With defensive soundness and coolness, Gamba managed to take a well-earned 1-0 win at the expense of then-unbeaten-at-home Montedio Yamagata thanks to a solitary goal coming in the first half by Keisuke Iwashita and chances were plentiful but not fruitful; an impressive win in front of 17,223 people which leaves us unbeaten after 8 games and with 10 points on the road from 12.
Firstly, I was unable to find a stream (not for the lack of trying) and therefore this piece will be shorter than usual and without the usual depth I go into. I want to apologise for this and hope it will not affect me and all the fans again. Secondly, it was such a shame to have missed out on this great win. I used Gamba Osaka’s official updates as my commentary on the match.
Both teams stuck with their starting XIs from the previous week. Both seem to have found their preferred choice for the time being and it would make no sense to change them. More specifically, Gamba made just one change on the bench, with Hoshihara coming in for Kawanishi. Hoshihara has been targeted as a wing-back after converting from a striker, and this may have been crucial if we needed his pace on the counter-attack.
Montedio Yamagata XI: Tokiwa, Yamada, Nakamura, Lee, Sakuda, Miyasaka, Akiba, Frank, Yamazaki, Nakajima, Bandai.
Montedio Yamagata Subs: Shimizu, Kobayashi, Ishii, Higa, Hirose, Kim, Hayashi.
Gamba Osaka XI: Fujigaya, Kaji, Nishino, Iwashita, Fujiharu, Endo, Konno, Ienaga, Futagawa, Kurata, Leandro.
Gamba Osaka Subs: Kimura, Niwa, Hoshihara, Abe, Uchida, Paulinho, Hirai.
Gamba started the match in dominative fashion. The first noteworthy shot came from Shu Kurata in the 5th minute after a cross from the left from Futagawa, but he could only fire off target. Montedio tried for fire back immediately but Nakamura could only fire well off target. Just a moment later, Leandro was the next player to receive a cross from Futagawa but his attempt was saved well by the Tokiwa in goal. He had another good chance 8 minutes later in the 17th minute after pouncing onto slack passing between the centre-halves, but with Kurata as an option to his left, he took the shot which was again stopped by Tokiwa. Montedio again failed to trouble Fujigaya after a shot from Akiba and just 3 minutes later, they were made to pay.
Gamba won a corner on the left and as usual, Endo took it short to Futagawa who quickly returned to it to our captain who now had a lovely angle. He delivered a fantastic cross into the box which forced the keeper to stay on his line, and with Nishino just failing to get contact on his attempt, Iwashita stormed in from behind a powered his header past the stranded Tokiwa to give Gamba the lead in the 21st minute. It was a fantastic ball by the captain which made the goal simple.
Leandro looked to make it 2-0 a few minutes later after great play by Futagawa again but he was once thwarted by Tokiwa in goal. Endo then took a free-kick which went over the wall but also inches past Tokiwa’s right post. Ienaga picked up another booking in the 34th minute to make it his 3rd of the season but Gamba seemed comfortable going into half-time, keeping the pressure on through a few corners but also giving Montedio nothing. Just what we wanted to see, even if we did not actually see it!
Uchida was subbed for Kobayashi at half-time for the hosts who came out determined to get the equaliser, although they failed to get any shots away. Yamazaki got booked in the 52nd minute and a free-kick was cleared from the hosts as Gamba got back into the groove in the second-half. Just before the hour mark, Ienaga got onto the end of a neat passing interchange on the edge of the area but he dragged his shot slightly wide of goal. Leandro’s tough day got even worse after he was put through on goal by Kurata and it seemed almost inevitable that he would score and probably put the game to bed. Nonetheless, he managed to put the shot wide and also failed to trouble Tokiwa a moment later. It was not his day but would we rue those missed chances was the big question?
Kaji picked up a booking in the 65th minute and the resulting free-kick was superbly struck by Miyasaka but he could not get enough bend on it and it went wide again. Fujiharu almost wrapped up the match just 4 minutes later – Gamba went on the counter attack from a Yamagata corner and Hiroki continue to run and dribble with the ball, and his right-footed shot was well blocked again by Tokiwa in goal, this time with his leg, to deny Fujiharu his first goal of the season. Close.
Substitutes aplenty came after this without much action in-between. Yamagata made their final 2 changes, with Bandai and Miyasaka swapping places with Higa and Hirose, whilst it was not to be Leandro’s day as he was taken out with Hirai getting his chance. Montedio added more pressure to their attack but failed to get past the resolute defence. Into the last 10 minutes and Futagawa got his customary rest with Abe taking the left-wing as his own. Montedio had one great chance to score in the 86th minute after Fujigaya flapped at the ball from a corner and Frank thought his shot from the edge of the box would go in after beating all the defenders, but he was thwarted by the bar. Kurata picked up a booking and Hirai was substituted for Uchida, hopefully to steady the ship more than anything else, and Gamba ended the match with a rare 1-0 win.
Man of the Match:
Although I did not watch the match, I’m still going to credit the ENTIRE DEFENCE. For a long time, Gamba have struggled to keep a clean sheet in any of their games. Last year, we picked up only 4 all season and they were all on the road. We have already kept 3 clean sheets this year against some of the trickier opposition in the league which is a huge positive. Nishino and Iwashita’s partnership is still young but they have earned 3 clean sheets in 6 appearances together whilst Kaji and Fujiharu have been sound in defence after a tricky start, conceding 6 goals in 4 games. All of them have contributed going forward too, with 2 goals from Iwashita and 1 assist from Kaji, even though Fujiharu has done his best to score and assist. Excellent stuff lads – keep it up!
Where it leaves both teams:
With this win and with Kyoto losing, along with draws for JEF against Okayama and Kobe also getting a scoreless draw, Gamba headed into the top two for the first time this season, leading Okayama and Nagasaki on goal-difference with 14 points. I said the first 8 matches will be the hardest and to have come through them all with 3 clean sheets, an unbeaten record and to be in 2nd place is a great achievement. Even better, the team seemed to be settling and realising they are not superior to everyone else – they need to earn their way back home to J1. With Matsumoto Yamaga up next at Banpaku, who lost to FC Gifu to give them their first goals and win of the season, Gamba should be getting their not-won-at-home-for-years monkey off their back. Come on Lads!
As for Montedio, it is now 2 defeats in a row to the top 2 and they sit 6th in the league. Realistically, they will be aiming for the play-offs and should not dwell on these results too much. They have been outclassed by the best two teams in the league, not forgetting an inconsistent Kyoto, and should be looking to get at least a point to a rejuvenated Tokyo Verdy. It will not easy, but nobody ever said J2 is.