Bish 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.
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.
That 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.
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.
Rocha 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:
A 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.