On the back of their disappointing-but-containing-many-positive-points 0-0 draw at home to Yokohama FC on Sunday, Gamba headed down to Kyushu for the second game running, this time taking on Roasso Kumamoto on Vernal Equinox Day, which ended in an annoying 2-2 draw in front of 11,874 people.
Gamba were without Endo and Konno due to national team duty so Myojin returned to the team line-up whilst Takei joined him for his first start of the season. Unsurprisingly, Niwa was relieved of his duties at right-back to make way for the ever-reliable and captain for the day Akira Kaji, who made his first league start since that fateful day in Iwata last December. This meant that Nishino kept his role as central-defensive partner to Iwashita in Konno’s absence. We also saw the return of Akihiro Ienaga in-behind Leandro which meant that Futagawa dropped down to the bench.
Roasso also made a couple of changes from their team that beat Matsumoto Yamaga on Sunday. Tsuyuki dropped to the bench for veteran Kurakawa to take his place at right-back, whilst Nakama shifted into Fabio’s spot to make place for midfielder Osako.
Roasso Kumamoto XI – Minami, Kurakawa, Yoshii, Yano, Katayama, Osako, Kuroki, Harada, Fujimoto, Nakama, Saito.
Roasso Kumamoto Subs – Hata, Takahashi, Fukuo, Tsuyuki, Yabu, Goryo, Kitajima.
Gamba Osaka XI – Fujigaya, Kaji, Iwashita, Nishino, Fujiharu, Myojin, Takei, Ienaga, Abe, Leandro, Kurata.
Gamba Osaka Subs – Kimura, Niwa, Futagawa, Uchida, Paulinho, Hirai, Kawanishi.
It was Kumamoto who seemed to be controlling the match, if a little loosely, in the opening period of the game. They kept the ball well and their first real chance came in the 7th minute, when a cross was sent in from the left and Nishino just got in front of their attacker to prevent him from getting decent contact, sending the ball out for a goal kick – the first 10 minutes belonged to them. Ienaga then took control of the game and the tempo, strolling across the pitch with the move ending in Abe shooting at the goalkeeper. A few minutes later, there was some excellent passing down the left that just went askew. Takei then did his best to allow Roasso to score, poorly giving the ball away in midfield and exposing the back four – luckily Saito dragged his free shot wide. Kumamoto then had a free-kick in the 17th minute thanks to Iwashita, which was played short but blocked by Leandro and then they pulled a decent save out of Fujigaya.
All hail Leandro. Moments before his goal, he called for higher pressure on the Roasso play which worked a treat – some excellent passing football followed and Roasso could not get anywhere near the ball. The ball went mainly through the middle and right of the pitch with a pass laid into Kurata, who fortunately got a decent bounce from the ball and laid it off to Leandro who, right in front of goal, dinked his shot over the rushing goalkeeper. You just knew he was going to score.
After that, Gamba were very rigid in their shape, holding a 4-4-2 system and waiting for the opposition to make an error. They continued to play keep-ball and were almost in again, but Abe was inches offside. That passing play almost equalled suicide in the 30th minute. Roasso got a corner that came to nothing but Ienaga tried to play a back-pass through Iwashita, it hit him and the Roasso forward was well denied by the continually improving Fujigaya. Let-off. Roasso were also intent on passing the ball and that lack of defensive cover in the midfield from Konno was shown when Iwashita and Nishino were left to deal with the attacks. So what does Myojin contribute to the team? And Takei? For the latter, it was a goal in the 38th minute. Kaji sent in a cross from the right that was too short for Abe and so his defender won it ahead of him but inexplicably headed across the 6 yard box, catching his colleagues unawares, allowing Takei to sneak in and add to the tally, beating Leandro to the ball, and smashing it past the defenceless goalkeeper.
Yet Leandro should have scored just 5 minutes later, picking the ball up on the right-hand side and tricking and swivelling his way into the Roasso box and hitting the near post. This one-man team ended the half 2-0 to the good, perhaps fortunately so, but when you are playing well and bad, you take it.
Roasso took off Osako and brought on Kitajima in what would be a hugely successful substitution. It was Kumamoto who looked the most threatening in the early stages of the second half, first having a flurry of shots blocked by a for-now resilient Gamba defence and then Kaji gave the ball away, allowing a cross to hit Iwashita and subsequently the post. This woke Gamba up a bit, with us winning a corner that ended at Kurata’s feet, but he could only hit the keeper with his shot. Gamba then got on a counter attack but the referee called for a foul on Kurata instead of playing on with us in a dangerous position.
In the 57th minute, Roasso won a corner and with the Gamba defence taking a nap, they took it short, with the cross sent into the box from the right and landing beautifully of Yano’s head, who could only hit it at Fujigaya. He, for some reason, pushed the ball up instead of out, allowing a Kumamoto player to attack the ball with Fujigaya stranded on the floor, to put him off and hit his chest which put Roasso back into the match. Gamba fans called for a foul but Fujigaya has to take blame for the goal and he never had control of the ball, and even though the Roasso attacker went to challenge for the ball, it was less than a meter from the ground and therefore not dangerous. A deserved goal for the hosts, but that was where Gamba started to fail miserably.
Gamba resumed their passing play down the right again and the ball fell to Ienaga who spooned one well wide of the post. We were trying to be too fancy and it was not effective enough… then Kitajima cut in from the right and was well tracked by Fujiharu who forced him to head well wide, but this was just a precursor to the goal. Enter the 63rd minute and the equaliser – Kitajima cut inside again whilst the ball was on the opposite flank and the ball made its way to Nakama who took a shot from 20-25 yards. This is where Kitajima’s actions proved important. Fujiharu had followed him, as you would expect, into the middle and it was his foot that caused Nakama’s shot to be deflected past Fujigaya, who had no chance. Fujiharu was the victim of his hard work, but Roasso got level, and deservedly so.
Takei and Kurata were subbed for Futagawa and Kawanishi, meaning that Ienaga moved alongside Myojin in the “volonte” position. A bad call because it left us even more exposed as Ienaga is not one to defend. Immediately Roasso broke down their left and sent a cross to the edge of the box on the right but Kuroki, unmarked and scrambling to get there, sent his shot well over. It was simply too easy. Even worse, Leandro had not been involved in the second half as we did not control the match and we had to wait until the 73rd minute for him to affect the play once more, with great interplay between him and Abe, ending with his shot being blocked. He was then pushed to the ground in the 76th minute in the penalty area but the referee “saw nothing”. Roasso brought on Goryo for Fujimoto and Saito was inches from making it 3-2 with his shot going just wide. Ienaga’s frustrations then earned him his second yellow card in as many games with a needless foul on the half-way line.
Abe then had the first of two massive chances for Gamba which could have saved our blushes. He was unmarked from 12 yards after some great play down the right but he could only hit his shot right at the goalkeeper. Gamba controlled the last few minutes of the game with Leandro being the man to grab the team by the scruff of the neck, with his wonderful outside-of-the-boot cross put on a plate for Kawanishi who unaccountably missed the target, especially as he was completely unmarked at the back post. Roasso then made a sub in the 90th minute, with Harada going out for Yabu and three minutes were added on. Leandro made the only chance in that time, his shot being well blocked by Minami in goal.
Full-time and a poor display in truth. The players made their way over to the travelling support, who were not happy at all. Microphones had screaming voices projecting down onto the players, whilst many fans were grabbing the badge on their shirts, obviously pointing out that the team played with no pride, especially having been 2-0 up at half-time. I totally agree with them – the team need to wake up and smell that bitter J2 coffee soon and play games without this superiority complex that they seem to have. Questions also have to be raised towards Hasegawa, who continues with the same team without it wielding more wins. Myojin gives no defensive cover to the centre-backs and having Konno there would be ideal, if he was not away. Yet as we all know, Leandro plays better as the second striker, so why did Hirai not start instead of Ienaga, who looked average at best? Leandro needs support but he is the only one trying to make things happen or be a bit more creative. I want to see passion and commitment from the team, and I expected us to dominate the match and improve upon the 0-0 draw against Yokohama that had so many positives. But we are back to the Kyoto 3-3 match – square one.
Nonetheless, congratulations to Roasso who confounded my expectations and put on a real show against a big name opposition. If we carry on, we will be only a former big name. Roasso should make mid-table safety, one would expect.
Man of the Match:
Leandro showed why he was so effective and dangerous last season, but he also showed great teamwork and determination. He was head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch and even though he was excluded in the second-half, he took it upon himself to try and drag the team out of their slump. He definitely controlled all the attacking play and was willing to work the channels and come out of position to affect the play. He seemed to have regained his fire and that can only be good news; he was the only player who did not deserve the cascade of abuse by the fans after the match. Excellent stuff, mate!
Where it leaves both teams:
Gamba amazingly still sit 5th in the league table and have closed the gap on Kobe to 3 points thanks to their 4-1 spanking at Kyoto Sanga, who climb to 2nd. The team need to wake up and smell the bitter reality of J2 sooner rather than later – they have failed to get the more shots than their opponents this season and have not controlled a game from start to finish… Kumamoto also remain unchanged in 18th place but they should reach at least mid-table with similar performances like that throughout the season. Gamba now host JEF on Sunday whilst Kumamoto travel to struggling Tokyo Verdy and will be looking to build on this performance, minus the errors.
Edit – A few Gamba fans decided to have some fun with the Roasso Kumamoto mascot Roasso-Kun before the match on Wednesday. The club have apologised to the mascot after he was beheaded by the supporters. You can see the picture to the side. The original picture was taken from here and no infringement was intended.