Having successfully overcome a tricky tie away to V-Varen Nagasaki last week, Gamba were searching for back-to-back wins and the first home win of the season. They came up against a determined, but visibly weaker Yokohama FC at Banpaku with the game ending 0-0 in front of 13,476 paying customers who were left goalless at Banpaku in the league for the first time in three years.
With Leandro recovering from the flu, it was no surprise to see him reinstated to the stating eleven, even though Hirai scored two goals last week. An unexpected change was to see Myojin being replaced by 19 year-old centre-half Takaharu Nishino, who made his first league appearance for the club. It was expected that he would play some part this year, given that Endo and, especially in this case, Konno, will be on national duty throughout the season, Hasegawa took this opportunity to push Konno into midfield and give Nishino a chance alongside Iwashita, which would evidently be the preferred option for Wednesday’s and Sunday’s games without Konno at the back. The most pleasing thing for the fans was seeing Kaji back on the bench after getting injured during pre-season. Ienaga, it seems, is still not ready to return, having not even made the bench.
Yokohama went for their usual 4-1-4-1 with former Gamba player Shinichi Terada included from the start. They stuck with the same team that drew 2-2 at home with Tokushima Vortis last weekend.
Gamba Osaka XI – Fujigaya, Niwa, Nishino, Iwashita, Fujiharu, Konno, Endo, Abe, Futagawa, Kurata, Leandro
Gamba Osaka Subs – Kimura, Kaji, Numata, Myojin, Takei, Paulinho, Hirai
Yokohama FC XI – Shibasaki, Nogami, Bae, Morishita, Nishijima, Matsushita, Takachi, Terada, Uchida, Takeoka, Okubo
Yokohama FC Subs – Schneider, Morimoto, Watanabe, Sato, Nozaki, Aoki, Tahara
The first was dominated by Gamba, who kicked-off the game, attacking the away fans first. It was very apparent in the first few minutes that one of Yokohama’s tactics was to leave a few bruising tackles on the Gamba players to alert them that the game would not be an easy ride; not that we were expecting that, of course. They opted for this over the pressing game that Kyoto had taken. They particularly had a lot of fun slamming Leandro to the ground, with Nishijima absolutely smashing him within three minutes but he escaped without caution. There were a few half chances falling to Futagawa first, who sent his shot well over the bar, followed by Abe, whose shot was saved down low by Shibasaki in the Yokohama goal. Abe’s attempt came after a long period of impressive interchanges and swift passing play. Things looked great.
Kurata was fouled a few times, and by the 13th minute, Matsushita was in the book. This served as a warning to the Yokohama players who refrained from this tactic for pretty much the rest of the match, with a few tough tackles at times. Their best chance of the whole match came in the 15th minute; they whipped in a free-kick and won the header, forcing Fujigaya into a reaction save and the ball landed to a Yokohama attacker but his header was right at the floored Fujigaya, who blocked it again, who is getting more confident in each game. Konno immediately replied with a dipping and swerving volley that was well saved by Shibasaki. Elsewhere, Nishino was looking a bit shaky, understandably, but did well to battle and beat Okubo, who was nullified throughout the match. Shots and crosses started to go AWOL and the team lost its rhythm and pace with Yokohama getting forward but doing nothing. In the 37th minute, Abe dispossessed his man and played Leandro through on goal but he was flagged offside. Call me biased but he was level, no doubts about it. Then the game sunk back again into poor shots and bad final passes. Half-time came with Gamba being the better team but with nothing to show for it.
Yokohama came out and were determined to show their quality. They certainly seemed to have more of the ball even if Gamba started well with their keep ball and slick passing coming back for a short while. Fujiharu fizzed a cross right at Leandro, whose control was poor and denied him a one-on-one with Shibasaki. Enter Terada. Having been quiet in the first half, he started to probe. He had a cross-come-shot left alone by his own players when surely Okubo should have been attacking it. Abe played in Kurata but he did well to not control the ball before Terada set up Okubo, whose shot went out for a corner via a deflection. Takachi went off for Sato in the 61st minute, then Okubo was subbed in the 66th minute, being replaced by Tahara shortly after Endo took one for the team to stop a counter attack, picking up a yellow card in the process. Paulinho eventually came on for the lagging Futagawa, shortly followed by the returning Kaji in place of the untroubled Niwa at right-back. Into the last 10 minutes and Paulinho went for glory from 20 yards but put the ball into orbit with all the other AWOL shots. Then Terada was inexplicably taken off for Nozaki in the 81st minute. The game was epitomised with Leandro hitting a pass too hard for Endo shortly before being subbed for Hirai.
Into 5 minutes of added time and both teams had fantastic chances to win it having space aplenty in the midfield. Firstly, Nishijima almost took advantage when a free-kick was whipped in and bounced in front of him, facing away from goal; he went for the over-head-kick volley but agonisingly hit the top of the bar. Down the other end, the booked Abe crossed for Hirai who only had to get a toe on the cross to score, but the ball evaded him too. Game over, 0-0. The first 0-0 at Banpaku in three years and the first clean sheet since the 26th November 2011. Gamba unbeaten in 9 at home but have only picked up 2 wins in that time. Yokohama keep up their impressive defensive record away from home. Neither team deserved to win, so the point was a fair one.
Man of the Match:
Yosuke Fujigaya, Shu Kurata and Shinichi Terada: In a game littered with few clear chances, it is hard to pick one man, so Fujigaya gets a vote for being consistently comfortable in goal and improving every game. Kurata was the player buzzing around always trying and not giving up, so he deserves a mention here, whilst Shinichi Terada was most impressive on his return to Banpaku. He controlled the midfield in the 2nd half and impressed this critical writer. Good job, Shinichi.
Where it leaves both teams:
Both teams are on 5 points from 3 games with a win and two draws each, still being unbeaten. Gamba will now head down to Roasso Kumamoto who picked up their first win today impressively away to Matsumoto Yamaga 2-1. Gamba will be without Konno and Endo for that game and next Sunday’s match against JEF, which is where our strength in depth plays a huge part. Yokohama hit the road again and head to the dismal ThespaKusatsu Gunma who scrapped a point against FC Gifu, who really should have taken all 3 points. Yokohama should expect to get 3 points there. Both teams now trail Vissel Kobe by 4 points after they won 1-0 against Consadole Sapporo, but their biggest test will come on Wednesday against Kyoto Sanga away.
For greater match analysis, listen to the podcast, with myself joined by Sebi Mereu, recorded just hours after the match. Emotions are contained within.