omori was subbed for Kurata and the latter, who previously spent a season on loan with the Pigs, came on with a point to prove. Not before Hasegawa forced Higashiguchi into a good save as Cerezo looked for a winner. Entering the final 10 minutes, it was end to end stuff with Sato going down in the box as he was about to shoot – surely a penalty?! Then he played a great one-two with Kurata who dragged his effort well wide of the target. He then had a chance to win it, again linking with Sato, but instead of shooting across goal he went right at Takeda who had an easy save to make. Futagawa – who came on for Lins – had the final notable chance of the game which was heading for the top corner following his strike on the edge of the box but Takeda pulled off an exquisite save to deny us all 3 points.
I would have taken a point at the start of the game, all 3 points would have been deserved. We dealt with the threat of their forward players quite well, a few mistakes cost us again. Positively, the forwards seemed to be connecting very well and it only looks like a matter of time before Lins gets his first league goal. Proud.
Gamba Man of the Match
There were two guys who looked great. Endo and Abe. The former was excellent in both the positions he played, being an integral part in turning our defence into a swift counter attack. It was probably his best performance thus far and it was really great to see him hitting some form, just like the rest of the side. He looked so comfortable and keen to make an impression – he can play like this every week if he really wanted which is what he should be looked to do. As for Abe, he was drifting all over the front line whilst putting in a superb shift when in defence. His two goals were superb thanks to a superb technique and confidence. He is slowly getting back to his best and should be looking to improve more and more in each game.
Higashiguchi – 7
Kaji – 7
Niwa – 6.5
Iwashita - 6.75
Fujiharu – 7
Konno – 6
T.Uchida – 7.5
Omori – 7
Abe – 8.5
Endo – 8.5
Lins – 7
Sato – 6.5 (Sub)
Kurata – 6.5 (Sub)
Futagawa – 6 (Sub)
We rose a place to 15th after Ventforet Kofu lost to our next opponents Sagan Tosu. Below us, Sendai won to close the gap to 1 point whilst FC Tokyo slipped closer to us along with next league opponents Omiya Ardija close by. Shimizu S-Pulse garnered a win against the latter but with Usami soon to return and a promising performance like this can only bode good things going forward. We will be fine.
Photo taken from J’s Goal. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.
The biggest game of the season so far sees Gamba travel south to take on cross-city rivals Cerezo “The Pigs” Osaka in what promises to be an explosive and fascinating game at the Nagai Stadium, the game kicking-off at 14:00 JST. Both teams will be looking for the win that can move them to respective better places in the league.
The furore that followed Diego Forlan to the bad side of Osaka has seen the side stick themselves near the top of the table, winning 3, drawing 1 and losing 2 – interestingly, being able to score in just one home game so far, like Gamba. They lost their last outing to Kashiwa Reysol 2-1 with former Gamba man Leandro netting the decisive goal between the sides. The team seem to be finding ACL commitments hard to juggle.
The last game between these two rivals came in the Emperor’s Cup in 2012 where we went to the final after being Cerezo 2-1 along the way, with team-hopper Akihiro Ienaga giving us a deserved win in extra-time after Endo’s early goal was cancelled out by Kakitani. In the league in 2012, Cerezo won the first match 2-1 thanks to a 90th minute winner and then squandered a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with an Akihiro Sato double in terrific rain dragging us back from the brink.
Kenya Okazaki scored twice on Monday in a training match against Kwansei Gakuin University and could be set for a place on the bench in what will be his first experience of the Osaka Derby if he makes it onto the field. Takashi Usami has started physical training and will be back before we know it which is of course great news. Koki Yonekura is the only other absentee and probably will not feature until after the World Cup break.
One of the biggest rumours this week has been Takaharu Nishino getting his first league start of the season and in J1 in place of Daiki Niwa, the man who has been substituted in the last two games in order to throw more attacking players on. He has been somewhat poor in the last few games but nothing in comparison to Iwashita, but we all know that he is a solid starter whilst Hasegawa is at the helm. I would be very happy to see Nishino start. Our biggest probably has been in the attacking midfield area, where many of the guys have been well off form and off pace in the early stages of the season – Kurata, Futagawa, Abe, Omori, Lins and Sato have all had too many downs and too few ups. Hasegawa will have to pick 4 from them and stick with them. Many fans want to see Lins play as the lone striker and that might just happen with Sato really rusty, which is a shame but we need everyone at 100% for this game.
Osaka is Blue and Black. Always has been and always will be. But more importantly, this game will give us either confidence or fear depending on the result. A win would really raise the morale in the squad and would hopefully get us back on track after a decent start in the league and cup. We cannot afford to lose this game with a winnable game against Omiya Ardija coming up. We have to brave, courageous and determined against this 5th place team. We have to take our chances and finally score a goal otherwise Cerezo will destroy us.
俺達が大阪さ 青と黒 俺等だけ
Another disappointing day in the league as we succumbed to our second 2-0 defeat in a row at early pace-setters Kashima Antlers at Banpaku in front of 12,899 spectators. Our lack of a finishing touch up front and a lack of solid leadership at centre-back was the difference between the two sides on this day.
Kenta Hasegawa made a fair amount of changes following the midweek excursion to Shizuoka in the Nabisco Cup, with the impressive and somewhat unfortunate Oh Jae-Suk being replaced by back injury returnee Akira Kaji at right-back, whilst the standard partnership of Iwashita and Niwa took over from the Kim and Nishino, the latter surely knocking on the door for Niwa’s spot in the team. Kurata, Sato and Lins took over from Omori, Futagawa and Ogawa as they all dropped to the bench. There was no place for Tatsuya Uchida on the bench which was disappointing, but he turned his duties to a high-five event outside the stadium. Myojin took his place after being rested in midweek. We formed with a 4-4-2 which could be classed as more of our standard 4-2-3-1.
The first 10 minutes were fairly even between the two sides with Lins crossing low for Sato who was beaten by his marker whilst Davi pulled a good save from Higashiguchi after Iwashita and Niwa went for a walk. Sato was involved in two pieces of good play that should have resulted in goals, the first with him just failing to connect to a good cross from Kurata and then second a super pass down the wing for Abe and with Sato free in the box, the midfielder failed to get it back to the big man up top.
Davi should have made it 1-0 to the visitors just minutes later after a good cross from Antlers’ Endo, who found the Brazilian unmarked on the 6 yard line but he only managed to hit the crossbar on the volley with Iwashita ball watching. Kurata responded with a brilliant pass to Fujiharu who had to shoot with his weaker right foot which made the save comfortable for Sogahata in goal, leading us to the 30 minute mark all square.
Davi finally made us pay in the 38th minute with a snap-shot from 20 yards which found its way into the bottom corner of the goal, giving Higashiguchi no chance. Niwa and Konno got the ball stuck between the two of them and Davi dragged Konno down to get the ball but rifling his shot home. The goal should not have stood and we should have had a free kick but again the sub-standard refereeing bit us hard again.
On that sour note, half time came. We were decent enough but lacked a decisive blow whilst the Antlers did, albeit illegally. Nevertheless, I do not think we could have many complaints about being a goal down and we needed to show more in the second half in all areas of the pitch to get back into the game.
The first thing that happened in the half was Kurata getting booked for a pull after his man got away from him and then he let the ball get away from him and allowed his man to get a pass to Davi who was on the last defender, but he could only smash his effort right at Higashiguchi from an acute angle. So Kurata was pulled for Futagawa around the hour mark whilst Sato’s barren touch again crept into his game. He was later subbed for Omori. Even Endo was playing poorly (not for the first time mind you) as he was getting frustrated and eventually earned him a yellow card.
To be honest, little happened in the way of goal-scoring chances apart from that Davi chance up until the 84th minute when 19 year-old Caio made it 2-0 for the visitors to seal the points following another dubious goal on his full debut. An unchallenged cross from the left was headed across goal by Davi which hit Shibasaki and came out to Caio to smash home from the penalty spot. Whilst Shibasaki may have been marginally offside – although it was too quick to tell – he definitely handled the ball back to the youngster to net his first professional goal. It does not help when your defenders stop instead of playing to the whistle but such is what Niwa and Iwashita do. Referees are no fun when they get it obviously wrong.
Whilst Niwa was exchanged for Myojin, the game was done and dusted. We could blame the officials for some vital decisions that went wrong but at the same time, we can only blame ourselves. Toothless up front and the centre-backs being about as clueless as a fan wanting to wear pink – you know what I mean. We had nothing to offer against a strong opponent and made it too easy for them. It looks like a goal will never come, but when it does come another one will probably swiftly follow. Until then, we need to show more desire and drive to grind out the points.
Gamba Man of the Match
Nobody stood out and therefore no-one gets it.
We are in the bottom three for the first time this season, but I am sure that things will look different each week. There is no reason to panic yet because we do have enough quality and there are teams worse than us. Saying that, it did not help us in 2012. Even if it does become a relegation battle, I will be with the team 100%. There is no room for negativity.
A superb second half performance and an all-round comfortable showing did not prevent us from falling to our first defeat of the Nabisco Cup campaign at the hands of Shimizu S-Pulse in front of 8,033 people at Nihondaira.
A few changes were made from the 2-0 defeat to Sagan Tosu. In defence, Takaharu Nishino and Kim Jung-Ya took over at centre-back from Iwashita and Niwa – Kim making his first appearance since his return to the club. Out came Myojin, Abe, Lins and Sato for Kurata, Omori, Futagawa and Ogawa, the latter making his full professional debut. Places on the bench for non-regulars Yuto Uchida and newly professionalised Yosuke Ideguchi, as well as a first appear in a Gamba squad for Evson.
Little occurred in the first 20 minutes or so as both teams sparred with each other and the first real chance turned up in the 25th minute as Endo went to take a shot but slipped on the greasy surface – his poor effort turning into an excellent pass for Kurata who controlled well but poked wide of the post and was made to pay for that miss less than 10 minutes later as Nagasawa put the hosts ahead in the 33rd minute. Omae was allowed to dribble forwards in midfield and his pass went through his target and Nishino, who was too tight, and the ball ran on through to Nagasawa who simply slid the ball past Higashiguchi in goal. Kim Jung-Ya had stopped with his hand up for offside (which it was not) and was disappointing in his lack of effort.
There was nothing else major to report in the first half. The combination of Futagawa and Ogawa was not working up front, simply because they had never played in that system together before, and whilst we were comfortable, we made another silly error to concede a silly goal. 1-0 down but I felt that we could turn it around for sure as long as we could move the solid defence of S-Pulse around a bit.
Two changes at half time came with Futagawa and Ogawa being replaced by Lins and Sato. We started the second half as we would go on throughout it, with excellent passing football and creating chances galore without the finishing touch – not for the want of trying though. Fujiharu had the first chance, getting his boot onto the end of an Omori cross but he could only direct it over the bar. Sato and Lins then had long-range efforts without a positive result as we hit the hour mark and Sato scuffing a decent chance after a scramble in the box.
We continued to pile on the pressure and it was Oh Jae-Suk who was the real threat going forward. His tantalising cross was not put in but after another scramble, Omori tried an overhead kick from 18 yards which was comfortably cleared off the line after the keeper had gone walkies. Oh and Kurata both had decent chances but headed at the keeper and well over the bar respectively and entering the last 10 minutes, Oh and Lins had both been booked.
The Brazilian tried again and sent a lovely half volley just over the crossbar and Tatsuya Uchida came on for Kim in the final minutes. Oh almost pulled us back level in the final moments from the edge of the penalty area but Kushibiki got down well to save it and earn his side all 3 points.
The second half display was all-out attack and we should have and probably deserved something out of it but when you do not take your chances, you can only blame yourself. We were over really good and the connection between the forward players were good and I had no complaints with the effort and desire shown by the players. On another day, we would have scored 4 or 5.
Gamba Man of the Match
Oh Jae-Suk was superb in the second half and his attacking play was brilliant. He really showed that he is a good player and silenced his critics from the weekend. He made good chances and maybe should have had one himself and really gave his all so that we could get something from the game. He was the best player in the second half and took the mantle, even from right-back, and I was very happy for him to do so. I hope he gets more chances to show us that he is a good player and I hope he continues to take any chances that come his way.
We stay 3rd in Group A with Vissel not playing. S-Pulse stay top on 6 points and lead FC Tokyo by 2 points after they drew with Vegalta Sendai whilst Kashima Antlers downed Sagan Tosu to take 4th place. The group will take a lot more twists and turns as the final 4 rounds go by and I expect every team to lose at least once.
Photo taken from Gamba Osaka’s Official Site. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.