Match Report – 30/08/2014 – J1: Match Day 22 – Gamba Osaka 5-0 Albirex Niigata

We finally got back to winning ways in the league in front of 12,696 fans at Banpaku as visitors Albirex Niigata suffered from our clinical attack and their lacklustre forward line. 3 goals in the space of 15 minutes made the difference after a solid start for Albirex.

Kenta Hasegawa made one change to the starting eleven with Kenya Okazaki falling out of the team entire as Futagawa took his spot. On the bench we saw the return of recently injured Oh Jae-Suk and Hiroyuki Abe with Yuto Uchida the other casualty from last weekend’s matchday squad.

Match Summary
It is fair to say that Albirex were the better side in the first 30 minutes or so with decent chances being wasted by Ibusuki and Okamoto, the latter coming from a player avoiding a tackle by Nishino who dived out of defence in a high position before laying off to Okamoto who through on goal fired wide of the far post.

HOME v Albirex NiigataFor us in the first 30 minutes, we continued with passing mistakes at the back but going forward Usami’s driven cross to Patric was just cleared whilst Patric fired right at Morita after Fujiharu broke well. Patric started to stretch the Niigata defence whilst winning free kicks in decent crossing positions. The second free kick led to the opening goal, with Endo’s cross met by Takaharu Nishino to head home freely to net his first J1 goal.

The goal settled us and Patric was at the heart of it, dragging us forward whilst Usami threatened the goal by playing a lovely one-two with Kurata before battering his effort off the bar. And it was Kurata who made it 2-0 in the 39th minute – Endo with a wonderful cross-field pass to Yonekura whose cross to Kurata was just as good, the number 11 making a fabulous run into the box before heading into the far corner from the best part of 12 yards – brilliant goal.

Futagawa made it 3-0 just before half-time after Usami played a lovely pass and the veteran found himself free to shoot at goal with his effort getting a massive deflection which looped the shot over the stranded Morita. At half time we had all but killed the game but Niigata had threatened us a few times.

That did not stop at half time though as for the first 25 minutes of the second half, Albirex should have got at least one goal back. It took them 15 minutes to start making goal-scoring chances with Kobayashi volleying off the outside of the post from 25 yards and Ibusuki then lost Iwashita before firing just wide of the far post. Two golden chances wasted.

Abe came on for Futagawa then shortly after Sato came on for Patric with the latter looking to make an impact following his hat-trick in the Step-Up League and he did not disappoint one bit. He broke clear of the Niigata defence following a top pass from Fujiharu but he was forced wide slightly and fired right at Morita whose parry came to Kurata who made it 4-0. I really love Sato and wanted him to score… next time!

With the game dead Lins came on for Kurata and he made it 5-0 in the 90th minute. He superbly controlled a chipped pass from Endo before sliding the ball into the bottom corner to wrap up a superb scoreline. The substitutes did excellently when they came on and whilst we got a bit of luck, we didn’t get any last week so it all evens out. Overall, a pretty good performance with improvements still to be made but it was good to get back to winning ways.

Man of the Match
Whilst I believed that Patric was excellent during his shift in terms of helping the team out, Kurata just edged him as our best player. He pushed forward to support Patric and Usami which really helped when we were on the attack and his influence during the game was massive. I said last week that he looked like he was improving and he showed us his best form today with 2 great goals whilst still putting in all his effort and desire to get the 3 points for us. Excellent day at the office for Shu!

Patric and KurataHigashiguchi – 7
Yonekura – 8
Nishino – 7
Iwashita – 7.5
Fujiharu – 8
Futagawa – 7.5
Endo – 7
Konno – 7.5
Kurata – 9.5
Patric – 8.5
Usami – 7.5
Abe – 6.5 (Sub)
Sato – 8 (Sub)
Lins – 7.5 (Sub)

Table Standing
We rose one place to 7th following a draw for FC Tokyo at Kashima Antlers whilst other rivals – Kobe, Kashiwa and Hiroshima – all won to keep close to us in the table. We created a 6 point gap to Albirex in 11th which more than likely will assure a near top-10 finish the season. Good for us to be looking ahead once more.

Photo taken from J’s Goal. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.

Match Report – 23/08/2014 – J1: Match Day 21 – Ventforet Kofu 3-3 Gamba Osaka

A crazy last 10 minutes or so (including stoppage time) saw us go from 2-1 up to 3-2 down to 3-3 as we drew with hosts Ventforet Kofu at the Chuo Bank Stadium in front of a crowd of over 12,000.

Two changes came from the weekend before through injuries to Oh Jae-Suk and Hiroyuki Abe with Yonekura and Okazaki coming in, the latter starting for the first time in J1 – two big losses from the starting eleven. This allowed Yuto Uchida to join the bench.

Match Summary
Although we started the better of the two sides, with energy and pressure – things that were missing against Grampus – yet Kofu took the lead in the 8th minute through a long range effort by Ishihara which took a little deflection off Endo as it looped in over the helpless Higashiguchi. Yatto should have pressed instead of dangling his leg out half heartedly – terrible “defending” by the captain again.

AWAY v Ventforet KofuIt took us a while to bounce back but Patric and Usami were well denied at the last, the latter dazzling his way into the box, around the keeper and shooting, his effort cleared off the line. We were too slow with the ball and Okazaki and Konno got deserved yellow cards although they were fortune to escape reds from that point on.

We entered the second half with Futagawa for Okazaki and great vigour, quickly equalising through Usami, who flew through the midfield before belting one home from the best part of 25 yards to get us deservedly level. Iwashita should have made it 2-1 with a free header from a corner but he poorly missed the target whilst down the other end Cristiano fired just wide of the far post.

Entering the hour mark and Usami burst his way towards the Kofu box and was pulled back earning us a free kick which Endo hit into the wall and a hand which saw us get our first penalty of the season – the captain coolly placed it into the top corner to give us the lead. From here we looked to counter attack and did that pretty okay with Yonekura flashing one wide after connecting with Kurata.

Here comes the crazy, ridiculous and unbelievable part. Hasegawa took off Usami and Endo for Niwa and Myojin, two extremely negative changes with around 5 minutes to go. Niwa went and played out on the left which is stupid when Yuto Uchida is a born and bred left-back – surely bringing on a bit of pace in Lins or Sato to hold the ball up would have been better – the changes show that Hasegawa has no confidence in all 3 of the mentioned guys.

So Kofu equalised immediately through a 40 yard screamer by Yamamoto and with us on the rocks they made it 3-2 just a minute later after a cross deflected off Nishino with Shohei Abe wheeling away in delight. Higashiguchi again left helpless but the defence did nothing wrong. I thought the game was over but now-captain Kurata had other ideas, heading home in the 93rd following an excellent knock-down by Patric to salvage just 1 point instead of 3.

Originally I was very angry with the result following the two goals in two minutes for Kofu along with those negative substitutions (which will forever remain stupid) but upon reflection, I prefer to think of the game like this – we conceded two stunners from long range and a cross that was deflected off Nishino who was trying to close down the space. We got a bit rattled but bounced back excellently to equalise. On another day, it would have been an easy day at the office but the rub of the green did not go our way for the goals we conceded. Hasegawa has to look at himself and use his substitutes better – a recurring problem for him.

It was still 2 dropped points but we showed great character to bounce back from 3 crazy goals conceded – none our fault. Overall, a much better performance by our guys and they deserve credit for that whilst Hasegawa went backwards once more.

Man of the Match
Usami was by far our best player. He drove us back into the game with his wonderful goal and his massive part in our taking the lead and was unfortunate not to get more than one goal once more. His pace and directness scared Kofu and he was a massive threat right until he was stupidly subbed off. He was once again top for us. Kudos to Fujiharu and Kurata for putting in a good performance after a tough period.

Shu KurataHigashiguchi – 7
Yonekura – 6
Nishino – 5
Iwashita – 6
Fujiharu – 7.5
Okazaki – 5
Endo – 5.5
Konno – 6
Kurata – 8
Patric – 7
Usami – 9
Futagawa  – 6.5 (Sub)
Niwa – 5 (Sub)
Myojin – 5 (Sub)

Table Standing
Despite dropping 2 points we only dropped down one place to 8th with teams around us all drawing – only Vissel Kobe in our vicinity taking all 3 points. It was a shame we didn’t get the 3 points we deserved as the players put in a ton of effort but with a weakening Albirex Niigata up next, we should get back to winning ways next time.  Onwards and upwards!

Photo taken from Gamba Osaka’s Official Website. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.

Match Report – 16/08/2014 – J1: Match Day 20 – Gamba Osaka 0-1 Nagoya Grampus

Our five game win streak game to an end in the league at the hands of former manager Akira Nishino as visitors Grampus won 1-0 in front of 15,383 fans. The referee was dire, Grampus’ foul tactics were annoying, our attacking was slow and our effort rewarded nothing.

One change was made with Fujiharu coming in for Yonekura, meaning Oh Jae-Suk move to right-back. It was an unnecessary change but Oh was the best equipped to take on Leandro Domingues and therefore understandable. Lins joined the bench in place of Kenya Okazaki – that was very disappointing.

Match Summary
HOME v Nagoya GrampusWe were the better team in the first half with Patric volleying off the bar within the first two minutes without Grampus threatening in the first 20 minutes although Nagai’s pace was threatening – Nishino forgot this and sold a back-pass short that Nagai got onto – fortunately he could only hit the post towards half time. Grampus strangled our attacking play and Usami was being kicked all over the place but the inapt referee was doing all he could to not give us justice.

Patric went close again as he hit the outside of the woodwork from an Endo cross but that was as close as either side got to breaking the deadlock as the half-time break arrived.

We started the second half with some intent but made no clear-cut chances whilst Iwashita was next to clear straight to a Nagoya player but Leandro Domingues fired well wide. The game seemed to be opening up a bit but Nagoya stayed tight in defence and Higashiguchi kept us in it with some good saves. Kurata and Usami with penalty appeals went away.

Yonekura and Futagawa came on for Abe and Kurata and added a bit of intensity that had been lost after our early spurt in the half. Endo was next to hit the bar after Danilson was finally pulled back for a free kick – Narazaki kept his team in the game and then his team went ahead. Fujiharu superbly blocked a cross but Endo was too lax on controlling the ball, allowing Leandro Domingues to pick it out the air and wonderfully volley home.

We had no answer. Usami hit the post after a super one-two and Lins disappointed after joining the fray. It was one of those days where we made few chances and they all hit the woodwork and we conceded to a wowzer of a goal. Heads up and onto the next one!

Man of the Match
HigashiguchiHigashiguchi made some superb saves again and was stunning. I have said what I need to say about this guy before so no need for a repeat! Masaaki olé!

Higashiguchi – 9
Oh Jae-Suk – 6
Nishino – 5
Iwashita – 5
Fujiharu – 6
Abe – 5
Endo – 3
Konno – 4
Kurata – 4.5
Patric – 7
Usami – 6
Yonekura – 6 (Sub)
Futagawa – 5 (Sub)
Lins – 4 (Sub)

Table Standings
We dropped down to 7th but are in the area of the table that I think we will finish in. We just need to bounce back from this defeat with positive displays against Vortis in the cup and Kofu in the league. I am sure we will get back to winning ways on Wednesday night!

Match Report – 09/08/2014 – J1: Match Day 19 – Omiya Ardija 0-2 Gamba Osaka

AWAY v Omiya ArdijaFor the first time in 8 years we managed 5 back-to-back victories in J1 as we took down relegation-threatened Omiya Ardija 2-0 in front of a rain-drenched crowd of 10,541 although the game did avoid the typhoon that threatened the footballing weekend.

Manager Kenta Hasegawa made just one change to the match day squad that beat Yokohama F.Marinos 2-0 the weekend before with Kenya Okazaki joining the bench in place of the out of favour Lins.

 

Match Summary
The hosts started the better in the opening 10 minutes with new signing Mrdja forcing Higashiguchi into two saves, the second a great one down to his right. We responded with a good effort from Abe which was pushed over the bar and then Patric was well denied from a corner as Ezumi clawed his goal-bound header wide. Mrdja had another effort on goal, this time a header, but Higashiguchi was again very much on top in that battle.

After a somewhat poor opening we got into the game well and took the lead in the 27th minute through Omiya Killer Konno. Usami was needlessly fouled out on the right and Endo’s whipped cross was met by Iwashita. It was fumbled by Ezumi, Nishino kept it alive and Abe’s effort was blocked on the line but Konno poked home at the back post to net his 2nd goal of the season, both coming against Omiya.

We controlled the rest of the half effortlessly and could have been further ahead through Abe but his half-volley was just tipped over the bar. Usami then dribbled his way into the area but his effort was blocked following a sliding block by an Omiya defender. Higashiguchi still had time to make another excellent save as Wada turned on the volley just outside the area and put his effort towards the far corner.

We were thoroughly thankful for Higashiguchi’s saves and even more grateful that Usami put us 2-0 up in the 51st minute. Patric did all the hard work running the right channel, easing Imai out of his way before picking out Usami who took a touch before blasting his 5th goal of the season into the roof of the net.

With another goal we controlled and slowed the game down but Mrdja did get another chance, this time heading wide at the near post whilst Abe pulled off a sexy pass to Yonekura – the midfielder was on fire. Abe was played in by Usami but his effort from the edge of the area was pushed to Kurata whose effort was tame. Sub Carlinhos tested the bored Higashiguchi with a 40 yard belter from a free kick.

The subs were wrung as Sato, Fujiharu and Myojin came on for Patric, Abe and Usami – my only complaint from the game being the subs coming too late and Okazaki not getting a chance to get some J1 game time. Nevertheless, we eased to another clean sheet as we continued on our way up the table.

Man of the Match
I have two candidates this week. The obvious is Higashiguchi who made some wonderful saves to prevent the hosts from getting a foothold in the match – he seriously has to be knocking on the door of the national team. He is a calming presence in the defence and has been an epic signing. The other player was Hiroyuki Abe who pulled off some top notch shots as well as some wonderful passes during the game. Of course, he did not forget his duties going forwards and backwards, putting in the work to protect his defence as he always does. He is becoming a top player.

Wey HeyHigashiguchi – 9
Yonekura – 7.5
Nishino – 7.5
Iwashita – 8
Oh Jae-Suk – 8
Abe – 9
Endo – 8
Konno – 7.5
Kurata – 7.5
Patric – 7.5
Usami – 8
Sato – 6 (Sub)
Fujiharu – 6 (Sub)
Myojin – 6 (Sub)

Table Standing
We rose up to 5th place as FC Tokyo could only draw with our dreadful neighbours with us now just 7 points off top place with both Tosu and Urawa losing. We are level on points with Sanfrecce Hiroshima but have a superior goal difference with Kashima Antlers just 3 points ahead of us as we start to chase them down.

Photo taken from calciomatome. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.

Match Report – 02/08/2014 – J1: Match Day 18 – Gamba Osaka 2-0 Yokohama F.Marinos

We continued our excellent form as we eventually took down a stubborn Yokohama F.Marinos side 2-0 at Banpaku to rise up to 6th in the table following 6 wins in 7 league games in front of an impressive crowd of 15,263 people despite the driving rain to begin with and a humidity level of almost 98%!

We made just one change to the side that started against Vissel Kobe with the injured Kotaro Omori replaced by Shu Kurata who got over a knock during the week to start. With Kurata starting Akihiro Sato made the bench in what was the only other change to the match day squad. As always, we lined up with a 4-4-2 system.

Match Summary
HOME v Yokohama F.MarinosThe first half did not offer much in the way of goalmouth action with only Abe hitting the target in the opening 20 minutes albeit from range. Marinos did get behind the defence a few times in the spell but they were denied by excellent positioning by Iwashita and Endo.

Marinos could have scored in the 27th minute but a cross was back-heeled across goal and out of danger while it took us until the 39th minute to get another chance with an Endo free kick being punched down by Enomoto but Patric fired well over from 6 yards under pressure and with the ball being at an awkward height.

The first half ended like that and Marinos were playing to frustrate and deny any real chances which they had achieved – it felt like Gamba Osaka v Greece, they were that negative. We just needed to use the ball better and quicker to force a real opportunity to break the deadlock.

Usami started the half by getting booked but just 5 minutes later his deflected cross was well pushed over by Enomoto as we looked to get a foothold in the match. Yonekura was then booked for pulling back Saito with the resulting free kick being headed over by Kurihara. Patric and Usami rounded the hour off with great turns in midfield but pretty poor shots when they had better options.

With Yonekura on a booking, Hasegawa took him off for Fujiharu who went in at left-back and Oh went to the right, dealing superbly with Saito. Fujiharu’s first piece of action was to lose Kobayashi who cut the ball back for Fujimoto but his effort sailed over the bar. With 15 minutes to go, Kurata was taken off for Futagawa in a wise move.

It took us until the 82nd minute to break the visitors down. Usami turned Nakazawa in midfield and the defender had no choice but to pull him down and get a yellow card. A costly mistake as Endo crossed the ball to an unmarked Patric to head home past Enomoto and get his 4th goal in 4 games, but it was Iwashita who made the space for him, standing in an offside position and then blocking off Kurihara – excellent Keisuke!

We took off Usami for Myojin to see out the game but the best defence really is attack as our left side combined superbly with Fujiharu dummying his way into the box before finding Endo unmarked on the other side and he duly placed his effort into the bottom corner to seal the game.

It was nothing but relief and delight after the final whistle. We showed good character to stay positive and patient and finally reap the rewards against an awfully stubborn opponent. I cannot praise the mentality of our players enough who really have turned the corner since the mid-season break. Excellent and deserved win in the end!

Man of the Match
Although Endo got a goal and assist, my man of the match was Keisuke Iwashita. Once again, he signalled that he is definitely returning to his top form by aiding us to another clean sheet – his defensive work was perfect and positioned himself well to provide excellent blocks. His major role in our first goal was not noticed at the time but he gets nothing but praise from me for showing some intelligence. A really professional and smart performance, he is definitely becoming a star in our team.

Iwashita, Nishino & PatricHigashiguchi – 7.5
Yonekura – 6
Nishino – 7
Iwashita – 9
Oh Jae-Suk – 7.5
Abe – 7
Endo – 7.5
Konno – 7
Kurata – 7
Patric – 7
Usami – 7
Fujiharu – 7 (Sub)
Futagawa – 6.5 (Sub)
Myojin – 6 (Sub)

Table Standing
We took two steps forward to 6th place as the teams around us had a mixed day at the office with Kashima in 4th just 3 points away and Kawasaki in 3rd 6 points away. Whilst I still think we will end up somewhere in mid-table, the sky is the limit right now and with Omiya up next, another 3 points are a must next weekend. In 4 games we have gone from relegation zone to 9 points away from it – the team has just been wonderful. Gamba Osaka Olé!

Match Report – 27/07/2014 – J1: Match Day 17 – Vissel Kobe 1-5 Gamba Osaka

AWAY v Vissel KobeWe made another massive statement concerning our revival during mid-season as we battered Hanshin rivals Vissel Kobe at the Noevir Stadium in front of a strong crowd of 18,012. A double of doubles and a golazo, not to mention an inspired goalkeeping performance, stole away the massively deserved 3 points.

Kenta Hasegawa decided to stick with the same team that dominated Shimizu S-Pulse in mid-week which meant that Shu Kurata could only make the bench as Patric deservedly started up front along side “Kobe Killer” Takashi Usami. The only other player to come onto the bench was Tomokazu Myojin, the veteran taking the place of Kenya Okazaki whilst it was the confidence-less Akihiro Sato who was dropped from the squad for Kurata.

This game was going to test how much we had really grown since the World Cup break ended with Kobe sitting in a comfortable 6th place but coming into the game in poor form. It would also show us whether we could look up the table from here on out instead of looking down.

First Half
Both teams started open and looking for an early goal to get them going, Usami going closest for us following a neat lay-off from Patric whilst Endo got caught on the ball and Pedro Junior almost made him pay for that mistake but he dragged his effort just wide. Then Ogawa let fly from an angle well out and just put his effort wide. Usami showed them how it was done as Abe passed to him on the edge of the box, taking a couple of touches before firing low and hard, off the near post and in. Their keeper was done by the pace of the effort and the Kobe Killer wheeled away in delight – another great start for us.

The referee gave Vissel a way back into the game as Pedro Junior broke in the box and went to cross but his effort struck the hand of Nishino who was just a few yards away and did not make a DELIBERATE move to block the ball. Only the referee thought it was a penalty and thus gave it, allowing Marquinhos to equalise although Higashiguchi guessed the right way.

We could have been forgiven for feeling sorry for ourselves but our improvement in mentality showed as we got back ahead just six minutes later and it was Usami again who found the back of the net. Endo was pulled down by Simplicio in a good position to cross from left-centre which he did, his free kick aimed to Nishino who was beaten to the header by his marker but with Yamamoto rushing out, the header came to a free Usami at the back post who made not mistake in putting us level. Kudos to Nishino for his role in getting us ahead after the penalty call.

Things were heating up and Pedro Junior kicked out at Oh Jae-Suk, luckily avoiding a red and taking just a yellow as our players descended upon him in anger. Omori picked up a seemingly nothing knock on his foot but he had to be taken off for Kurata just after the half hour mark. Pedro Junior was in on goal but Higashiguchi came out to meet him and push the ball away with his foot – more to come of that top goalkeeping, whilst Kurata, Abe and Patric somehow failed to make it 3-1 after the former broke into the area.

Patric made it count the next time round though as Simplicio again conceded a free kick in a good position and Endo put the cross right on the money with Patric free to head home into an empty net as Yamamoto again came rushing out, getting nowhere near the cross. Patric was probably marginally offside but it was a tight call and nothing more than we deserved. We eased into the half-time break with our 2 goal lead intact.

Second Half
It was a question of staying tight and countering efficiently for the second half, following on from the first half. We started brighter with efforts from Patric and Usami who were combining excellently again whilst Kurata dummied and fired just wide 5 minutes later. Patric then hit the near post side-netting after superbly breaking down the right. It was then Kobe’s turn to attack as Higashiguchi made a top save from a free kick then closed down Ogawa as he bared down on goal. He then made a world class save from Marquinhos who fired an effort at the near post but Higashiguchi just managed to get fingers on the shot to push it onto the post – really was incredible.

After sustaining the pressure, Patric failed to play Usami in for a simple 4-1 but the former headed home from the resulting corner as Endo again picked him out. Patric was completely unmarked and hardly moved as he powered his effort into the opposite corner to bury Vissel and all-but confirm a famous win.

Ogawa and Kurata were denied from some good goalkeeping before Abe made it 5-1 with another stunning half-volley. Usami brilliantly spread the play to Patric who kept the ball in and passed to Hiroyuki who chipped the ball over his marker before exquisitely finishing on his left foot at the near post despite being under pressure from 2 Kobe defenders. Abe again scoring a golazo in a derby match!

Usami

Former Gamba man Hideo Hashimoto found himself free at the back post but tamely shot at goal before we rung the changes with Abe and Patric getting a deserved early rest with golden oldies Futagawa and Myojin getting some minutes under their belts. We comfortably phased the game out with Vissel conceding 5 at home for the since 2005. What a stunning result and performance. Once again, our effort paid dividends in all areas. You cannot ask for more than that.

Man of the Match
Whilst our attacking play was brilliant once more, our defence did give Vissel chances to score and get back into the game on numerous occasions but it was with massive thanks to Masaaki Higashiguchi that we kept level/ahead through the match with the keeper making some world class saves to prevent the hosts. He was also extremely unfortunate not to save Marquinhos’ penalty. Masaaki has shown us what we have been missing for years – a leader in goal, a commander of the defence, a shot stopper and a calming figure when under pressure. His reading of the game was excellent and his reactions just as good. People may forget his massive contribution to the win and our current top form but I definitely will not. If he keeps going, he will be expecting a call for the national team sooner rather than later. A top goalkeeper was one of the biggest differences today.

Higashiguchi – 10Higashiguchi
Yonekura – 8
Nishino – 8
Iwashita – 8
Oh Jae-Suk – 8
Abe – 8.5
Endo – 8.5
Konno – 8
Omori – 7
Patric – 9.5
Usami – 9.5
Kurata – 7.5 (Sub)
Futagawa – 7 (Sub)
Myojin – 7 (Sub)

Table Standing
We fly all the way up to 8th from 11th and we are now just 1 point behind Vissel who stay in 6th place. We are now just a win away from the ACL places and should be aiming to at least maintain this position for the rest of the season. We are now 6 points ahead of the relegation zone and will be looking to win again next weekend against the stuttering Yokohama F.Marinos. The season was going to be make or break before the start of the September but it definitely looks like we are going to make it a good one with a stream of winnable games still to come. Barring injuries, the top half is definitely our minimum.


Photo taken from J’s Goal and Facebook. No copyright infringement intended. Original taken from here and here.

Match Report – 23/07/2014 – J1: Match Day 16 – Gamba Osaka 4-0 Shimizu S-Pulse

HOME v Shimizu S-PulseAfter 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.

First Half
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.

Second Half
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 – 8Patric
Yonekura – 9
Nishino – 8
Iwashita – 8
Oh Jae-Suk – 8
Abe – 9
Endo – 9
Konno – 9
Omori – 9
Patric – 10
Usami -10
Futagawa – 8.5 (Sub)
Sato – 8 (Sub)
Lins – 8 (Sub)

Table Standing
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.