Another disappointing away result for Gamba as we once again conceded the first goal, only to take the lead but then give away a silly equaliser, much like the Yokohama FC match. More defensive lapses cost us whilst we wasted some great chances. A record home crowd of 17.148 for Matsumoto Yamaga added an excellent atmosphere which helped the 10-man side over the line to gain an overall undeserved point.
Kenta Hasegawa made no changes to the starting eleven that demolished Mito HollyHock 5-0 as Akira Kaji shook off his foot injury that he picked up in that win. There was just one change to the bench, which saw Paulinho return once again from an injury in place of Shoki Hirai, who is out of favour and very much out of sorts. Tomokazu Myojin still has a tiny knock that is keeping him from joining in but he should be back sooner rather than later.
Matsumoto Yamaga also kept with the same starting eleven from the previous round, in which they lost 2-1 to Fagiano Okayama away. They made two changes on the bench however, with Kenta Komatsu and Shun Nagasawa coming in for Akihito Kusunose and Kohei Kurata. They stuck with their standard 3-4-2-1 system with the 2 behind the striker coming as the support.
Matsumoto Yamaga FC XI – Shirai, Iida, Tatara, Inukai, Tamabayashi, Iwanuma, Kiyama, Abe, Iwakami, Funayama, Shiozawa.
Matsumoto Yamaga FC Subs – Murayama, Kawanabe, Tetsuto, Komatsu, Iio, Rodrigo, Nagasawa.
Gamba Osaka XI – Fujigaya, Kaji, Niwa, Konno, Fujiharu, Uchida, Endo, Abe, Futagawa, Rocha, Usami.
Gamba Osaka Subs – Kimura, Hoshihara, Nishino, Omori, Okazaki, Paulinho, Kawanishi.
For the 6th away match in a row, we conceded early on in the match, also continuing the fact that we have failed to keep a clean sheet away from home since 15th June against Mito HollyHock. After Tamabayashi won a corner for the hosts down the right side even though we had started better and we paid for a bit of slack defending at the near post by Rocha, who lost his man Shiozawa. The zonal marking system allowed the Yamaga striker to flick his header in at the near post following the corner by Iwakami and Niwa could not reach far enough to stop it going in. 1-0 down after 5 minutes; the standard away start.
The goal rocked us a bit and Konno had to do some excellent defending (I have never said that before) during a one-on-one situation following a quick free kick to keep it at just 1-0. We bit back in the 14th minute as Rocha found the net for the first time in 3 league games in the 14th minute. Futagawa was given too much time and space to cross from the left edge of the penalty area and his cross led to confusion between the defence and goalkeeper, making Shirai spill the ball to Rocha who was not going to miss from 1 yard out. Game on.
Yamaga could have restored their lead almost immediately but a free header was put well over and from here, we dominated the half. Fujiharu was marauding down the left and causing problems for Yamaga, but the bigger problem came for them when their goalkeeper Shirai gathered a corner from Endo but landed awkwardly on his ankle, turning it very badly, meaning that he was substituted for Murayama in the 24th minute. We dominated ball possession but our crossing accuracy was terrible at times, as was our shooting, with Abe the biggest culprit as he sent several shots wide of the target during the first half. We were making chances but not doing much with them as Yamaga sat back and got in last minute challenges to force our efforts wide.
So finally, we took the lead in the 39th minute. After at least 20 passes with minimal contact by Yamaga players to the ball, Endo worked his magic and spotted Kaji bursting into the box down the right, so he deliciously crossed it to the right-back, who from 6 yards squared the ball across goal to Rocha to net yet another easy goal. What an awesome bit of play with the passing football and the vision by Endo to pick out Kaji. The goal was well deserved and was masterfully taken.
The goal came when Yamaga were defending at their deepest, allowing all of our players to sit in their half (except Fujigaya, of course), meaning that they could not get out. Konno did have to defend exceptionally well when Yamaga did try to catch us off guard, whilst Usami spurned an excellent chance to make it 3-1 in the 4th minute of added time as he could only hit the side netting after Fujiharu had spotted him free in the box.
The half time whistle came when we did not want it and you felt that we really needed another goal to kill off Yamaga, who had scored with their only real chance. We were wasteful, for sure, but had been patient and got the rewards from that. We needed to be stronger at the back and needed to finish off one more chance.
Yet we did not do that at all in the second half and conceded another early goal. After Endo misplaced a pass in the 48th minute, we were lucky to concede just a throw-in as our defence scrambled the ball away to safety. This throw-in was taken long however and with us set-up to mark spaces and not men, Inukai started his run into the box from the edge of it with no-one challenging him. Of course, he would not have scored from just 2 yards if Fujigaya had collected the ball that was within his grasp, but the old Fujigaya made a cameo (I hope), letting the ball go straight through his hands and to the unmarked Inukai. That is why I do not like zonal marking much. It cost us both goals, joined with poor goalkeeping.
Fujigaya looked shot to pieces after that as he caused 2 heart-stopping moments before the hour mark and we were being pressed back by the Yamaga attack force that had turned up in the second half. With Yamaga being rough with their play, Endo was cut on the eyebrow and forced off for treatment, returning to the field of play just before the 60th minute. 4 minutes later, Usami should have made it 3-2 to us. A speedy chipped ball by Kaji to him was chested down to Futagawa, who chipped the ball over the defence for Usami to run onto but from 7 yards he somehow managed to volley wide of the far post and waste the best chance left in the game. Funayama responded with a 40 yard rocket that forced Fujigaya into a decent save.
Heading into the last 20 minutes, Hasegawa made two changes, taking off Usami and the shocking Abe and bringing on Kawanishi and Okazaki. Into the 73rd minute, Futagawa sent in an excellent ball from the left but nobody got on the end of it, whilst Fujiharu did the same a minute later but Okazaki was well marshalled. Just as the hosts had subbed their opening goal scorer Shiozawa for Nagasawa, they went down to 10 men as Abe was given a straight red card for a dangerous and uncontrolled challenge that saw him dive into the air and catching the battle scarred Endo on his right ankle. Absolutely no complaints for that one, although Abe was pleading his innocence in vain, whilst the partisan crowd was wrongly shocked.
With 10 minutes remaining, Yamaga changed their tactics to getting a point. With Kawanishi looking lively, his shot into the side netting was a warning as Rocha was set-up nicely by Fujiharu from the centre but the Brazilian went for pace rather than accuracy from an acute angle, forcing Murayama to punch over for a corner. Yamaga brought on Iio for Tamabayashi to sure up their defence whilst Paulinho came on for Futagawa to add another man into the attack but we did not threaten the goal and had to settle for the draw.
Considering the goals we conceded and the chances we made, we should be disappointed with the draw. I said before the game that a point would not be so bad, but the game was there to win and we failed to take our chances whilst giving away sloppy goals. Looking at the other results from the day, it was a day of disappointment in the end. The good news was that Rocha got back onto the score sheet and Paulinho made his return to the squad.
Man of the Match:
Although Rocha scored 2 goals, I never ever give him Man of the Match because he does not do anything else, even if this is what a goal scorer should do. To be honest, Hiroki Fujiharu has been on fire in recent times and was once again one of our biggest threats. Things have been difficult for us recently as we have won just 2 from the last 5 games and seem to be stuck in a rut that basically says that we know we are going to be promoted and we are fine with that. Fujiharu is playing some excellent football from left back and was always involved in the attacking play we had. He knows how to pick a cross, get past his man and make good chances. He has been the stand-out man in the last 5 games, and I love him for it.
Where it leaves both teams:
The gap at the top for us was wiped out completely as Vissel Kobe ended Tokushima Vortis’ long 12 match unbeaten run by winning 3-2 at home. We stay top on goal difference but it is really disappointing to see our 7 point lead drop to 0 points. With results going their way, Kyoto Sanga managed to take 3rd place after winning 3-2 at home to Kataller Toyama, although they still sit 14 points behind us. As Vortis, Nagasaki and JEF all lost, the gap to Consadole Sapporo in 7th is just 4 points. Their victory over Nagasaki was bad for Yamaga, who fell to 9th despite taking a point as Yamagata leaped over them into 8th. Yamaga have still got a great chance though, and will not be giving things up lightly.
Photo taken from jxxxxxx.backdrop.jp. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.