A fairly entertaining draw ensued at Banpaku in front of 15,151 people as Gamba dropped points for the first time since losing to Vissel Kobe way back when, as visitors Fagiano Okayama put up a strong performance to leave with a well-earned point. Both teams had chances to win it and lose it but neither could prevail. Both teams would say they should have won given the chances they got so an all-square result was, in the end, a fair one.
Gamba decided to make one change to the starting side against Mito HollyHock from last Saturday which saw Paulinho take Akihiro Ienaga’s spot on the right of midfield after he took his spot last weekend due to Aki’s studded head. Myojin kept his spot despite Okazaki scoring (this choice disappointed me) but otherwise I had no complaints. News from the bench was the return of Keisuke Iwashita after he had missed the last 9 games since the 1-1 draw to Gainare Tottori during which he had to be taken off. He took the spot of Takuya Takei on the bench which saw Shoki Hirai keep his spot there, for once!
For the visitors, Tadokoro was passed fit despite being flagged as a potentially injured player, meaning he kept his spot on the left of midfield. There was just one change for the visitors and that came up front with Sekido making way for Seno with the midfielder making just his 4th appearance of the season and his 1st start of the campaign in an unconventional forward role. They stuck with their 3-4-3-esque line-up with the 2 forwards supporting the main striker whilst the 2 central midfielders were the defensive screen.
Unfortunately, I was only able to watch the 2nd half of the match as the streaming website was down for maintenance so I will have to use Gamba’s official website as a source of my “knowledge”. This will outweigh my report slightly but what can be done? This will probably have an effect on my man of the match choice too, so apologies for that.
Gamba Osaka XI – Fujigaya, Kaji, Nishino, Niwa, Fujiharu, Paulinho, Uchida, Myojin, Futagawa, Kurata, Leandro.
Gamba Osaka Subs – Kimura, Oh J.S., Iwashita, Abe, Okazaki, Ienaga, Hirai.
Fagiano Okayama XI – Nakabayashi, Goto, Takeda, Ueda, Tanaka, Sengoku, Shimada, Tadokoro, Seno, Oshitani, Ishihara.
Fagiano Okayama Subs – Mago, Kondo, Chiaki, Sekido, Arata, Kukita, Mimura.
The game started with a minutes silence for recently passed away Josip Kuže after a several months of battling Leukaemia. He managed Gamba from 1995-1998 and then again from 2000-2002. My deepest thoughts go to our former manager.
I have been praising Gamba for going ahead early on in matches which has really settled us down into a good rhythm and set us up for the win but in this game, the roles were reversed after just the 3rd minute as Fagiano took the lead through midfielder Soichi Tanaka who picked up his second goal of the season. Myojin was turned too easily by Shimada who played a ball to Ishihara on the left-hand side. He was tracked closely by Nishino as Kaji tucked in to over his defensive partner but he could have stayed on the right as Ishihara played a pass back to Tadokoro who was free with no Paulinho in pursuit. Tadokoro whipped in the cross immediately and found Tanaka unmarked as Uchida fell asleep, ball watching instead of following his man, forcing Fujiharu to come in, albeit too late as the cross was flat and fast, being nodded in from 6 yards with Fujigaya stranded. A very poor goal to concede as everyone seemed to switch-off.
Judging from the commentary from Gamba’s website, not much happened for the next 10 minutes or so until Paulinho went down in the area under a challenge but was adjudged to have dived instead of being tackled. He was subsequently booked and this is the second time he has had this happen to him in the last two home matches so it is either him diving or the referees being very harsh critics. Into the 16th minute and Seno controlled a cross from the left and volleyed his shot wide of the target.
Then we all believed we had got back into the match just a minute later as Paulinho tapped the ball or ankle of the defender after some good running by Futagawa but he was tackled, allowing Paulinho to put his foot in and win the ball back, finally firing into the back of the net. The referee thought otherwise in what seemed an unfair call on the Brazilian whose view of the referee must just have got worse and worse throughout the match. I have watched this instance several times and it seems an extremely harsh call.
Gamba were dominating the possession throughout the whole match, especially in these first 20 minutes but it took until the 20th and 21st minutes for us to get our first shots away through Uchida and Leandro. The latter was the first to test the goalkeeper. Fagiano had come with a plan to sit deep and counter attack and it was working as they suffocated us to no real chances coming up to the half an hour mark. Ueda was booked for the visitors whilst Paulinho had a shot in the 33rd minute that caused no problems for Nakabayashi in goal.
A few minutes later, we won a couple of free kicks with the first hitting the wall from a Futagawa shot and then the second was given for a foul in front of the goal but that also came to nothing. A few minutes later we had a corner which was taken by Paulinho but that was headed clear of danger. What was evident though was that we were starting to get into this game with some added pressure onto the Fagiano defence and it soon crumbled at the hands (or should I say head) of Shu Kurata.
It all started with Nishino booting the ball clear from near the corner flag on the right hand-side. It made its way to Leandro was just eased his marker out the way but could not get to the ball. He did affect the direction of the ball however as it broke free to Paulinho who took a touch past a midfielder and started his pass from just before the half way line. He played that pass through the Fagiano midfield towards Leandro on the right which forced the deepest defender across to cover him, leaving Kurata free to run behind him. The cross from Leandro came from the corner of the box and was his only touch as he hit a flat but accurate cross to Kurata who was still free, allowing him to head past Nakabayashi in goal at his near post. A swift goal that caught Fagiano cold and of course, Kurata was the scorer. Great play by Paulinho and Leandro too.
The half ended with Paulinho setting up Myojin to fire wide after a nice dribble on the right by the Brazilian and the single minute added on also saw nothing. After a slow start we had got that important goal just before half time and we should have been able to build upon that in the second half. Fagiano had not really threatened during the half and with what was to be their only shot on target during the game, they scored. Things to improve on for both teams.
With a live stream now available, I can at least detail this half a bit better than the first. We were pressing high up the pitch as the visitors got the half underway which saw Ueda calm at the back to trick his way out of a potentially tricky situation. We almost put ourselves into a tricky situation after a cross from the left by the visitors saw a lack of communication between Nishino and Fujigaya, not for the first time this season, but the cross fortunately went wide of the far post with no-one attacking it.
Then a moment of pure madness by referee Yoshiro Imamura as he gave a foul against Leandro for challenging for a ball from a goal kick by Fujigaya against Goto. The worst was yet to come as Imamura inexplicably brought out his yellow card for what was a challenge that Leandro did not make. He did not touch the player or the ball and yet that was the result. The significance was it happened to be his 4th yellow card of the season meaning he will be suspended for the game against Tokushima Vortis which was supposed to be his final match for Gamba. Conspiracy!
On with the game. Fujiharu went excruciatingly close to our second of the match after Uchida pounced on the ball in midfield with Futagawa heading a Kaji cross back to the marauding left-back but he could only fire inches wide of the far post with his right foot. Uchida then hit the side netting from the right of the box after some tippy-tappy football by the team. After this move, Futagawa was replaced by Abe to add come energy to the side.
Paulinho was next to go close after Kurata started the move off around 35 yards from goal, passing to Leandro who passed to Paulinho to head forward to Abe on the edge of the box. This was cleared but Paulinho forced the next header to go back to Leandro who flicked onto Kurata in the box at around 12 yards from goal. He controlled the ball and passed back to Paulinho who went past the rushing defender and onto his right foot where he drilled a low shot towards the near post but Nakabayashi was equal to it. The keeper then made an astonishing save to deny Abe an almost certain goal on the hour mark. Fagiano were under the cosh and cleared a ball straight to Fujiharu down the middle from 30 yards. He headed to Myojin who flicked to Leandro and the striker took a touch and passed back to Abe whose shot was probably going wide but it took a huge deflection. Nakabayashi seemed wrong-footed but managed to react quickly to get down low and push the shot wide of his post. Stunning goalkeeping.
The visitors were being dominated and so they responded by bringing on top scorer Arata on for Oshitani in the 62nd minute whilst we brought on Ienaga for Paulinho a few minutes later as the visitors started to get a foothold once more. The next 5 minutes were very quiet as we seemed to have been tamed for the time being and Ishihara took a swing from 20 yards or so after Niwa’s clearance was blocked by a Fagiano player.
Then more refereeing madness. Again a goal kick from Fujigaya and this time in the direction of Ienaga who jumped for the ball with Ueda and of course, Ienaga needed to use his arms to jump. He hardly touched the defender who clutched his face in agony, earning Ienaga a yellow and he now misses next week’s match too as he is also suspended. Talk about party/goodbye ceremony poopers. It seemed to spur Akihiro on though as he trickled his way through the box on the left and passed the ball into space in front of goal but nobody accepted the invitation. A minute later and he blazed over the bar after cutting in from the right.
Entering the last 15 minutes and it was Fagiano who looked the most likely to grab a winner. They broke down our left side and a cross was sent in the box to Arata but Kaji defended superbly to get back and deny him the chance to score, conceding a corner that came to nothing. They then took off Ishihara for Kukita in the 82nd minute. Just 2 minutes later and Fagiano should have scored and potentially won the game as a ball from the half way line on the left was dinked in towards the forwards and Kukita made a run that allowed Seno some space to get behind Nishino in defence who did just enough to force the striker to fire just wide of the far post with Fujigaya beaten all ends up.
Kurata responded with a drive that went just over from 17 yards after a short corner by Abe but with a bit of pressure and the ball slightly under his feet, he put it slightly high and wide. Myojin was taken off for Okazaki whilst Mimura came on for Seno for the visitors who had another golden opportunity as Kukita volleyed wide of Fujigaya’s right post after a nice chipped ball was controlled well by Arata who passed to his fellow forward but he put it inches wide. The game was at full speed as Leandro went through on goal just a minute later with just Nakabayashi to beat but his first touch was heavy and it allowed the keeper to block the Brazilian’s shot at his feet after Abe did well to flick on and the Brazilian had turned his marker. What a way to say goodbye that would have been.
The three added minutes were all ours but we could not find a way through. All in all, it was perhaps a disappointing result but given the effort that both teams put in, a draw was probably fair and you can see why Fagiano have drawn so many of their matches this season. If we were a bit sharper in front of goal we would have won it but the same goes for Fagiano too who had chances towards the end of the match. Both teams will be disappointed not to have won which shows that the draw was a fair one.
Unfortunately, Leandro and Ienaga could not go out with a bang but once more we can thank them for their efforts. It was a tough match and their contributions were good but the curtain has fallen on their time at Banpaku once more. Thank You!
Man of the Match:
Basing your Man of the Match on just 45 minutes of football and some very short highlights is almost impossible but hey-ho I will give it a shot. I think many players were lively like Paulinho, Ienaga, Abe and Leandro. Hiroki Fujiharu was also a threat coming from left back and on another day may have scored with his right-foot shot. Shu Kurata looked the best player though as he scored and looked very effective against a strong Fagiano defence. He took his goal very well as he linked for the final time with Leandro and Shu has become the heartbeat of the team and will have to be without Leandro. Shu had a good game and was involved in almost all of the good moves for us. It is a shame that I could not watch the entire match but based on what I saw, he was great again.
Where it leaves both teams:
Gamba remain top of the table but have had the gap at the top cut down to 2 points as Vissel Kobe comfortably beat V-Varen Nagasaki 2-0 at home, meaning the gap to 3rd place is now up to 8 points because 4th placed Kyoto Sanga lost 1-0 at home to our opponents from last week Mito HollyHock, thanks to a last minute penalty from Hashimoto secured all the points for the visitors. Tochigi SC also failed to take 3rd place as they drew 3-3 with Tokyo Verdy as they went 2-0 down, to 3-2 up only to concede in second half stoppage time. JEF United got a 2-1 away win to our next opponents Tokushima Vortis as they round out the top 6 with Montedio Yamagata and Avispa Fukuoka 2 points further back after getting comfortable home wins. This meant that Fagiano slipped down to 9th place with the same points total as Consadole Sapporo.
The mid-table mash-up continues from there on whilst the bottom third had 3 big winners, with Yokohama FC, Giravanz Kitakyushu and ThespaKusatsu Gunma all taking wins when the other lost, allowing Yokohama to move to 15th, Giravanz to 18th and Gunma off the bottom and into 21st place as Gifu resume with holding every other team up once more.