We 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.
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.
Uesato 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.
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.
Consadole 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.
Man 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.