On the back of the big win against FC Gifu last Wednesday, Gamba took a massive blow and absolute tactical spanking at the hands of in-form JEF United Chiba. The atmosphere was electric with 15,982 fans in the Fukuda Denshi Arena which was sweltering hot throughout the day. I was excellently looked after by some wonderful Gamba fans but was ultimately left disappointed and frustrated.
I had no time to write up a match preview and have only just got time to write this report so I will do a quick preview and a quick report on the game. The hosts for this match had won their last 3 games and were unbeaten in 5 coming into the match although they had failed to keep a clean sheet in that time. JEF had been creeping slowly up the table and were keeping the pressure up behind their nearest rivals V-Varen Nagasaki and Kyoto Sanga. Their last defeat at home was a deserved 3-1 turnover against Montedio Yamagata on the 1st June. Coming into the game, they had beaten Kataller Toyama 2-1 on the road and you can see the team that started that match to the side.
It was therefore no surprise that they stuck with the team that had beaten Toyama and that team of course contained two recently departed Gamba players in the forms of Satoshi Yamaguchi and Shohei Otsuka. Oh how that would come back and bite us in the arse. Gamba on the other hand made two changes to the starting eleven that beat FC Gifu in that highest-ever scoring team in a J2 match. Oh Jae-Suk expectedly moved back onto the bench for Akira Kaji whilst I also predicted, and correctly so, that Keisuke Iwashita returned to the starting eleven in place of Takaharu Nishino. I was delighted to see that Tomokazu Myojin had not even made the bench for this round.
JEF United XI – Okamoto, Yonekura, Kim, Yamaguchi S, Takahashi, Ito, Sato K, Tanaka, Otsuka, Yazawa, Kempes.
JEF United Subs – Okubo, Takeuchi, Oiwa, Sato Y, Yamaguchi K, Nam, Machida.
Gamba Osaka XI – Fujigaya, Kaji, Iwashita, Niwa, Fujiharu, Futagawa, Endo, Konno, Abe, Paulinho, Hirai.
Gamba Osaka Subs – Kimura, Oh J.S., Nishino, Omori, Okazaki, Uchida, Kawanishi.
Gamba did dominate the first exchanges of the match with Shoki Hirai getting the first chance of the match after Fujiharu found space down the left and slid a ball down the side for Paulinho to cross for his strike partner who got a touch ahead of Okamoto in goal but he flicked it past the near post from 4 yards under pressure from the goalkeeper. It was then Paulinho who came close as he drifted into the middle and picked up a pass from Endo, jinked his way forward and left a stunning strike crack the underside of the bar with the ball bouncing away from the goal line.
Then JEF scored with their first decent attack of the match and their first shot on goal just a minute later. They got given too much space to play a pass through our midfield and a couple of passes later and recently turned defender Yonekura got in behind Fujiharu who fell in what was a foul which was not given. This allowed the JEF man to dink over the onrushing Fujigaya from 10 yards on the right to make the partisan crowd go wild. The space given was poor and it was made to easy for JEF in the end but I still believe that Fujiharu was tripped by Yonekura. Disappointing but 78 minutes left to get at least one goal.
The goal was the start of a never-ending downward slope. Futagawa had started on the right of midfield and continued to tuck in to the middle which left Kaji hugely exposed. JEF were exploiting this by coming down their right but then quickly switching the play to their left. This was further compounded by the fact that Konno and Endo were not taking the initiative to cover Futagawa and Kaji. It was because of these mistakes that JEF got their second goal only 11 minutes later.
Just before the goal, JEF were coming down their left with three players against Kaji and Iwashita (with Futagawa 10 yards behind) and this forced the defence back and back and back which allowed Yazawa to crack the cross bar from 25 yards. Yet the warning signs were seen from me in the stands but not by Hasegawa on the sidelines as JEF finally made us pay. This time, Kaji failed to intercept a pass properly and then Futagawa was on the losing side of a tackle against Takahashi who was quick to his feet and had dragged over Iwashita which made space for Otsuka. He played a simple pass to the former Gamba man and from 20 yards he let fly towards he near post and somehow beat Fujigaya. A bit of luck, a bit of determination and a bit of bad goalkeeping had allowed JEF a 2-0 lead. Man that sucked so bad! I was not expecting such an easy match for JEF!
At this point, Abe and Futagawa finally swapped wings. These two combined to give us a fantastic chance to get back into the game. With JEF siting deep, Endo drifted to the left and dinked a lovely pass over the top for Futagawa who in turn squared to Abe but he was a tad slow to react and slid onto the pass but put his attempt feet wide of the right post. Glorious chance, terrible miss. Abe did have another chance before half time but he shot right above Okamoto in goal.
The first half was a complete shock to the system for the fans and players and now a point looked like treasure. Passes were being misplaced, defending was too hollow, attack was too slow and the forwards (Hirai mainly) was not getting into the game. Many changes needed to be made but would they be made?
The short answer is no. There were no changes at half time… I wanted to see Futagawa and Hirai taken off for Oh Jae-Suk and Kawanishi. Oh would have given Kaji some defensive security whilst being a threat on the offense whilst Kawanishi would have given more energy up front compared to the little work Hirai had done. Hasegawa held up his middle finger to those ideas.
Whilst we were holding onto the ball and making some half-chances, it was JEF who looked the most threatening side with their counter attack. This led to their 3rd goal as Kaji was caught out in defence was cynically took our his man which earned him his 4th booking of the season and therefore a suspension whilst Iwashita was sleeping from the free kick and allowed Yamaguchi to head home emphatically.
Subs then came with Abe and Futagawa making way for Kawanishi and Omori but the former and Hirai were taking up the same spaces. Hirai did make way in the 72nd minute for Uchida but the game was dead and buried. Omori and Kawanishi did impress me though when they came on butt JEF’s tactics won the 3 points. We deserved what we got. Our second defeat of the season which allows Vissel to move back within 2 points of us. We are back at home on Sunday to ply Giravanz Kitakyushu and will be expecting a better performance as well as the 3 points.
Disappointment. Thank you to all of the lovely Gamba fans for your kindness though. You made the defeat somewhat bearable.