In front of a strong crowd of 18,301, Gamba did not disappoint and were rather marvellous as we attained a draw against current J1 champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima at Banpaku. To say we will feel disappointed by some diving and poor refereeing that cost us a deserved win is an understatement as we were superb. But we will get onto that later.
There were a few changes from the last league game following some impressive performances in the Nabisco Cup as well as a few returns from injury. In defence, Kaji and Fujiharu returned to the starting eleven after being rested in midweek meaning Yonekura dropped to the bench whilst Oh Jae-Suk dropped from the team. Iwashita returned from a small injury to re-partner Niwa at centre-half, pushing Nishino to the bench. In midfield, Myojin retained his place in centre-midfield meaning Uchida stayed on the bench whilst Kurata took the place of Futagawa. Abe kept his spot on the opposite wing following a good showing against Vissel. This meant that the front two was a never-before-seen pairing of Endo and Lins, the latter taking over from Sato and getting his first league start for Gamba. Kawata and Omori took the final two spots on the bench.
The first 20 minutes or so of the game was fairly even although we shaded it on chances created. Sanfrecce were allowed to have the ball in defence but as soon as they got into midfield, we pressed them hard and they did not seem to have much of a threat – like the whole game really. The first decent chance came for Abe after Endo pinged a pass into his path but under pressure, he fired high and wide via a deflection. The resulting corner allowed Sanfrecce to break away following a poor pass Iwashita but we got back in numbers well and Takahagi fired comfortably over the bar.
25 minutes into the game and Endo made it 1-0 to us. Kaji spotted Abe losing his marker (superbly I will add) and he played a ball over the top for the winger to get onto the end of and in the box he squared to the captain who wonderfully curled home at the near post – which seemed near impossible to do. Smart would describe that goal but all three players involved and it was nothing more than we deserved.
The next 15 minutes was a continuation of the sparing match before the goal and we looked comfortable, no doubt thanks to Iwashita getting his head on every cross that came into the box – he was rock solid. Our hard work was shining through and it was very pleasing considering the Sendai performance the weekend before. We could have made it 2-0 in the 43rd minute through Lins following a cross from Konno that hit the defender and came out to the Brazilian but his effort from 6 yards took a decisive deflection that unfortunately took it away from goal. Nonetheless, it was a brilliant first half – 2-0 would not have flattered us at all.
After the interval, the game continued at its first half pace with Gamba creating the best opportunities although nothing really threatened the goal of Takuto Hayashi. As I was starting to think that a second goal was going to be crucial, the referee gave a penalty to Sanfrecce and it was a terrible call. The ball came out the air and Ishihara took the ball past Niwa who had raised a foot but not at Ishihara, who opportunistically went past that leg and decided to run into Niwa’s back leg – if at all touching it – and then fallingg over. He convinced the referee and nobody else. Hisato Sato put the resulting terribleness just beyond Higashiguchi’s left hand to unjustly make it 1-1. So angry!
Then the side that people do not see of Sanfrecce came out. Ishihara threw an elbow at Kurata but got Shu booked whilst Notsuda took a dive in the penalty area but this time the referee got it right and booked him. Kaji, Kurata and Myojin were all exchanged for Yonekura, Futagawa and Sato with 15-20 minutes remaining and it was Futagawa who was looking to get the match back in our favour once more. First he sent a teasing cross towards Sato who was just beaten to the cross by his marker denying a certain goal whilst Abe crossed for our number 10 a few minutes later who lost his marker but from 6 yards out was quickly charged down by Hayashi who stopped an inevitable goal. Fujiharu then whipped in a cross which was somehow put over the bar from a couple of yards by a defender whilst Sato picked up his first booking for pulling.
The game ended that way and it was a really disappointing result in the end, and not because we had shot ourselves in the foot. We were excellent and I was really proud with the way we played – we defended astutely and were an attacking threat and Sanfrecce will count themselves fortunate to leave with a point. I am very displeased with the manner in which they got that point. Our effort and all-round brilliant performance was ruined by someone who wanted to fool the referee, and he succeeded. However, I would have loved a point before the game so I cannot to be too upset about it but on another day we would have deservedly taken all 3 points. Such a shame, but well done Gamba Osaka! More of the same please!
Gamba Man of the Match
There are a couple of candidates for me. I think the runners-up today were Myojin and Konno. They were our solid foundation to build upon and they seemed to give us a good balance in midfield. Konno in particular was given freedom to go forward when necessary and he got in the tackles and made some good chances. I see Myojin starting ahead of Uchida as long as he keeps up his level of performance. Yet, Hiroyuki Abe stole the show for me. He had a tough 2013 due to injuries but is a talent and a great all-rounder and showed that today. He worked hard in defence and supported Kaji well there but also had confidence going forward, assisting Endo brilliantly for our goal and not being afraid to take a shot – something we have been lacking in recent times. If he continues like this, we will be seeing the Abe we all know is there. It would be nice for him to be more clinical going forward but he was a true asset today. Excellent work by the whole team though, against the best in the land for the past two years!
Despite this excellent point, which should have been 3, we slip down to 11th place in the standings. Although given our tough start I think we are holding our own very well thus far and I would have expected us to be at 5 points after these games so I am not disappointed. We need to just keep plugging away but I can already see at least 4 teams worse than us in the league – so there is no reason to worry, we have done well so far!
Photo taken from Gamba Osaka’s Official Site. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.
Yet another mouth-watering game at Banpaku awaits us as Sanfrecce Hiroshima visit town for the second J.League away day in a row having already beaten Cerezo Osaka in matchday 1. This game kicks-off at 15:00 JST and is the first Sunday game of the season.
The previous match between the two sides came towards the end of the 2012 season which saw the game finish 1-1. Yasuhito Endo gave us the lead during the second half following some fancy footwork but the defence went wandering and Kazuyuki Morisaki equalised 15 minutes before time. Sanfrecce have picked up a couple of Nabisco Cup wins at Banpaku in the last decade but have not won at Banpaku for over 10 years now.
The teams come into the game in 9th and 7th place respectively, Sanfrecce losing 2-0 in their last game which was against Urawa Reds at home, whilst Gamba tied 0-0 with Vegalta Sendai away from home. With Sanfrecce playing the in ACL, they have won just one of their 3 away games, losing the other two, with that single win as mentioned before against the Pink of Osaka…
Takashi Usami had his first run outdoors this week after his injury picked up at the end of February so he will be back in action around mid-April which is brilliant news. Iwashita and Endo should come back into the starting eleven in place of Nishino and Futagawa respectively following slight niggles whilst Omori will probably make the bench. I expect Lins to start up front with Sato following their first goals of the season each against Vissel on Wednesday. Although Myojin was apparently brilliant against Vissel, I would expect Uchida to come back into midfield having being used as a substitute during midweek and Kurata should come back in for Yonekura. Kaji and Fujiharu will be expected to start following their rest from action, the latter missing his first game and minutes since 15th December 2012 when he sat out of a 3-2 Emperor’s Cup win over Machida Zelvia – a deserved rest. Do not doubt the power of our subs though as Yonekura, Abe, Futagawa and Myojin in particular may have their say on the result.
This game is not going to be easy at all and you would feel like a point would be a point well-earned indeed. However, to make a statement and win our first game at Banpaku in J1 since a 7-2 mauling of Consadole Sapporo in August 2012, a victory would be a good start. A clean sheet would not go amiss either considering our last one in J1 was in a 1-0 over Vegalta Sendai in November 2011. Yeah, that long ago. But this is the team that looks like it will break those ducks sooner rather than later.
Despite not being able to watch the game, Gamba did not disappoint today as we apparently eased to a 2-0 win over Kansai rivals Vissel Kobe in front of 8,378 fans who had braved the cold for this midweek match.
Kenta Hasegawa made more changes than I had forecast. Kaji and Fujiharu were rested completely with Hiroshima coming to Banpaku on Saturday so Yonekura and Oh Jae-Suk took their places whilst Iwashita, Endo and Omori all had slight niggles that need not have been risked – Nishino, Abe and Futagawa replaced them. Tatsuya Uchida and Kurata were rested but still on the bench and were replaced by captain for the day Myojin and Lins respectively, the latter picking up his first start in the beautiful blue and black uniform. On the bench came Kim Jung-Ya, Yuto Uchida, Naoki Ogawa and surprisingly Yosuke Ideguchi who is still a member of the youth set-up but seems to have a bright future ahead of him, particularly having spent some of pre-season with the top team.
Gamba started brightly and had a couple of chances through Futagawa and Lins, but both their efforts were deflected out for corners and it took Vissel 20 minutes or so to get their first decent chances in the game. The first came for Matsumura who was well denied by Yonekura and then Morioka stung the palms of Higashiguchi from 20 yards as his shot swerved in both directions on route to goal.
These couple of attempts made us respond, firstly through Lins who flicked a header backwards from a Futagawa cross but it was a simple catch for Yamamoto in-goal whilst Abe fired well wide of the target from 20 yards as we stole the ball again from the Vissel midfield and springing into the counter attack. There was not much to talk about in the first half really but there were at least signs that we were getting into some sort of a groove and were actually making chances.
The second half could not have started any better as Lins opened his account in the 47th minute. An Oh throw in was flicked on by Konno to Lins on the edge of the penalty area and he kept moving across it with the ball whilst being under some considerable pressure by the Kobe defence and whilst falling, he pulled out a spectacular effort with his right foot from 20 yards that curved away from the despairing dive of Yamamoto and into the side-netting to make it 1-0. A superb goal whilst losing his balance – his team-mates mobbed him.
If he thought Sato would be happy for him, he was mistaken as Sato then matched his effort six minutes later. Konno nabbed the ball in midfield and broke forward and passed to Lins whose touch let the ball go but Kitamoto’s clearance/pass came straight to Sato who took his effort first time, curling it around Iwanami and beyond Yamamoto. Lovely finish which will definitely give him confidence having been criticised in the past few games. Delighted for him!
Chances were then wasted to make it 3-0 as Futagawa was played in by Abe but he was denied by Yamamoto from 6 yards whilst the Vissel defence was not helping itself, with a slow back pass cut out by Lins who went round the keeper and thought he had scored, only for Kitamoto to block his effort superbly on the line. Our final decent chance of the game came from Abe who drilled a lovely effort from 25 yards with his left foot by Yamamoto pulled off a good save low to his right.
It looked like we fully deserved the win and should have had more than two goals which is great considering we were poor against Sendai. This game allowed Hasegawa to see what the fringe players had to offer, and boy didn’t they make a statement! And another clean sheet – 3 in a row! Things might not be perfect but they look good nonetheless.
Gamba Osaka 2-0 Team Rocket!
Gamba Man of the Match
Having not watched the game, I can only go on what I have heard about the players from friends and fans alike, as well as Kenta Hasegawa’s post-match comments. So Tomokazu Myojin wins the race to this prestigious prize – having not played any part of our previous 3 games, he was given the captain’s armband and apparently shone with it, being the linchpin in midfield in both defensive and attacking terms. A friend said Myojin’s play meant that he could definitely be used as a main player over Tatsuya Uchida when needed and I do not doubt that one bit but whether he will start against Sanfreece on Sunday is another thing, being 36 years old. However, I am glad he did very well, just like Yonekura, Abe and Lins and am happy competition for places is high.
With Shimizu S-Pulse beating Vegalta Sendai 4-0 and FC Tokyo defeating Kashima Antlers 3-1, Gamba sit in 3rd place in Group A. Sagan Tosu have yet to play a game. Kenta Hasegawa said he aims to win all home games and take a point from each away game to qualify with 12 points from the group stage. A very good start towards that!
Gamba’s first group game in the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup for seven years`is a Kansai Derby against fellow promoted side Vissel Kobe at Banpaku, kick-off time 19:00 JST. Whilst I will be able to give you a decent preview, I will not be able to watch the match so the match report might be lacking in details.
This game will be the first of the group stages of the league cup that will run until the end of May, with the top two teams qualifying for the quarter-finals along with the ACL participants. 2007 was the last time we started from the group stages but we also won the competition for the only time thanks to a solitary goal from Michihiro Yasuda against Kawasaki Frontale.
The last meeting between Gamba and Vissel came on the 20th July 2013 at Banpaku and we won that game 3-2, with Usami netting a brace on his return from Germany and Endo netting what was to be the winner. Baré and Shinichi Terda helped Gamba to a 2-2 draw against Vissel the last time we hosted them in the cup.
With Iwashita, Endo and Omori all on different training schedules this week, they will be missing against Vissel. Apart from that, Hasegawa is believed to be sticking with a competitive line-up for this match which makes sense in no small part due to the team needing to gel more in an attacking sense whilst keeping the continuity at the back. I would expect Nishino in for Iwashita, Lins in for Endo and either of Futagawa or Abe or Yonekura for Omori. Kaji could be rested to preserve his ageing legs so maybe Yonekura will slide into defence but it would be nice to see Oh Jae-Suk given a go for once. I do not think there will be as many changes as other teams might go with but you never know with Hiroshima coming on Saturday. My predicted line-up is to the side, which will probably deemed redundant and well off the mark.
So what we really need is to get the attacking style of football going against Vissel, who are also bound to make some changes. Although I cannot watch the game, I want to here some more positivity from fans rather than the negativity we got from last weekend’s result. It would be good to see the players who do get a chance to play to make a statement for their inclusion from the start on Saturday.
And of course it is a derby, so we must win!
After almost 2 years, the period for donations toward the new stadium finished on the 14th March and the results were released today. Gamba fell short of the ¥14 billion target by just a little over ¥1 billion. Almost ¥200 million was donated within the last couples of weeks to bump up the specifications of the stadium.
So what we do know is that the stadium will hold the intended 40,000 spectators in an all-seater stadium, containing such necessaries like toilets and electrical facilities as well as real turf. Additionally, and after much teeth gritting by myself, there will be a roof covering the entirety of the stadium which is great news considering many stadiums lack this in Japan. I myself know of the cost of having no roof at FC Gifu with the torrential downpour destroying my passport.
The things that are not covered by the ¥1 billion shortage are such unnecessary but desirable include a VIP area, solar panels which would power a large amount of the stadium self-sufficiently and two large screens in the ground.
The club have asked for an extension of the deadline to the Osaka Regional Taxation Bureau and the result will be found out by the end of the month in order to achieve the full specifications of the ground. Hopefully this will go through and then the club should be able to get the stadium it originally wanted. You can see the current design that we will roughly get to the side.
It is great that the club managed to achieve a very respectable amount of money and design thus far; even if the desired specifications are not met, we are already guaranteed a great stadium.
For more information on these designs and additional features, please check the official site’s own press release (Japanese).
Another away trip yielded another clean sheet and an invaluable point as we struggled to a 0-0 draw at the Yurtec Stadium in Sendai, in front of 13,380 fans. The game will be remembered for us having a solitary shot throughout the 90 minutes.
Kenta Hasegawa made one changed to the starting eleven from the 2-0 win over Albirex Niigata the weekend before as goalscorer Kotaro Omori took the place of Koki Yonekura on the right of midfield. On the bench, Hiroyuki Abe made it in place of Oh Jae-Suk in what was otherwise a consistent matchday squad. Akihiro Sato was fairly given another chance after missing a couple of clear-cut chances against Niigata.
We started the better of the two sides without going anywhere but I felt that if we could get the final few passes right, Vegalta would have a tough time with us. Although we were passing the ball around nicely, we had no cutting edge and neither team did anything in the first 20 minutes of so, with the best chance falling to Sato after Kurata broke forward and crossed, but the cross was too high. We were simply just too slow in the final third, allowing Vegalta to regroup and get numbers behind the ball. Vegalta’s only real chance of the half came after Wilson dived for a free kick 20 yards from goal, but he sent it comfortably wide of the far post.
Vegalta were the better of the sides in the second half, with Tomita forcing Higashiguchi into pushing a fierce 20 yard drive over the bar in the 50th minute, but again their probing caused little trouble in defence. After 65 minutes, Hasegawa had seen enough of Omori and Sato (or perhaps not enough would make more sense) and he brought on Lins and Yonekura in their places. The substitutes, particularly Lins, were full of some needed energy.
The final 15 minutes were probably the liveliest. Muto forced Higashiguchi into a terrific save after the ball bounced kindly to him on the penalty spot whilst Fujiharu sent in a wonderful low cross across the area but nobody attacked it. Lins had our only shot in the 84th minute but sent it well over whilst Endo was just beaten to a Yonekura cross after some nice play down the right. Wilson could have won the game for Vegalta in the last minute of added time but dragged his 20 yard effort comfortably wide of the post to end the game.
There were a lot of problems for us going forward and there was a real lack of cohesion and connection in the final area – when we did make it to good positions, the final ball was lacking. The one shot only hype was taken out of context a bit due to the details in the previous sentence but once again we got a clean sheet. Instead of being rather negative, we should be positive and realistic. The performance going forward was poor but in 2 successive away games, we have taken 4 points. Before the Niigata game, 2 points would have been not bad and if you add in 2 successive clean sheets, things at the back are going very well.
Gamba Man of the Match
The reason for the two clean sheets is down to a much stronger defensive unit even. Even though Iwashita and Niwa were a nightmare together in J2, they look superb together so far this season and this is down to Masaaki Higashiguchi. There seems to be a lot more confidence and calmness at the back and Masaaki himself had to make a decent save or two in what was a rather demanding display by the keeper. He has been our best player this month thus far and will continue to highlight his importance throughout the year. He kept us at 0-0 and can restrain the curious natures of Iwashita and Niwa, so he must be doing something right!
We slip to 9th in the table but again this is all a bit irrelevant thus far. At least we are picking up points when needed despite not playing well. With Sanfrecce Hiroshima up next in the league (Nabisco in mid-week), we will be looking to build on that defensive strength and add some needed fire-power going forward.
On the back of our win last weekend in Niigata, Gamba travel even further north to Sendai to take on Vegalta at the Yurtec Stadium, with the kick-off at 17:00 JST. Both teams come into this game with different expectations to those of 2012 when Vegalta were close to the title whilst we fell down the J1 trap door.
Vegalta have yet to register a point this season after losing their two games thus far under new manager Graham Arnold, having been defeated by Albirex Niigata and Kashima Antlers home and away respectively, shipping 4 goals and scoring just 1.
Gamba have not won in the last two meetings between the sides, having drawn the home match 1-1 and losing the away game 2-1, albeit controversially down to poor refereeing, and our goal only coming in the final moments as a clear consolation from Paulinho.
There has not been much in the way of injuries this week for Gamba, with only Endo having a slight knock but he should be fine to face Sendai, although he will probably sit out the midweek game with Vissel Kobe in the Nabisco Cup. Abe has been part of the last two training matches so he might be knocking on the door for a place on the bench.
I cannot say that any changes should be made to a winning side and this will come as a blow for Kotaro Omori who has been excellent in his two cameo appearances from the bench. He would probably be the only one who could force his way into the team but that would have to be at the expense of Koki Yonekura who had a decent game last weekend. Many fans have been calling for Lins to replace Sato up front but I entirely disagree; Sato was getting into good positions last weekend but his finishing let him down. We have to remember that that was just his third starting appearance since his return from a year-long injury, so patience must be given to him because doing otherwise would be first unfair and second would knock his confidence. The goals will come – just remember how good he was in 2012 despite various little knocks.
Gamba will be up against former players Takuya Takei and Hayato Sasaki this weekend after both took the move north but have yet to have an impact in their first and second seasons at the club respectively. Yasuyuki Konno returns to his home prefecture and will be looking for a win this time round.
This game comes 4 days after the 3rd anniversary of the tsunami and earthquake that devastated the region in 2011 and one would expect the home fans to put on some event to show their remembrance. The stadium is going to be full of pure emotion in the stands and hopefully pure passion on the pitch.
The expectation this weekend will be to have a continuation of the effort from last weekend with a bit more control in the midfield and a greater cutting edge up front. It is going to be a tough game but I am sure that with the same work ethic, we can take all 3 points, especially as it seems like a good time to take on Vegalta given their change in manager. Iwashita and Niwa will have to be strong again and do nothing silly whilst Sato will need to take his chances this weekend. A defeat would be a step in the wrong direct and every little helps on the road – with the confidence from the win over Niigata, we should be taking another step forward.