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.

Match Report – 19/07/2014 – J1: Match Day 15 – Gamba Osaka 2-0 Ventforet Kofu

HOME v Ventforet KofuA thoroughly professional performance saw us take all 3 points in the 6-pointer against visitors Ventforet Kofu at Banpaku in front of a 11, 373 strong crowd. Two super goals and a solid defensive display ensured that we moved out of the relegation zone and into the lower mid-table.

There was just one change from the starting eleven that beat Zweigen Kanazawa 5-1 in the Emperor’s Cup the week before, with Brazilian Lins being replaced by Hiroyuki Abe in the starting eleven. The Brazilian did not even make the bench but new man Patric did, along with Hiroki Fujiharu – this the first league game that he did not complete the full 90 minutes, ending a run of 94 games. He took the place of Yuto Uchida on the bench which was otherwise unchanged.

We lined up again with a 4-4-2 with Kurata supporting Usami up front. The key to the game would be who would score first and then how they would deal with the lead.

First Half
The visitors started the better of the two sides with Cristiano being the key man, having two efforts on goal, the first forcing Higashiguchi into a smart save following a 35 yard thumper from a free kick. He also set-up a decent effort in the box but his team-mate could only place a simple header well wide of the target.

So Usami punished them in the 9th minute with an exquisite finish having started the move in midfield, dribbling past his man and heading over to the left. He passed the ball off to Oh Jae-Suk who returned it to him. A slight dummy just inside the box gave him the time and space to pick his head up and lean back, curving his effort beautifully into the top corner giving keeper Ogi no chance. Brilliant finish – nothing more than we expect from Takashi.

Kofu fought hard to get back into the game on the counter forcing Nishino to step out quickly and dangerous to concede free kicks, we defended the lead superbly with Abe and Omori dropping to made it a 6 man defensive line, making it hard for Ventforet to penetrate. Sasaki went close follow one of those breaks but his effort from the edge of the bar sailed just over the bar.

And we made them pay again – Usami knocking a pass into who took the effort on his left foot and on the turn he produced a stunning finish from the edge of the area on the volley, hitting his effort just moments after flicking the ball up, which found its way into the far corner and against giving Ogi no chance. Brilliant, one of the best goals you could ever hope to see.

Shu Kurata

With our 3rd and final shot of the game, Usami forced Ogi into a good save but it was our defensive side of things that was very impressive – the midfield wit energy to tackle and prevent Kofu getting anything going really and the solidity of the back four was good to see. We eased to half time with our lead intact with things looking very promising indeed.

Second Half
The second half was a non-event really. Kofu had two decent chances to score but Higashiguchi bailed us out on both occasions. Patric came on for Usami with about 20 minutes left and looked determined to make an impact – it never really happened but he tried his best. We were too content with sitting on the lead and I couldn’t really blame us for that.

Unfortunately, Kurata picked up his 4th booking of the season after a series of fouls which puts him out of the midweek game against Shimizu S-Pulse. Hiroyuki Abe came off for Tatsuya Uchida with a few minutes remaining as we made it to the finish with an important clean sheet with thanks to our solid defence. We have won 8 of our last 13 games in all competitions now so we are not in such a bad shape as we might actually think.

Man of the Match
The defensive solidity and lack of clear cut chances can go down to two men in my opinion. Masaaki Higashiguchi and Keisuke Iwashita. I am going to give the award to Iwashita though, as his usual flamboyant style and somewhat loose defensive play was not at all present in the win as he put in good tackle after good tackle and lead the line superbly. He was a measure of calm and was extremely impressive. I take nothing away from Higashiguchi though, who made some excellent saves and was once again an ever present barrier that Ventforet could not penetrate.

Higashiguchi – 9Keisuke Iwashita
Yonekura – 7.5
Nishino – 7
Iwashita – 9
Oh Jae-Suk – 7
Endo – 8
Konno – 8
Abe – 7
Omori – 7
Kurata – 7.5
Usami – 7.5
Patric – 6.5 (Sub)
T.Uchida – 6 (Sub)

Table Standing
We climbed up into 13th place as it was a great weekend with the other teams around us failing to win their games. We are 2 points clear of the drop zone and a place ahead of The Pigs which is always nice to see. 17th to 10th has a gap of just 5 points though so we need to keep getting the wins in this vital period. We go level on points with S-Pulse who we play next on Wednesday. Another massive match!

Photos taken from Gamba Osaka’s Official Website. No copyright infringement intended. Originals here and here.

Match Report – 12/07/2014 – Emperor’s Cup: Round 2 – Gamba Osaka 5-1 Zweigen Kanazawa

We eased into the 3rd round of the Emperor’s Cup after the mid-season break as we knocked-out J3 opponents Zweigen Kanazawa, beating them by a 5-1 scoreline with one man taking the spotlight.

There were no major surprised to the starting line-up. Koki Yonekura started at right-back meaning Oh Jae-Suk started on the left side of defence with Fujiharu missing out due a slight niggle. Endo and Konno returned from the World Cup to make our defensive midfield unit whilst Omori and Lins started out wide with Kurata partnering Usami up front in the former’s best position. Kawata, Niwa, Y.Uchida, Futagawa, Abe, T.Uchida and Sato all made the bench with new signing Patric not eligible until next week.

From this game, we just needed to make it through to the next round with no injuries whilst aiming to put out a side that would be close to if not the exact same one as that which will start against Ventforet Kofu next weekend in the league.

HOME v Zweigen Kanazawa

First Half
It took us until the 11th minute to break down the hosts and it was that man Usami who netted the opening goal with Endo providing the assist, looking one way but passing it the other for Usami to run onto and slot into the bottom corner to give us a deserved lead. Our captain started brightly and played a big part in the second goal, chipping the ball over the defence for Yonekura to run onto from right-back and he beautifully picked out Shu Kurata who, from 6 yards, was not going to miss. The perfect start with Zweigen lacking pressure on the ball and being loose in their marking.

They did get one goal back a few minutes after we had made it 2-0 to relight the fire in their game. A ball played behind Oh Jae-Suk got the visitors behind the defence but we were back with numbers. However, Sato had burst past Endo in midfield and he let him go, allowing him to go on a finish aplomb from 20 yards or so with Konno too far deep and not putting himself on the edge of the box to cut out the cross. Poor by him.

We were by no means in trouble though with Usami and Lins having efforts on goal, the latter desperately unlucky as his effort was blocked off the line by a determined defender – Lins just cannot catch a break, poor guy. His sorrows were put to bed by Nishino following a corner than came back our to Kurata who crossed first time to find our centre-back unmarked from 6 yards out and he easily increased our lead once again.

Zweigen had a chance to pull a goal back before half time but Nishino and Iwashita combined to block an almost decisive effort. We got in at half time 2 goals ahead and it could have been more. The forwards connected well and looked sharp together but again, in defence, we gave away silly chances that the opposition did not take. Good stuff going forward though.

Second Half
Kurata made it 4-1 and practically game over shortly after the restart, Omori finding Lins who played a lovely chipped ball to Kurata who kept his run going and he controlled superbly before finding the far corner to cap off a lovely move. Lins and Konno came off for Abe and T.Uchida either side of Kurata being denied his hat-trick, going through one-on-one but Zweigen’s keeper denied him superbly. Usami made the same mistake when against just one defender, being over-relaxed.

Kurata poked just wide following a great cross from Yonekura but he was not to be denied his hat-trick in the 81st minute. Omori attacked down the left and drew the defence to him, leaving space for Kurata to pick up the ball, steady himself before poking in at the near post to bag his first professional hat-trick. Stunning stuff but the forward.

With the game over, Endo came off for Sato would should have made it 6 and Iwashita’a antics in the box denied a 6th from a corner but the game was done with and won professionally. No defensive worries in the second 45 and a ruthless performance by our attacking players.

Man of the Match
Shu Kurata was stunning. He has scored a couple of goals in recent training matches and finished the first half of the season in good form – he continued that today, pulling the strings and excelling in his preferred off-the-main-striker position. He put in a ton of effort and reaped the rewards, a pro hat-trick and an assist. He was truly marvellous today, being the one player who took charge and said “This is my game, I am going to lead us to victory”. Sure you can say it was just J3 opposition but he has been getting as the season progresses and he will be one of our main assets for the rest of the season. His performance today underlined why I love him so much.

Kurata Hat-Trick!

Higashiguchi – 6
Yonekura – 8
Nishino – 7
Iwashita – 7.5
Oh Jae-Suk – 7
Endo – 7.5
Konno – 6.5
Omori – 7
Lins – 7
Kurata – 10
Usami – 8
Abe – 7 (Sub)
T.Uchida – 6.5 (Sub)
Sato – 6 (Sub)

In the next round we will face Tokushima Vortis as they beat Kagoshima United 1-0 to book their place in the 3rd round. We should be able to beat them and advance to the 4th round comfortably. Up next for us though is a massive league game against Ventforet Kofu. BE THERE!

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