It was another one of those Yokohama FC-esque games with Gamba dominating the match but being unable to beat a stubborn Tokyo Verdy defence, who were helped out by the woodwork when their efforts failed. 10,010 people saw this entertaining 0-0 draw, the second for Gamba at home in three matches. We now are unbeaten in 11 games at home but have now hit 8 draws in a row at Banpaku.
The Gamba line-up was exactly the same as from the win in Sapporo and the only change on the bench saw Shoki Hirai return, from what must have been an injury, to take the spot of Kenya Okazaki.
Verdy also stuck with the same line-up that beat the worse-than-useless FC Gifu 3-0 at home. They also named the same bench from that win.
Both teams sticking with winning teams which you can see to either side.
Gamba Osaka XI – Fujigaya, Kaji, Nishino, Iwashita, Fujiharu, Endo, Konno, Ienaga, Futagawa, Kurata, Leandro.
Gamba Osaka Subs – Kimura, Niwa, Abe, Uchida, Paulinho, Hirai, Kawanishi.
Tokyo Verdy XI – Sato, Kim, Tone, Fukui, Mori, Suzuki, Koike, Nishi, Iio, Tokiwa, Takahara.
Tokyo Verdy Subs – Killoran, Yoshino, Ishigami, Maeda, Yasuda, Sugimoto, Maki.
Gamba started the stronger after Verdy did the same sneaky business as Kyoto by making us attack the home fans’ end first. Even the powerful wind could not stop us from dominating the first 10 minutes. The first chance for Gamba came after just 4 minutes when that blossoming relationship between Leandro and Kurata ended with a goal-mouth scramble after Konno flew in to get his head to the ball to no avail. It was a warning sign that was not heeded and two minutes later, Kurata supplied for Leandro but his header was well wide. Gamba were intent on pressing Verdy hard with great success, although Iio had a drive from 20 yards saved by a diving Fujigaya – a save you would expect him to make – although many people keep on championing him every time he does something right.
In the 13th, Futagawa played a lovely pass from midfield to Kurata who held the ball up well for Leandro to have a shot which was blocked. Futagawa then shot straight at Sato in goal from the edge of the area, with the resulting corner being headed on goal by Konno, only for a deflection to take it wide. Iwashita put the following corner wide. Gamba did not give Verdy much, thanks to Konno, who stuck a leg out to prevent a through ball getting to veteran Takahara. He was often found dropping as the central defender of 3 when he wanted possession. In the 23rd, just a minute later, he was found free at the back post from a corner but he rushed his volley which tamely bounced through to Sato in goal, almost not sure whether to hit it or control it and in the end doing neither.
When we gave it away, we immediately pressed which won a throw-in in the 27th, with the resulting play seeing Leandro hit the top of the bar after a smart Ienaga dribble in the box. The next 6 minutes or so were Verdy’s but they were limited to long range shots after some resilient defending from 2 corners. Leandro and Kurata linked again, with the latter finding Ienaga, whose control was sumptuous, leading to a corner which ended with Futagawa’s shot being collected at the second attempt from Sato with no-one gambling on the shot. Takahara tried to get past the wall named Konno who was having none of it, and he sent us on our way with the move ending in his shot being excellently blocked for a corner. It was all Gamba but Leandro fired down Sato’s throat in the 42nd minute with the wind wreaking havoc with set-pieces, whilst Takahara was well denied by another block. That was how the half ended. Very promising but Verdy getting in the blocks at the last moment to deny us. Great performance by the team.
Endo gave the ball away almost immediately and Koike ended the move with a tame shot. Great start captain! Leandro was decked after getting a knee up his arse but the referee deemed that not to be a yellow card offense – a yellow card did come for Fukui after he cynically fouled Futagawa. The half started without any real display of composure from either team and Gamba seemed to have got stuck in their lowest gear. Fujiharu was alert to the danger of Takahara though, tucking in from the left to cover his centre-halves. Gamba were lacking in ferocity up top whilst Fujigaya pulled off a super save with his feet after Kaji’s clearance was charged down and the Verdy player went one-on-one with the in-form keeper. Nishino was on hand all day long to clear and corners in his area.
Gamba seemed to wake up in the 56th minute, with Konno bursting down the right hand side to pick out Ienaga on the edge of the area; he coolly played a delicious pass to an unmarked Kurata who fired off the bar from 4 yards. He had a few options: 1. Drill across the goalkeeper. 2. Through the keeper’s legs. 3. Smack it as hard as possible. He went for the latter and it almost paid off, but maybe a bit of composure would have seen a deserved goal. Great play there by Gamba though and good to see Kurata getting in those positions when Leandro was not.
Leandro was booked a minute later for catching Sato after pressing him when clearing, although his momentum was to blame for this with no intention at all and Sato milked it so that Leandro would get an undeserved yellow card. Fujiharu covered twice more to stop the growing Verdy from getting through on goal. Gamba regained control here and Kurata got steamrollered 25 yards from goal, but Endo could only manage to get a tame effort over the wall with Sato reading it well. A minute later in the 64th minute, Leandro blazed a great chance just over from a few yards, with Ienaga gaining more influence in this half, again supplying the pass. He then smartly got down the right and sent a chipped cross to the back post – disappointingly, everyone moved to the near post – and the chance was gone.
Into the last 20 minutes and the threatening Takahara found himself free at the back post from a corner, chesting the ball down and hitting a half-volley off the bar too. The defending was dreadful here and Gamba got their own slice of luck. It immediately went back to Verdy though as Futagawa found space just inside the box and slightly scuffed his shot onto the post. Was it ever going to go in? Not for the want of trying!
He was replaced by Paulinho in the 75 minute and his biggest contribution came in defence rather than attack after being sent to the left hand-side. He also had two efforts within 8 minutes but headed well over and was the selfish self he always is, blazing well wide. Kurata was taken out for Abe in 84th minute after another top performance, if slightly unlucky but he was always supporting Leandro and maybe he could have got either a goal or an assist, but today was one of those days.
Disaster almost struck a minute later, after Koike found himself unmarked in front of Nishino and Iwashita when a cross came his way from the left but he managed to completely miss that free header which would have troubled Fujigaya if he got any decent contact. Heading into stoppage time and Abe wriggled away from a couple of Verdy players to have his shot pushed out for a corner but it was Verdy who almost had the last laugh. Firstly, Konno was booked for consistent fouling and the resulting free-kick ended with a Verdy player getting a free overhead kick from 12 yards but he put it over. That is when the game finished.
A very entertaining 0-0 result and both teams gave it a real go but when they beat the defence, the goalkeeper was there. And when he was beaten, the woodwork was there. Just one of those games where a single goal would have won it. Gamba were the better team and had the better chances and even though the result is slightly disappointing, the performance was anything but.
Man of the Match:
He was all of the pitch today in attack and defence, so well done Yasuyuki Konno. He covered every blade of grass to try and get a goal and prevent a goal going in down the other end and his contributions to the team are clear to see. Whilst allowing a balance between attack and defence to be better than it has ever been (probably), he pressed well and tackled well. Furthermore, if he had a better pair of feet, he would have certainly scored today. Everyone put in the effort to score a goal and prevent one, but Konno did stand out above everyone else for his contribution in every position.
Where it leaves both teams:
Gamba drop down to 6th after wins for Okayama, JEF and Kyoto, moving them all ahead of Gamba. Montedio Yamagata lost to Vissel Kobe who extended their lead at the top to 5 points with Gamba and Okayama still the only unbeaten teams. Things could not be closer from mid-table with 12th up on either 10 or 11 points. Verdy and Gamba have both recorded 5 draws this season and that allows Verdy to rise one place to 13th. The two will be looking to get some wins under their belts sooner rather than later.
Gamba travel to Yamagata hoping to add to the hurt for the team and an away trip brings less pressure and more space for the team to play in, so Gamba should be aiming for 3 points there although it will not be easy. Verdy will host 10th placed Gainare Tottori and will be looking to hit back-to-back home wins and will be hoping to keep another clean sheet.
This scoreless draw was not for the want of trying, but the woodwork saved the day for both teams…