Well what can you say about that? Outclassed, exposed, tactically weak and never in it – I am talking about Kataller Toyama of course. Gamba hit 3 back-to-back wins, 4 back-to-back clean sheets and 10 unbeaten for the season in a beautiful display of possession football that had the crowd of 13,639 in awe and in love with the amazing Gamba Osaka.
Toyama came into this match with the same side that beat FC Gifu on Wednesday right at the death and had not lost to the other 2 Kansai clubs at home this season, also without conceding against them. Their formation was a 3-1-4-2, with this lack of width and inability to cover a fluid frontline costing them big time.
Gamba made the one expected change of Konno coming back in for Uchida who dropped to the bench. Also on the bench was Okazaki and for the first time in his Gamba career, Oh Jae-Suk, who finally made an appearance in the 18 man squad after picking up an injury during the winter. Out dropped Hoshihara, Takei and Paulinho, the latter with an injury, whilst Shoki Hirai’s attitude had once again prevented him from making the bench.
Kataller Toyama XI – Morita, Asuke, Hiraide, Funatsu, Mori, Kuniyoshi, Kim, Seo, Kimura, Asahi, Nishikawa.
Kataller Toyama Subs – Iida, Ikehata, Yoshii, Oyama, Onishi, Kimoto, Kokeguchi.
Gamba Osaka XI: Fujigaya, Kaji, Nishino, Iwashita, Fujiharu, Endo, Konno, Ienaga, Futagawa, Kurata, Leandro.
Gamba Osaka Subs: Kimura, Oh, Niwa, Abe, Okazaki, Uchida, Kawanishi.
I said for the Yamaga match on Wednesday that we needed an early goal to get us settled and the players did the same thing in this match but at the lightning speed of 42 seconds. Ienaga was out on the right and he played a simple pass to Shu Kurata who got the ball out of his feet and into space to lash a shot across goal from 20 yards that bobbled on the slightly wet surface. The goalkeeper Morita got down to push it away but poorly, it was not out of danger, as he laid it into Leandro’s path to tap in with his left foot from 4 yards. You can blame the goalkeeper as much as you like, but a 3-match-run-with-no-goals Leandro needed something like that and he gobbled it up. The perfect start, as they say.
For the next 15 minutes or so, Kataller found it difficult to get out of their own half and retain the ball à la Yamaga on Wednesday. They were almost determined to give Leandro another goal after confusion by the already shaky Morita and his defence but they managed to sort it out before the Brazilian added another. It was the right side that was most fruitful for Gamba during this period, with Ienaga running the show. He was fouled down that side but got a good advantage, allowing him to run to the edge of the box and pick out Futagawa in the middle but he was not quick enough in getting his shot away. All this in the first 10 minutes. Toyama were simply playing too high up the field and not closing down the spaces that Gamba created. It was teacher against pupil – it was that one-sided. The teacher showed them how to play perfect passing, possession football.
Into the 11th minute and Kimura won a free-kick but also a booking for the hosts whilst in the 13th minute, Kurata dispossessed his defender after he slipped trying to clear the ball. Shu picked out Leandro in the middle, and with his back to the goal, he passed to the incoming Ienaga from a similar area to Kurata’s shot that set-up Leandro, but his shot was blocked and came back off him for a goal kick. The high line from Toyama almost allowed Kurata to sneak in behind in the 18th minute but he was flagged offside. Would Kataller heed the warning signs? They at least had a decent spell going forward after Kim played a ball over the top of the defence for Nishikawa – Iwashita believed Fujigaya should have come to collect, and rightly so, but Nishino and Kaji mopped up the danger. Iwashita then gave away silly free-kick just outside the area to the side but it was punched clear by Fujigaya.
Then that high line was finally punished in the 26th minute. Kataller misplaced a pass in midfield and Konno quickly shifted the ball to Kurata – he took 2 touches, one to turn around and the other to then play a superb through ball to Leandro in-between 2 of the centre-halves and this time we were onside. The Brazilian raced through on goal but he hit a tame shot at Morita, whose day was to get worse as his parry went straight back to the Brazilian who slid it into the opposite corner from 2 yards to make it 2-0 to Gamba after just over 25 minutes played. Excellent by Kurata with the pass and it was Leandro’s day again with a fortunate but well-earned parry straight to him. The warning signals had failed to go off for Toyama and they paid the price.
The boys in white simply wanted more and their desire shone through, with every player determined to get the ball back as quickly as possible to get back on the attack, even if it meant running 30 yards extra – even Ienaga was getting back into his own half to win the ball back, making several impressive tackles. Fujiharu was released down the left in the 29th minute and picked Leandro out at the back post, who calmly headed into the path of Ienaga, but his right-footed shot was pushed behind for a corner. Toyama did make a decent chance in the 33rd minute but the shot in space from the edge of the area was never going to test a somewhat pedestrian Fujigaya. Leandro then almost repaid the faith to Kurata but he missed from 4 yards under pressure from the defence. Fujiharu almost completed an exquisite solo run down the left, beating 2 of the 3 defenders before being crowded out. But the point was the confidence. Full of it and looking brilliant. Simply an amazing half by our boys even if Toyama were their own worst enemy. The question was how many more would we score?
In order to stop the rot, Toyama needed a change. They took off defensive midfielder Mori for Kokeguchi, who swiftly tried his luck from the corner of the penalty area but he was rather optimistic with the shot flying well over the top. Kuniyoshi then tried from range but he dragged his shot wide. Once again, the opposition were getting nowhere near the target with their constant long range shooting. Toyama kept going and after some decent play, Konno won the ball back and gave it to Leandro who in turn fed Kurata but he was well tackled on the counter attack.
After this short period of somewhat sustained pressure from the hosts, Gamba got back to business. Toyama persisted with the high line which just about caught Ienaga offside in the 55th minute, whilst Leandro went down the left a moment later but was stopped before he could cause chaos. Kurata then whipped in a ball from the right in-between the defender and the goalkeeper with a Gamba player behind waiting to pounce, but the defender scooped the ball over his bar, just about. Wonderful cross, but nothing to dwell on as Kataller got in down the left a minute later only to have the shot fired right above Fujigaya who pushed it well away from danger.
Into the last half an hour and both teams made changes in the 64th minute. Kim made way for Oyama for the hosts whilst Abe came on for Futagawa, of course. Abe go involved immediately with the play, as Leandro and Endo exchanged passes on the left, they found Abe free and Leandro continued his run into the box, with Abe deliciously picking him out, and Leandro played a smart ball in-between the 2 defenders and through on goal surely for the hat-trick.
Yet he was denied by a foul from Asuke and he won the penalty, just rewards for his determination, desire and skill in getting into the box to create the chance by himself, whilst the Toyama defence were really a 3s and 4s there. Asuke picked up a yellow card whilst Leandro picked up the ball and placing it on the spot after discussing it with the captain Endo. The Brazilian strolled up casually and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way, putting his shot into the bottom-right of the goal and securing his hat-trick. What can you say about that? Pure excellence all game and a deserved hat-trick.
Kataller reacted by taking off Kuniyoshi for Kimoto in the 74th minute but he had hardly got onto the pitch when Kurata made it 4-0. Ienaga popped-up on the left this time and played a fantastic ball down the side to the marauding Fujiharu who was now in-behind the once again suicidal high defence. He cut in and looked up to find Leandro at the back post but he instead picked out Kurata on the edge of the area, who took one touch in so much space and placed the ball past into the bottom left corner and past the helpless Morita in goal. A macrocosm of the match in that move.
That was it for Kurata as he was taken out for Kawanishi. A fantastic performance again by Shu, getting 2 assists and a goal. His partnership with Leandro is really blossoming and clicking more and more as every match is played. Leandro was taken out in the 85th minute for Uchida as the game was gone and he will take great confidence going forward with minnows Tottori and Gifu coming up – more goals for sure.
In-between all this, Kaji picked up a booking for tugging back a Toyama player but the game was trudging to an inevitable 4-0 away win. Endo moved forward behind Kawanishi for the final few minutes and had one chance after bursting into the box down the right but he scuffed his only chance well wide of the far post. Ienaga pulled off some filthy, beautiful skill to woo this supporter – the game really died when Kurata scored in terms of action.
Full time and 4-0 to our men. The defence hardly had anything to do and that was down to the team ethic whilst the forward players destroyed a tactical poor Kataller Toyama. Nonetheless, amazing football and a brilliant result.
Man of the Match:
A pretty obvious choice this week. Of course, it is Leandro. He was the predator today and everything went his way. He was in the right place at the right time for the first goal which put to bed any worries he may have had; the second goal was fantastic thanks to his movement from the through-ball and the rebound fell nicely to him; his third goal was made by his desire to get into the box and score (and being fouled in the process). Not just the goals shone through though – he worked hard, coming left and right and into midfield whilst holding the play up well and wreaking havoc in the Toyama back line. He got everyone else involved and after going 3 games without a goal, he showed his class and good mentality, style and calmness after that, especially the penalty.
Everyone was brilliant today – Kurata got 2 assists and a goal whilst Fujiharu, as I tipped him to in my preview, got forward with ease and also got an assist, whilst Ienaga was superb on the right wing going forward and defending. A solid performance by every squad member. Leandro was just that little bit extra special today.
Where it leaves both teams:
With the win, Gamba made 2nd place their own as V-Varen Nagasaki played out a goalless draw against an improving Consadole Sapporo. We now have 20 points but are still 5 points behind leaders Vissel Kobe after they secured a late win against struggling Yokohama FC. Fagiano moved behind Gamba on 18 points after their win against Gunma, whilst Kyoto Sanga close out the top 6 after their 3-0 home win. With Tottori and Gifu coming up before the big one against Kobe, Gamba will be looking to rack-up the goals and the points to keep the pressure on.
Toyama fall down to 13th on 14 points and now have a negative goal difference. They need to learn quickly that they cannot be so open tactically against a fluid team like Gamba and they play another big team next week, Tokyo Verdy, again at home. Verdy’s match with Matsumoto Yamaga was postponed due to SNOW. Sitting in mid-table would be snapped up by the club at the end of the year and they do not seem any worse than Gunma or Gifu so they will be safe this season. We shall have to see if they have learnt from their errors today in their future games.