Our return after a 2 week holiday from Banpaku was celebrated with a clean sheet and a home win which saw new boy Rocha net on his home debut in front of 13,440 people in a game with sloppy defences but a hell of a lot of profligacy. The win was highly welcomed, especially after seeing what happened elsewhere to our rivals.
Gamba made one change to the side that started against Fagiano Okayama and it was no surprise to see Tatsuya Uchida come in for Takahiro Futagawa after his superb display that dragged us to the win last weekend. The only other change to the entire team came on the bench as Shota Kawanishi dropped out in place of Takuya Takei, someone who has hardly been near the match day squad in recent months.
Avispa made a single of change to their line-up from their 3-2 defeat against Tokyo Verdy. Mishima slotted into the back 4 in place of Miyamoto, who was dropped out of the entire squad for Kanakubo who slid in at left-back. The visitors changed to a 4-5-1 formation from a 3-4-3 formation. Would the extra men in midfield work though?
Gamba Osaka XI – Fujigaya, Kaji, Nishino, Konno, Fujiharu, Myojin, Uchida, Omori, Endo, Rocha, Usami.
Gamba Osaka Subs – Kimura, Oh J.S., Niwa, Futagawa, Takei, Okazaki, Hirai.
Avispa Fukuoka XI – Kamiyama, Mishima, Gon, Tsutsumi, Kanamori, Nakahara, Kanakubo, Funayama, Jogo, Ishizu, Sakata.
Avispa Fukuoka Subs – Kasagawa, MIyamoto, Yamaguchi, Omata, Okada, Ushinohama, Nishida.
Avispa got the first real chance of the match in the 7th minute as Fujigaya could only flap and push a Kanakubo shot towards Jogo at the back post but he reacted too late and only put the ball in the side netting as we got off lightly with that. We bit back in the 12th minute as Fujiharu got in-behind the Avispa defence from an Usami pass and he squared for Omori but the Avispa defence recovered to steal the ball ahead of the winger to concede a corner which came to nothing.
But he shook that off to set-up Rocha for his first goal at home. Uchida started the move off again by sliding a pass to Kaji on the right, who followed that up by getting a pass to Omori further forward and he waited for Rocha to hit the box before crossing over the unaware Gon and to the head of Rocha who was free and simply headed into the bottom corner past Kamiyama to make it 1-0 to us.
We seemed to take our foot of the gas after the goal though as the defence left us with more to be desired with Endo conceding a free kick that was smartly taken as a pass past the wall which ended up with a shot blocked on the line by Nishino. The game wandered for the next 10 minutes until Ishizu found acres of space between defence and midfield but he could only sting Fujigaya’s gloves whilst Jogo was caught offside 5 yards from goal when he should have netted it. Our attacking threat seemed to vanish and Avispa counter-attacked from our corner but Uchida did well to clear as the last man, but the ball came to Ishizu and under pressure from Uchida, he fired a superb shot towards the bottom corner but Fujigaya got an excellent fingertip touch onto it as the visitors could not find a way through.
That got us to half time and we were lucky to be ahead after starting decently. The goal was well made and I always felt like we could get more if we were patient and used the space that Avispa afforded us a bit better, but we did not take the chance and instead allowed the visitors to feel that they could get something from the second half.
We got the first real chance of the half just 2 minutes in as Endo picked out Konno with his second cross following a corner and while the defender chested down well, he rushed the shot despite having time and space which meant he could only fire right at Kamiyama in goal. Kanakubo and Omori picked up the only bookings in the match before the hour mark but it was on the hour mark where we should have made the game ours as Rocha drew the 2 final defenders to him before playing a lovely pass to Usami who entered the box one-on-one with Kamiyama and with a left foot shot, he beat the keeper but also the far post by inches. We could have been talking about rued chances as Kanakubo smashed a 22 yard shot off the underside of Fujigaya’s bar just moments later after Konno and Nishino did not know whether to come and press or leave it to the midfield.
Avispa were hereafter forced into just long range shots that did trouble Fujigaya one bit. Omori, Usami and Rocha were taken off between the 70th and 80th minutes, with Okazaki, Hirai and Takei coming on. Before the final substitution, Hirai almost set up Rocha with a tap-in with his first touches but the Avispa defence just about denied him the shooting chance. Okazaki had the same treatment in the 86th minute by the Avispa defence as we set ourselves up to defend whilst looking to counter attack. The good thing was Avispa really looked clueless on how to break us down and they did not threaten the goal as the clock ran down until the full time whilst came.
It certainly was not the best performance in the world but we did just enough to keep Avispa at bay which meant that we kept a clean sheet for the first time in 6 weeks. It was finally a quiet game after seeing 14 goals in the last 3 matches and we should really praise the positives and hopefully learn from the negatives of not putting the game to bed whilst giving Avispa too many chances in the first half. The inclusion of 4 players who came through the youth team ranks shows that our heart of the team today came from our own system.
Man of the Match:
Once again a youngster gets my vote for man of the match and although Tatsuya Uchida followed up with his superb performance last week with another great display, he was beaten to the mark by Kotaro Omori this time out. Omori has really taken his chances since first appearing against FC Gifu at the start of last month and has picked up 5 assists in his 6 appearances. Today, he was the spark in attack being involved in most of the dangerous plays and set-up Rocha once again with a brilliant cross. His work ethic should not be ignored either as he was willing to get back and defend, showing all the right signs to fight for the cause. In such a short time, he has leapt from the bottom to the top of the winger pecking order. He can only get better at 21.
Where it leaves both teams:
Gamba stayed top of the table but extended our lead at the top of the table to 4 points as Vissel Kobe somehow managed to lose to bottom of the table FC Gifu 1-0 on the road. In fact, the rest of top 6 did not win as JEF United Chiba, Kyoto Sanga and V-Varen Nagasaki all lost whilst Tokushima Vortis could only draw 0-0 away to Matsumoto Yamaga. Both JEF and Sanga lost to lowly opposition in what was a shocking day at the top of the table as only Gamba from the top 7 at the start of the match day ended up with 3 points. The defeat meant that Avispa dropped from 7th to 9th as Tokyo Verdy and our next opponents Consadole Sapporo leapfrogged them whilst Mito Hollyhock joined Avispa on 40 points. They are only 5 points away from the last play-off place which seems like it will be open until the wire.
What a lovely day.
Photo taken from J’s Goal. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.