Match Preview – 01/09/2013 – J2: Section 32 – Gamba Osaka v V-Varen Nagasaki

Gamba Osaka PredictionFor the first day of the month we start with a delicious-looking top 3 clash as we look to entertain, dazzle and hopefully dispatch of the first-time visitors to Banpaku, V-Varen Nagasaki. Although their automatic promotion hopes are all but gone, cementing their top 6 status will be the aim of the game at this 18:00 kick-off, whilst we seek to move one step closer to the title.

We obviously will be looking to make amends for our poor draw against Yokohama FC last weekend as two defensive errors cost us the two goals we conceded in the 2-2 draw at Mitsuzawa. Hiroki Fujiharu will be looking to make it 3 games in a row and Takashi Usami 4 games in a row in terms of consecutive games scored in. Adi Rocha will want to make sure he gets back on the score sheet after missing out for the first time last weekend since joining the club.

V-Varen had a bit of a rough patch during mid-season but have won their last two games in succession and seem to be back on track, albeit beating Yokohama FC and Gainare Tottori 2-0 and 3-0 respectively. Their win at Tottori came from 2 screamers that saw all their goals scored in a second half. Certainly, the team from Kyushu have surprised everyone with how well they have done in their first ever J.League season.

The first ever meeting between these two sides came back on the 10th March 2013 which was V-Varen’s first ever home match. We ran out 3-1 winners that day to record our first win of the season thanks to 2 goals by Shoki Hirai and a lovely effort by Takahiro Futagawa. V-Varen showed us too much respect in the first half but pulled one back through Mizunaga that day and almost killed us in the last 10 minutes. They show signs of promise there and have not looked back since.

V-Varen Nagasaki PredictionWe will be looking to extend our unbeaten run at home whilst V-Varen look to tidy up their mis-matched away form. In the 16 games they have played on the road, they have won 6, drew 5 and lost 5. Until their match against Tottori last weekend, they had only ever managed a maximum of 2 goals in any during any of their away ties. This is compounded with just 3 clean sheets away from home all season and except for the in-form Tokushima Vortis, they have only beaten sides that they should be beating given their position. They have failed to score in just 3 away games though.

For Gamba, the team selection should be very similar for us to that of the starting elevens that beat Sapporo and Tottori, if you are asking me. Although he did not play badly against Yokohama FC, I would still drop Tomokazu Myojin for either Abe or Okazaki to allow Endo to get back into his standard central role. Otherwise, change the formation to a 4-2-3-1 formation with Usami and Omori either side of Rocha with Endo behind him. Yasuyuki Konno needs to get his head in the game too, seriously. Nishino needs a strong partner at centre-back to compliment him. As for injured players, Paulinho and Sato are back into training with the rest of the team and might make the bench but the Emperor’s Cup looks more realistic whilst Kurata and Iwashita are still a couple of weeks away. The team I want to see is to the side.

As for V-Varen, they apparently only have midfielder Kohei Yamada out injured after coming off after 25 minutes in his side’s 2-1 defeat to Tokyo Verdy on match day 28. With that in mind, you would expect to see a full strength side play for the visitors in their standard 3-4-3 formation, with the main striker being supported by 2 attacking-midfielders. They do not really have much to lose in this game and I would expect them to have a go and make it a good game. Although they do not score many, they do not concede many either, but a good game is what I am hoping for!

Yasuyuki KonnoNormally I go for an in-form player to keep your eye on for the upcoming match. For once, I am going for someone who is not in my good books right now, so that can only mean Yasuyuki Konno. Sure, everyone is saying that he is better in midfield but he was bought as a defender, plays as a defender for the national team and has an excellent partner at the back in Takaharu Nishino who leads him. Yet, he keeps giving the opposition easy chances to score by not putting in any sort of a challenge when even Iwashita would do it which has cost us 2 goals in August and a total of 2 points. He is better than that but needs to prove it. I do not want him back in midfield because Uchida is doing excellently there and Konno really needs to start proving himself as a centre-back at Gamba. I do not know whether he can do it or not, but he should be able to!

It is going to be a difficult match and on the face of it, there should not be too many goals in it because V-Varen have the joint-best defence whilst we have the best attack in the league. Despite the defensive mistakes we have been making, I think we will win it 2-0. Nagasaki will get chances to score because we always give the opposition a chance but I do not know whether they will take them or not because of the small number of goals they have scored this season. With Usami in form, I always fancy us to score and we have been getting goals from different players in different positions recently so we have a deadly sting in our attack that teams like Nagasaki might not have. This will be the perfect chance to potentially extend our gap to 3rd with Tokushima and JEF having tricky-looking away days. Do it, Gamba! Move one step closer to our revival!

Photo taken from web.gekisaka.jp. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.

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Match Report – 25/08/2013 – J2: Section 31 – Yokohama FC 2-2 Gamba Osaka

Yokohama FCWe ended the month of August on a bit of a sour note as we succumbed to a late equaliser as two defensive errors cost us all three points in what was a game we really should have won. Our disappointment was witnessed by 12,490 spectators as we made sure that we beat none of the main Kanto sides this season.

The hosts made three changes to their back line alone as Bae was suspended, Watanabe and Morishita were injured, so they pushed Takeoka to right-back, Morimoto to pair Nogami at centre-back and Nakajima at left-back. They changed their formation from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 changed their top scorer Okubo for Nagai and Kazu, the latter a surprise inclusion due to his age.

As for us, we changed just one player and that was Kenya Okazaki, who swapped placed with Tomokazu Myojin. This meant that Yasuhito Endo was once again pushed out towards the left-hand side to accommodate the veteran. The bench itself saw a couple of changes, the first being the inclusion of Ken Tajiri over Atsushi Kimura. This was Tajiri’s first ever time on the bench for a league match. The other player to drop out was Takuya Takei in place of the returning Hiroyuki Abe who had been out for a month with an injury sustained after the Vissel Kobe win over a month ago.

Yokohama FC XI – Schneider, Takeoka, Nogami, Morimoto, Nakajima, Sato, Takachi, Terada, Nozaki, Nagai, Kazu.
Yokohama FC Subs – Shibasaki, Watanabe, Matsushita, Na S.S., Patrick, Tahara, Okubo.
Gamba Osaka XI – Fujigaya, Kaji, Nishino, Konno, Fujiharu, Uchida, Myojin, Omori, Endo, Rocha, Usami.
Gamba Osaka Subs – Tajiri, Oh J.S., Niwa, Futagawa, Abe, Okazaki, Hirai.

1st Half:
Things once again started terribly as we gifted the hosts a goal after just 4 minutes and Akira Kaji was the culprit this time. As his first clearance came back to him, he attempted to pass across to Nishino but got nothing on it, allowing Nozaki to steal the ball, turn back onto his left foot and drill a low shot right into the arms of Yosuke Fujigaya. Well it would have been like that if Nishino had not been determined to block the ball, unfortunately getting the slightest touch on his outstretched foot and directing it past Fujigaya. 1-0 to Yokohama FC and that was the 6th time in 9 games that we have conceded first, going on to lose just 1 though.

We did not seem rocked by the goal and Endo went close to levelling in the 12th minute, sending a shot across the box just wide of the far post after lovely play by Takashi Usami and a great tackle by Myojin to get things going. Omori then thought he had set-up Rocha again as the Brazilian tapped in from 6 yards, but the winger was flagged offside. Only just offside too. With our momentum building, Rocha controlled a throw-in on his chest and pivoted to send a volley just wide of the far post although the deflection helped the ball get closer to the goal.

Takashi Usami

Just as I was starting to believe that we were getting somewhere, Usami pulled us level with another goal from outside the box and again in the 29th minute. Uchida broke the play up in midfield, passed to Endo who aimed a slightly awkward pass towards Omori who nicked the ball in front of his marker, being fouled in the process. With both Rocha and his marker missing the ball, Usami turned on the 18 yard line and fired an unexpected shot past the rooted Schneider in goal, having put it right into the bottom corner. Game back on!

Nothing much happened for the rest of the half. The most action we got was seeing Uchida with a bloody lip as Yokohama looked to squeeze us. They had no threat up front but we had gifted them a goal. There was more to be desired from our limp-looking forward line as the final ball was wasteful. I was expecting more to come after the break.

2nd Half:
It was the hosts however who came out the better of the two sides but with Nakajima sending in a poor free kick twice and Terada firing a tame effort at goal, there seemed to be not much of a sting in the Yokohama attack. Meanwhile, Hiroki Fujiharu started to batter their right side as he got in-behind the defence following an excellent through ball by Usami but Rocha could only slide in despair as the ball continued across the 6 yard box.

The hosts responded 2 minutes later with Nagai letting rip from 25 yards  after the defence kept dropping away from him but luckily his effort bounced past the far post with Fujigaya clearly beaten. Fujiharu responded again with another superb cross into the box but Rocha was caught on his heels as another good chance waved goodbye to him.

Gamba OsakaThe hosts took off Nozaki for Patrick whilst Hasegawa brought on Kenya Okazaki for Kotaro Omori, as well as changing the formation to more of a 4-2-1-2-1 with Endo in front of Myojin and Uchida and Okazaki and Usami in front of him. The change seemed to breathe life into our attack as Usami set-up Okazaki but he fluffed his two chances in the 59th minute whilst Kaji almost scored from a cross as Schneider just about managed to get it away. A minute later, Nishino stepped forward to break up play, passed to Okazaki who played Rocha through on but wide of goal; he still managed to fire past Schneider at the near post from an acute angle but his shot kept going across as he just missed the target. Fujiharu retrieved the ball and passed across goal for Endo but he could not slide far enough to put the ball into the back of the net. He failed to touch the ball by centimetres.

So after his team mates had squandered the chances he had put on a plate for him, Fujiharu stepped up and put us 2-1 ahead in the 67th minute. A corner was cleared to Okazaki around 20 yards from goal. He turned to his inside and spotted Fujiharu unmarked. The left-back let the ball run across him and he let his left foot loose from 30 yards, belting the ball low and hard through the Yokohama defence (it may have been deflected a tad) and into the bottom corner with Schneider again having no chance. That made it 2 in 2 games for the lad and his face showed his joy. We thoroughly deserved to be leading.

The hosts took off Kazu for Na and restarted their pressure that they had commenced in the first half, although we dealt with it quite easily. We seemed to take our foot of the gas a little bit but I never believed that Yokohama would score. In fact, we almost made it 3-1 when Kaji crossed for Rocha to head back across goal and Uchida was denied a certain goal as Schneider pushed the ball onto him and he had little time to react from 2 yards, putting it wide. Usami then clattered the far post as he struck an effort from the left edge of the penalty area, Schneider again beaten all ends up but fortunately for him it rebounded off the woodwork and to safety. Stunning attempt.

Strangely, Hasegawa took off Usami in the 81st minute and brought on Abe, whilst Tahara came on for Nagai a moment later. Yokohama continued to threaten as Patrick headed terribly whilst free at the back post. Nishino denied Na an almost certain goal with a superb tackle. But Yasuyuki Konno gifted Tahara the equaliser in the 88th minute as a cross from the left by Nakajima came towards Konno and Tahara but Konno, not for the first time this month, allowed his man to jump freely without any challenge whatsoever, and his man duly obliged to score. Terrible again by Konno.

Yet we almost scored from the last attack of the game but one almighty scramble later and the final whistle was blown. The draw really felt like a defeat as we let our defensive disabilities cripple us once more in a game we should have won. Taking their goals out of the equation, they brought very little to the game. Very, very disappointing.

Hiroki FujiharuMan of the Match:
Hiroki Fujiharu was by far and away the best player of the pitch and he topped his superb display with an absolutely stunning goal. He was not just a goal scorer but the biggest threat we had in the attacking department. Several times he made some excellent chances, notably cutting the ball across the box, but his teammates could not convert his efforts into their just rewards. You really have to admire this man as he has played 69 league matches in succession and he always gives 100%. You rarely see him make an error and he was the standout performer in what was otherwise a disappointing day. Once again, that rang true with his defensive and attacking display. Well done, Hiroki!

Where it leaves both teams:
This draw dented our lead at the top slightly as Vissel Kobe closed the gap to 5 points with a routine 4-0 win over Avispa Fukuoka at home. There was some good news however as JEF United became another top 6 team to drop points to FC Gifu following a 1-1 home draw which allowed our next opponents, V-Varen Nagasaki, to leap into 3rd place after they dispatched Gainare Tottori 3-0 on the road, with a couple of screamers to boot. With JEF drawing, Tokushima and Kyoto could not better each other as their match finished 1-1 as on-loan Gamba player Shigeru Yokotani spared the blushes of the away team in added time.

As for Yokohama FC, they stayed in their comfortable 15th place with the point as Ehime FC lost below them but do have a game in hand. Tochigi SC stretched the gap though to 5 points ahead of Yokohama with their first win in over 2 months, away to Fagiano Okayama.

Stats
Yokohama FC 2-2 Gamba Osaka

Photos taken from f.image.geki.jp. No copyright infringement intended. Originals here and here.

Match Preview – 25/08/2013 – J2: Section 31 – Yokohama FC v Gamba Osaka

Yokohama FC PredictionGamba continue on the road this weekend and look to make it five wins from five games as we take on Yokohama FC at the Mitsuzawa Stadium on Sunday with this 18:00 local time kick-off match. Both teams had similar expectations at the start of the season but have had contrasting seasons thus far and we will aim to continue to pile on the pain for the Kanagawa side.

The hosts for the match come into the game in terrible form having won just once in their last 8 games, even if that victory was their last home match, a 1-0 win over the also out-of-form Kyoto Sanga. Before that, they had won 4 in 5 games but have hit the wall in recent times. Their result in midweek was a 2-0 away defeat to V-Varen Nagasaki which means they have not scored in 5 successive away days.

Gamba, on the other hand, are on very good form after a mini-blip in July when we won just 1 match in 4 games. Since then, we have taken down our last 4 opponents and have scored a total of 14 goals in that time whilst conceding 3. The combination of Takashi Usami and Adi Rocha has wielded 10 of those goals in that time.

If we take a look at Yokohama FC’s home form this season, then we can see that they did not win at home until the 8th June, a total of 3 draws and 5 defeats but getting the win on the 9th attempt against Gainare Tottori thanks to a 2-1 score line in their favour. They have since won 3 of the last 5 and have scored in all of those contests but have kept just one clean sheet. The only notable name on the list of teams they have beaten is Kyoto Sanga however. That was just their 3rd clean sheet in total at home whilst they have failed to score in 5 home games this season.

Gamba OsakaThe first meeting between Yokohama FC and Gamba came all the way back in match day 3 when both teams could not find the back of the net in a 0-0 draw at Banpaku, although it was not for the lack of trying. That match was also Takaharu Nishino’s first ever start and my word hasn’t he grown in stature and importance since that day.

Yokohama have one man suspended for this game and that man is defender Bae Seung-Jin after he picked up his 8th booking of the season and will therefore miss 2 matches whilst defender Takanori Nakajima and midfielder Takumi Watanabe are set to miss out through injuries. Bae’s replacement is set to be Morimoto. Starters from the midweek defeat to Nagasaki Takumi Watanabe and Kensuke Sato are forecast to be replaced by Yuki Matsushita and Tomoya Uchida. You can see their entire predicted line-up to the side.

As for us, I cannot see many changes, if any at all, to the starting eleven that conquered Gainare Tottori at a canter on Wednesday. Of course, the most likely replacements would be Takahiro Futagawa and Tomokazu Myojin but the only player I could see dropping to the bench would be Kenya Okazaki. That is only as he has played 2 games in a week and Kenta Hasegawa likes to moderate the inclusion of the younger players. I would expect no changes to be made although one or two would not hurt in the overall scale of things. You can see my predicted line-up on the opposite side.

Kotaro OmoriWith all that in mind, I choose Kotaro Omori as my man to watch for this match day as he has been superb since getting his chance back at the start of last month. I have probably said similar things when I gave him man of the match against Avispa Fukuoka but I think Omori has always had that raw talent but was never really given many opportunities under Masanobu Matsunami last season and he has only recently started games this season. Having said that, his energy makes him a very good winger in attack and defence whilst his combination play with the forwards and Kaji is great. He just needs to be a bit more selfish at times when going forward and get a goal that he would thoroughly deserve. Yokohama FC must be at their best if they are to stop him supplying Usami and Rocha with the chances that they are gobbling up right now.

So yes, I think we will win this match as well. I think another 3-0 prediction will not be far off the mark as long as the back line stops giving away some decent chances to the opposition. I look at the team and I just see goals. Usami and Rocha in particular but with the set-up play from Omori, Endo and Okazaki (to name a few), I think we can get goals from all corners of the pitch, as we showed against Tottori on Wednesday. Yokohama are in pretty poor form and are terrible at home to be honest. I believe that they were quite lucky to leave Banpaku with a point at the start of the season and I also believe that we are better now than we were back then and having won the majority of our away games, I think this might just be another home defeat for Yokohama. We seem confident right now and are able to flick the switch that wins us the game thanks to short bursts of greatness and are just that much better than everyone else in the league. Anything less than a win would be a bad result.

Photo taken from Gamba Osaka’s Official Website. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.

Match Report – 21/08/2013 – J2: Section 30 – Gainare Tottori 1-7 Gamba Osaka

Gainare TottoriBish bash bosh! Another midweek festival of a match for us as we destroyed lowly Gainare Tottori 7-1 at the Torigin Bird Stadium in front of the highest crowd of the night, an impressive 10,096 people turning up to see us turn up in big style. There were goals for the new boys as well as our future stars in what was a blissful night in Tottori.

Tottori made one change in positions with Yokotake and Dudu switching places from defence to midfield and vice-versa. The only change in personnel from their draw in Tochigi came as Ozaki was suspended so Ando took his place in an otherwise unchanged starting eleven. With a space left on the bench from Ozaki’s suspension, Tanio made it for the hosts on what would be his J.League debut.

As for Gamba, we surprisingly kept with the same starting eleven from the victory over Consadole Sapporo as we opted to keep with consistency despite having another game on the weekend in what would be the end of a very busy time for Endo and Konno. The bench also stayed the same as the injured players still have not quite made it back to the fold yet. Whether the amount of games would take its toll on the players or not, only time would tell.

Gainare Tottori XI – Kobari, Rindo, Yokotake, Nagira, Mori, Sanenobu, Dudu, Ando, Sumida, Kubo, Nagasato.
Gainare Tottori Subs – Sugimoto, Miura, Hirota, Okano, Sameshima, Tanio, Okamoto.
Gamba Osaka XI – Fujigaya, Kaji, Nishino, Konno, Fujiharu, Uchida, Endo, Omori, Okazaki, Rocha, Usami.
Gamba Osaka Subs – Kimura, Oh J.S., Niwa, Futagawa, Myojin, Takei, Hirai.

Gamba Osaka1st Half:
The game started with the hosts having a decent chance to make it 1-0 in the 8th minute after a pass from the left was flicked over Konno’s head towards Kubo who, after outmuscling Konno, turned and sent his half-volley over the bar from 12 yards. The supplier for that chance, Nagasato, made it 1-0 to the hosts just 2 minutes later. Fujiharu was robbed on the left and two passes later the ball came to Dudu who shot from 25 yards on the left, parallel to the corner of the box. The shot was tame and hit Nagasato, but he doubled back to turn Nishino and somehow squeeze the ball under Konno from 8 yards. Not pretty, a bit unfortunate for Nishino but you take that when you are down the bottom.

Yet we looked good. Our passing was slick, the movement and passing was good but the final ball was lacking and we seemed to be frustrated with that. It took time but the equaliser came in the 29th minute. The build-up on the right started with Omori, then Kaji who passed off to Usami who tried to play in Okazaki but his touch went backwards so he passed back to Usami who fired home with his left foot from 25 yards. The goal had some speed to it and it was clinical with no player taking more than 2 touches.

Usami doubled his tally just 2 minutes later as he combined with Okazaki once again. Endo was allowed to turn in midfield (a crime in itself) and he dinked a pass around his “marker” to Okazaki who lobbed a pass over the defence to Usami who had cut in again. He took a touch to control, another to turn his marker inside-out and then he fired past Kobari with the ball too close to his body for him to stop it. A really lovely goal with the same ingredients as the first goal. The game was back in our hands.

We really turned up the heat from here on out as Usami fired wide from 25 yards from another Okazaki pass whilst an exquisite cross-field ball from the defence to Omori resulted in the man being taken down for a free kick on the right. Endo went across to take it and put it onto the 6 yard line for Rocha and Nishino to attack unmarked (the defence was an absolute disgrace) and it was Rocha who got to the ball first and netted his 5th header from 6 goals as Kobari in goal and his defence blamed each other.

Rocha and UsamiThat was half time. It was made all too easy for us to get back into the match and having said that, we were taking our chances when we made them. We were slick with the ball, our movement was excellent and we had the finishing touch. Gainare were getting pulled apart in midfield and looked lost. I was expecting more of the same in the second half.

2nd Half:
Tottori came out and made a good chance after some lovely play down the left but the final shot by Kubo was comfortable for Fujigaya. Rocha then snuck into the Tottori box but was tackled to perfection just as he was about to shoot as we continued with our lovely passing football. Tottori still managed to earn a well-positioned free kick out on the left but Fujigaya claimed it excellently under pressure.

This is when our goal of the season started. I tell no word of a lie. Fujigaya rolled it out and we got our passing game going. We got so far into the Tottori half and saw no chance to get the ball through the defence so we knocked it around the back and midfield. After about a minute and a half of this, Endo drifted out to the left and played a simple pass down the side for the unmarked Fujiharu who sent in a first time cross to the penalty spot. The ball bounced kindly for Rocha as he stuck his left foot out and got the ball over his marker’s head and the half-volley lob continued over Kobari and into the back of the net. A controlled goal, a patient goal and the most pleasing goal. The retention of the ball was capped off by the stunning finish which made that our goal of the season to date. Anyone who says otherwise is mad!

We made a sub in the 55th minute as Myojin came on for Omori whilst Sanenobu and Sumida were withdrawn for Hirota and Sameshima. It made no difference to the match as we made it 5-1 just moments later as Tatsuya Uchida netted his first professional goal. Usami played a one-two with Rocha who held the ball up well on the right of the box and Usami cut in and played a short cutting ball through to Uchida who had burst from midfield and he took a touch before firing into the far corner. I was absolutely delighted for the man as he has just grown and grown this season. He finally got the goal he has been threatening to get.

NishinoRocha was taken off for Oh Jae-Suk to keep him fresh for Yokohama too. Takaharu Nishino netted his first professional goal the other day and seems to like the taste of goal scoring as he got his 2nd goal in 2 games to make it 6-1 after 66 minutes. After Usami’s show-boating got a corner, Endo took it short to Okazaki and Endo whipped the ball back in with his left foot. A Gainare player got a touch on the cross which only helped it to Nishino’s feet and he controlled it excellently before putting into the bottom right corner, once again unmarked. Confident finish that, the greedy so-and-so!

To add to my happiness of both Uchida and Nishino scoring, Fujiharu also got in on the act in what was a perfect day of perfect goal scorers, in my opinion. He started the move by passing short to Okazaki in the centre who turned to send a lovely through ball to Endo and with the defence standing still and being one-on-one with the goalkeeper, he controlled the ball and rolled it across to Fujiharu who had continued his run and our consistent left-back was given a tap-in from 6 yards. Unselfish but Fujiharu showed great desire to net his second goal of the season. 7-1, 72 minutes played.

We then did what we did against FC Gifu after 70 minutes. We turned the engine off and cruised to the finishing line. Hirai came on for Usami but was non-existent for the remaining time. Fujigaya got booked for who knows what whilst Oh Jae-Suk had his first goal stolen from him as his curled shot took a deflection, with the resulting corner headed just over by Konno who was absolutely free at the back post. Terrible marking – the story of Gainare’s day really.

That was the game. We had battered Tottori, as I expected, in what was an all too easy victory but I cannot take anything away from the performance. We scored from practically every other attack and the speed, precision and overall classiness of the goals was great to see. It was good to see 4 youngsters getting on the score sheet whilst Rocha continued his purple patch. Confidence looks as high as it ever has been and even after the shaky start, we were never going to be denied all 3 points.

Man of the Match:
Endo and FujiharuA lot of the players were impressive and I could reel each one off and spend plenty of time talking about them. Coming close to the award was Kenya Okazaki who set up the first 2 goals played a part with some lovely build-up play in other goals. Yet I think that Yasuhito Endo and Takashi Usami will have to share the award as their contributions were excellent with separate reasons.  Endo was brilliant, controlling the match at his pace and dealing with Tottori with consummate ease; he was also able to bag himself a hat-trick of assists and has really showed his physical and mental strength by making this his 4th match in 15 days. Usami bagged himself 2 classy goals, his first an absolute belter and his second came from superb control and a superb turn. He also had a lot of energy about him and set-up Uchida for the fifth. Usami started the game slowly but did not look back after getting us on track.

But everyone was excellent so I would like to commend each player. Also, the players said they wanted to win the game in respect for Myojin’s father who passed away recently. Fittingly, they made the score 1-7 (read 17) which is of course Myojin’s number. Nice touch!

Where it leaves both teams:
We kept our lead at the top of the table to 7 points with the win and strengthened our goal difference although I do not think that will be of any importance at the end of the season. Vissel Kobe beat Tokyo Verdy to get back to winning ways but the biggest result for us was seeing JEF United Chiba draw 2-2 at home to ThespaKusatsu Gunma. This made the gap to JEF a massive 15 points which pretty much guarantees us a top 2 finish, I reckon. That result meant that Tottori fall a point behind Gunma and stay in 21st.

As for the other top six teams, Tokushima won 1-0 to Kumamoto to sneak just behind JEF whilst Nagasaki also won, this time 2-0 to our next opponents Yokohama FC. Kyoto Sanga continued their baron streak with a 4-2 defeat at home to Fagiano Okayama which puts them down to 6th, having just a 3 point gap to Okayama, Sapporo, Mito and Fukuoka with Matsumoto and Tokyo a further point and 2 points back respectively.

Stats
Gainare Tottori 1-7 Gamba Osaka

Photos taken from beamie.jp and J’s Goal. No copyright infringement intended. Originals here, here and here.

Match Preview – 21/08/2013 – J2: Section 30 – Gainare Tottori v Gamba Osaka

Gainare Tottori PredictionThe final midweek round of the season sees us head north-west to the coastal city to take on relegation-threatened Gainare Tottori at the Torigin Bird Stadium in what will be the last game to kick off in the round with a 19:30 kick-off time. The stadium should be full as we look to keep our lead to at least 7 points whilst Tottori look to move away from the relegation places.

Our hosts for the evening come into this game on the back of a 1-1 away draw against Tochigi SC in what was their first match under new manager Koji Maeda following the dismissal of Norio Omura. His sacking came after just 3 wins in 14 games, losing half of them as his side took just 1 point off any of their closest rivals down at the bottom of the table in that period. The final straw came when Omura’s side lost 3-2 at home to Kataller Toyama.

The side currently sit in 21st place and have not won a game since getting a shock 3-2 victory against Montedio Yamagata on the 3rd July. Their last home win was at the start of June as Gainare overcame Matsumoto Yamaga 1-0. This is just one of two home victories all season, the other a 3-1 defeat of Mito HollyHock all the way back on the 17th March. After round 5 they sat in 2nd place on 9 points and have since taken 22 points in 24 games.

The first meeting between Gainare and Gamba came at the end of April as we clawed back from 1-0 down to draw 1-1 in a game that saw us unable to break down a stubborn Gainare defence and they should have made it 2-0 right before Leandro equalised after a swift counter attack. A similar game plan is very much expected by the hosts.

Gamba Osaka PredictionAs it is a midweek game, the team selection for both teams might be a bit different to what we are used to seeing with one eye on the weekend fixtures. If we start with Tottori though, then we can see that they have one man suspended and that is defender Eiichiro Ozaki. To add to their defensive worries, they have both Kenta Togawa and Eijiro Takeda scheduled to miss this match through injuries. It gets even tougher in midfield with Tomoyuki Yoshino, Toshitaka Tsurumi and Yasuhiro Okuyama all supposedly out of this match. This means a bit of shuffling around and therefore their predicted team could be very wrong, but hey ho I never get it right!

Talking about not getting it right, I am expecting a few changes for Gamba’s starting eleven from the one that started against Consadole Sapporo on the weekend. The first would be giving Akira Kaji a rest at right-back with Oh Jae-Suk getting a chance to strut his stuff. I would then assume that Myojin and Futagawa will come into midfield to freshen things up whilst adding a bit of experience to the fold. Kenya Okazaki would be the first player to drop to the bench but if I were the manager, I would also drop Endo to the bench. Put it this way, he has already played 3 games in 8 days and could make it 5 in 15 days if he plays in this match and on the weekend. He needs to take some rest to avoid burning out against Yokohama FC. I would take the chance and put him on the bench for this match, although it would be no surprise to see him start. Konno has the same situation except that he has not been playing in midfield so has had less work to do. Other than that, the other starting eleven and squad members would probably stay the same as Sato and Kurata are now scheduled back next month.

RochaWith a weeknight match, it is tough to select a player to watch. But when you have a front man in form, Adi Rocha should start and will be looking to continue his fine goal scoring streak. He had his legged strapped up after the match on Sunday but I assume that was a precaution as to allow him to play against Tottori. He has been fantastic since he joined the club and has got off to a similar start as Leandro did last year. Interestingly, Rocha has netted 4 of his 5 goals with his head so far and has taken just 13 attempts to get those 5 goals. He has linked well with Usami and Omori and should be a big threat to Tottori aerially and with the ball at his feet, which people sometimes forget. I am expecting more of the same from our new number 9 and Tottori will do well to stop him.

This game hinges on whether or not we can get an early goal or two to open up the game and force Tottori to attack us. If we fail to do that, I can see it being a hard earned 2-0 score line. I think it will be a lot worse for the hosts though and can see the game being 4-0 at least. They are in a real slump at the moment having conceded 22 goals at home against mostly teams outside the top 6, so I can see them struggling again. As long as we are patient, move the ball as well as we now the team can and use our other strengths, it might just be a very long night for Tottori. They have also failed to score in half of their home games whilst we have scored in every away game bar two (which are the only two games we have lost). A long night ahead for Gainare, I believe.

Photo taken from sanspo. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.

Match Report – 18/08/2013 – J2: Section 29 – Gamba Osaka 3-0 Consadole Sapporo

Gamba OsakaWe made it 3 wins in a row and 2 clean sheets in a row as we swept aside a valiant Consadole Sapporo side that outdid us in the first half but were swept aside by our class in a 25 minute spell in the second half which secured all three points in front of 12,449 people on a day that replicated the results for the top 5 sides once again.

We made one change to the side that beat Avispa last weekend as Myojin dropped to the bench in place of Kenya Okazaki but the selected 18 players were the same. Akihiro Sato has not quite made it back yet but with a game in midweek, I can see him and others getting a chance there, although he would probably start on the bench. The pleasing factor was that there were 6 players aged 24 and under in the starting eleven, with 4 of them 21 and under.

Consadole made three changes to the starting eleven that beat Yokohama FC last weekend. Kushibiki was replaced by Cho at centre back whilst Arano came in for Horigome in the attacking midfield department for the visitors; Sunagawa dropped to the bench as Miyazawa returned to the team. Most people were hoping rather than expecting that Le Cong Vinh would make his first start for the club but it was no surprise to see him warming the bench.

Gamba Osaka XI – Fujigaya, Kaji, Nishino, Konno, Fujiharu, Uchida, Endo, Omori, Okazaki, Rocha, Usami.
Gamba Osaka Subs – Kimura, Oh J.S., Niwa, Futagawa, Myojin, Takei, Hirai.
Consadole Sapporo XI – Sugiyama, Hidaka, Nara, Cho, Uehara, Miyazawa, Uesato, Arano, Uchimura, Mikami, Ferro.
Consadole Sapporo Subs – Awaka, Matsumoto, Fukai, Sunagawa, Maeda, Le Cong Vinh, Kudo.

1st Half:
This half was pretty poor if truth be told as Consadole seemed to control it for the majority with us sneaking the final 15 minutes or so as the momentum finally started to grow. We did have the first good chance of the game in the 3rd minute as Okazaki cracked a half-volley off the underside of the bar after nice play by Omori, followed by a one-two with Rocha. After this though, we seemed to sink back into lethargic mode which was a continuation of last weekend’s match against Avispa Fukuoka. We allowed Sapporo to have the ball and they used it fairly well with first Cho and then Ferro headed decent chances, with Cho’s getting to the ball easily as the man drifted between two defenders but directed his effort over.

Consadole SapporoUesato then let fly from 25-30 yards under no pressure but his effort curled away from goal whilst Takashi Usami was brought down in the box after being sandwiched by 2 defenders but the referee was unmoved on what was an incorrect decision. 4 minutes later in the 30th minute, Omori attacked excellently down the right and even though his cross was poor, it came to Endo on the edge of the area but he spooned his shot over. Fujiharu then whipped in a good ball from the left that had the defence and keeper bamboozled but Rocha could not quite get on the end of it.

The final big chance of the half came for the visitors after they counter attacked from our corner. Fujiharu got caught 2 on 1 and failed to deal with the high ball and when Arano picked up a pass just outside the area with only Kaji to beat and Ferro in support, it looked dangerous. Fujiharu and Nishino however got back quickly to squeeze out the space as Arano’s touch was terrible following a one-two with Ferro. A bit fortunate there but good recovery and desire by the youngsters.

The first half was not what we wanted to see and if Consadole had a sharper attacking threat, we would have paid for it. There was no real tempo to our game in the first 25-30 minutes but there were signs of improvements that saw us get into the game and I was expecting us to build upon that going into the break.

2nd Half:
Boy oh boy didn’t we come out of the traps flying! After Rocha was taken down just outside of the penalty area on the right-hand side which earned Uehara a yellow card, Endo placed the ball and whipped in a delicious ball onto the edge of the 6 yard box which beat Ferro at the near post and this allowed Takaharu Nishino to steam in a bullet of a header past the defenceless Sugiyama. That goal is Takaharu’s first professional goal and he could not quite believe it but he attacked the ball well and really could not miss from there, as long as he hit the target. He was delighted and I was delighted for him.

Consadole could hardly regroup when they were 2-0 down and this time it was a piece of individual brilliance from Takashi Usami. Endo played a simple pass to Usami who was allowed to turn and attack the space in-between midfield and defence and he somehow managed/was allowed to cut through the entire defence with a sharpish turn of speed and he rifled home from 12 yards as Sugiyama dived away from the swerving ball. Words do not do the goal justice at all but it was incredible. We all know he has that in his locker and I am sure it will not be the last time either.

Usami and RochaConsadole made 2 subs before and after the goal with Mikami and Miyazawa taken off for Sunagawa and Maeda but Usami’s confidence grew as he just put a volley over his shoulder over the bar. Okazaki was booked for fouling then kicking the ball away in what was is last contribution to the game as Futagawa replaced him and Omori joined him in the book for over-complaining about another contentious penalty decision, this time on Rocha, as the Brazilian was taken down as he went to shoot.

Not that that bothered the Brazilian as he made it 5 goals in 4 games to make it 3-0. Following a corner, Futagawa made his way to the right and picked up a simple pass on the touchline, picked up his head and found Rocha unmarked at the back post who exquisitely headed back across goal and right into the bottom corner, giving Sugiyama no chance as the technique was spot on. His celebration was a continuation of his love for the fans as he bowed and made a heart sign showing how much the club has captured his heart.

He was given a break in the 80th minute as Hirai came on although Rocha had his right leg strapped up well on the bench, whilst Myojin came on for Usami for the final few moments. There were a few efforts by the visitors but the only thing they managed to achieve was an injury to Ferro who attempted an overhead kick but he landed awkwardly, leading to him collapsing as he headed to the away fans and being taken to hospital after the match. Worrying stuff and he will be staying in Osaka for the time being as he is in poor physical condition, the club have reported. I send my wishes to Ferro and I hope for a speedy recovery.

All in all, our second half performance was excellent and we showed some real quality that swept aside Sapporo with consummate ease in the end. A mix of individual and team quality ensured that we left with some good goals and a clean sheet whilst swerving another tricky match. In the end, it was a deserved 3-0 win.

NishinoMan of the Match:
When your team keeps a clean sheet from the second game in a row because of your inclusion and you score your first ever professional goal, only one man can be man of the match and that man is Takaharu Nishino. I absolutely love this guy and it comes as no surprise that we kept another clean sheet again with him involved. He also got the ball rolling today for the score line with a bullet header and was ecstatic about that. I could never understand why he was forced out of the team by the Niwa-Iwashita partnership because he is simply the best centre back we have. I am absolutely delighted for him and long may that continue.

Where it leaves both teams:
The victory keeps us top and extends our lead too, thanks to an away defeat for Vissel Kobe, losing out by a score line of 3-2 at the hands of the consistently inconsistent Montedio Yamagata. Things further improved as JEF United also lost for the second week in a row, also thanks to a 3-2 loss which came against Matsumoto Yamaga. The chasing pack of Kyoto and Nagasaki additionally lost, 1-0 to Yokohama FC and 2-1 to Avispa Fukuoka respectively which allowed Tokushima Vortis to leap into 4th place following their 2-0 win over Kataller Toyama.

Consadole slip down to 11th from 9th and find themselves 6 points away from 6th place but just 2 from Mito HollyHock in 7th, so they were not hurt too much but could have done with some points as 5 of the 6 teams around them picked up wins. I believe that the Hokkaido side will be pretty close to that final play-off place which could go to anyone who wants it.

Stats
Gamba Osaka 3-0 Consadole Sapporo

Photos taken from Gamba Osaka’s official website. No copyright infringement intended. Originals here and here.

Match Preview – 18/08/2013 – J2: Section 29 – Gamba Osaka v Consadole Sapporo

Gamba Osaka PredictionAs we enter the final third of the season, we welcome Consadole Sapporo to Banpaku for a local time kick-off of 18:00. The jointly relegated sides have had pretty decent seasons in their own regards and the contest should be a good one with both teams coming into the match with home wins in the previous round.

We come into this came having beaten Avispa Fukuoka 1-0 thanks to a Kotaro Omori inspired performance which saw the lad set-up Rocha’s first home goal whilst working his socks off for the 70 minutes he was on the pitch. Consadole come into this game having won 2-0 at home to Yokohama FC with goals from first-time goal scorer Ferro and a late goal from Mikami that wrapped up the points.

If we take a peek at Sapporo’s away form, we can see that they have played 15 games and drawn just once whilst splitting the rest between wins and draws. They have scored 19 and conceded 18 in those 15 matches. Added to our home form of 7 wins and 7 draws from 14 games, we can see that the odds would favour a Gamba win if Sapporo have it their way, in terms of stats. If we have it our way, we will not lose. Anything after that is possible.

The meeting earlier this season went our way. After a dodgy start where we took just 1 win and 4 draws, we deservedly took all 3 points away from the Dome for the second season running as a Shu Kurata inspired performance saw Leandro, Ienaga and Iwashita net in a 3-1 win. None of those players can play in the reverse fixture. The last meeting at Banpaku also went our way as Leandro netted a hat-trick and Ienaga got his first goal on his return to Gamba (and ironically his last was that one against Sapporo earlier in the season), as well as goals from Akihiro Sato, Konno and an own-goal resulted in a 7-2 home win. It would be surprising if such a result returned this time out.

Consadole Sapporo PredictionYou would believe that our team will not change, or change very little, from the team that started last weekend. If we look at the injured players, then we can see that Sato and Abe have stepped-up their training this week by joining in with the main squad whilst Paulinho and Iwashita stick to just running. Kurata is still down to simply training exercises but does do the odd running. In that regard, there is not much that can be changed really, except for the fact that Akihiro Sato will make the bench if news reports are to believed, with the striker available for about 15 minutes if needed, which is absolutely excellent news. Endo and Konno played the full 90 minutes for Japan in their 4-2 loss to Uruguay but will be expected to slot back into the first team having 4 days to prepare for this match. There are slight doubts about Rocha after training alone on Friday and he might end up on the bench. However, I expect the same 11 to start from last weekend’s 11.

Consadole come with just 2 players reportedly injured with midfielders Ryuji Kawai and Hiroyuki Furata supposedly unable to make the trip. All eyes will be on whether new signing Le Cong Vinh gets his debut or not. Most reports suggest that the Vietnamese star will probably make the bench but it would not be surprising if he does make it onto the pitch at some point. Another player people will be taking about is striker Ferro, but only because of his 197cm stature. We might see a couple of changes from the team that won last weekend but I feel Le Cong Vinh will have to watch from the sidelines at the start. Sapporo’s predicted team is to the side.

Takaharu NishinoI think it comes as no surprise that with Takaharu Nishino returning to the back four meant we kept a clean sheet last weekend, so he will be my man to watch this weekend. The defence was a bit jittery last weekend and in Okayama, Konno was the weak link but Nishino really does know how to get clean sheets and it was no surprise to see us get one within 2 games of his return to the defence. His exclusion was baffling at best with Niwa and Iwashita an erratic pairing to say the least. Takaharu is the leader we need in defence and he will do well to keep Konno from wandering away from his duties. I honestly believe Nishino is the best centre back we have and with Ferro (and his height) and potentially Le Cong Vinh to deal with, Takaharu’s influence will be a huge influence on whether we take all 3 points or not. I am sure he can help us towards that goal.

Having mentioned the home and away form of both teams, I can only see those figures pointing in one direction. I am keeping to my streak of predicting a Gamba win and I will call a 3-0 win, just like I did for the reserve fixture. I hope Hasegawa was happy with the win but not the performance last week and I hope he will get the players firing on all cylinders. We have players in form like Rocha and Omori so we need them to get the ball running but with Usami and Uchida also putting in good performances, things do look positive. The key will be whether Sapporo come and play, which I assume they will, and whether we can keep them from scoring. But I think the gulf between the teams is too big and a somewhat comfortable home win should be on the cards.