Promotion! We did it, we finally did it! With Vissel Kobe drawing 0-0 with Kyoto Sanga 6 hours after we beat Roasso Kumamoto at a canter, that draw signalled our long-anticipated return to J1 as well as our return to top spot in the league. 11,402 people turned up to foggy and wet Banpaku to see us do our side of the deal in style as Roasso put up little fight knowing that their season is practically over with their safety from relegation secure.
Kenta Hasegawa made one change to the team that started in the last two matches with Kotaro Omori dropping from the squad with a hamstring injury. His replacement in the starting line-up was Takahiro Futagawa whilst with Myojin out injured and Omori out of the team, Oh Jae-Suk and Kenya Okazaki returned to the bench. Akihiro Sato’s return home started from the bench.
The visitors Roasso made 3 changes to the starting eleven that beat V-Varen Nagasaki 1-0 in their last match. In came midfielders Kuroki and Horigome, as well as striker Kitajima for Kurakawa, the suspended Yabu and Hugo. Kurakawa dropped out of the team completely and despite bringing only 6 substitutes with them, Roasso added Douglas to that list of bench warmers.
Gamba Osaka XI – Fujigaya, Kaji, Niwa, Nishino, Fujiharu, Konno, Uchida, Futagawa, Endo, Kurata, Usami.
Gamba Osaka Subs – Kimura, Oh J.S., Abe, Takei, Okazaki, Rocha, Sato.
Roasso Kumamoto XI – Minami, Aoki, Yano, Tsuyuki, Horigome, Kuroki, Yoshii, Katayama, Fabio, Nakama, Kitajima.
Roasso Kumamoto Subs – Hata, Takahashi, Fukuo, Osako, Douglas, Hugo.
It took only 7 minutes for us to take the lead as Yasuhito Endo headed home from a Takahiro Futagawa cross from 7 yards. The captain started the move 20 yards in his own half before sliding it out to the left with Fujiharu and Usami linking before Futagawa picked his head up and found the captain unmarked in the middle of the penalty area. Terrible defending by Roasso but excellent attacking football by Gamba ending in my man to watch finding the next for the first time since his amazing free kick against Tokyo Verdy back in July.
It took only 4 minutes to double that lead after Kurata won a free kick that was headed on goal by Niwa but Minami pushed it wide of the post. He was not be denied from the following corner though as Usami headed straight at Minami but Niwa was at hand to bang in his second goal in two games from 5 yards, again following some slack marking from the corner by Kurata. It was a great start that helped to get any nerves out of the system quickly.
It was all one-way traffic really in the first half as Endo and Konno both had decent chances saved by the unguarded Minami, as did Usami, because Roasso continued to give out space for us to attack. Kurata then had his 20 yard pile driver hit the outside of the post and then a Fujiharu cross with men waiting was just about scuppered. Futagawa crossed to Kurata on the left but he volleyed down and into the ground as chances galore rained. Kurata continued to be denied as a Kaji cross just eluded his toes from 8 yards as the third goal was only a matter of time.
So Usami netted his well-deserved goal in the 40th minute as his low effort took a nice deflection to take it out of the reach of Minami in goal following a simple pass from Futagawa. Just another easy goal albeit helped by the deflection. To say 3-0 was flattering Roasso at the break was the truth. It was a half where we played with ease and destroyed Roasso who had simply turned up to do anything in particular. They gave away too much space, had no organisation and did not threaten our goal once in the first half. It was just a matter of how many more they would concede.
The visitors reacted by taking off Horigome for Osako but it was Usami and Futagawa who linked superbly, the former latching onto the latter’s chipped pass over the Roasso “defence” but Usami hit it right at Minami. Endo then wasted 2 great chances in 5 minutes, being supplied by the ever-controlling Futagawa.
The game went quiet for the next 15 minutes or so as Roasso took off Nakama for Douglas whilst Futagawa earned a deserved break following his exploitations, being replaced by Hiroyuki Abe. Kaji then almost scored from a cross as his effort was heading in if Minami had not reacted well to push it over the bar – this chance coming after great determination by Uchida and a classy pass from Usami. Konno thought he had made it 4-0 after Nishino’s header from a Kurata free-kick in the 72nd minute was superbly pushed onto the post by Minami but Konno was wrongly flagged for offside, putting the ball in from 3 yards. A very poor decision but we need not complain; it was not going to change the result.
The final changes of the match came as Kitajima went off for Hugo whilst Akihiro Sato made his home return in place of Takashi Usami. Hugo did bring some life into his side as he fired probably the first shot of the half for the visitors straight at Fujigaya, but it was Akihiro Sato who wheeled away in delight just a minute later as Konno crossed to the back post and Sato’s well-remember determination to get to the ball first won it for him and he absolutely rifled home his half-volley that brought a smile to the faces of all the players and coaching staff. What a great goal and what a great way to finish the game in style. 4-0, 86 minutes gone.
Game over, the result and the performance we needed to put the pressure on Kobe which they floundered at. A clean sheet and a goal by Akihiro Sato made it the perfect day for Gamba Osaka (as well as promotion and returning to 1st, of course). Roasso were never in it and barely threatened whilst it could have been 7 or 8 and we would have still flattered Roasso.
Man of the Match:
He came in thanks to an injury to Kotaro Omori but Takahiro Futagawa was running the show against the Kyushu outfit. He bagged himself 2 assists and a well-earned break but he kept picking up the positions in space which allowed him to pick apart the opposition despite being a left-winger. He was rarely found out on the left and caused havoc for the backline down the middle, making it look all too easy to pick a pass and make a chance. While I prefer Omori in the starting eleven, Futagawa is always an excellent option and he showed that class is permanent with this display. Awesome stuff, Takahiro.
Where it leaves both teams:
That victory puts us top, as I have already said, as well as getting us our secured place in J1 for 2014. The team have already said that there are 3 games to go and that being champions is what matters now. Kobe are ahead of Kyoto by 9 points and are almost guaranteed their place in J1 for next season too. With Kyoto our next opponents, I can see us being champions if we beat them.
As for Roasso, they stay down in 18th place having seen Giravanz and Toyama, the teams around them, picking up all three points. Roasso can fall as low as 21st but will undoubtedly stay where they are now. They have got nothing to play for and will probably be looking ahead to next season already.
Photo taken from nekoneko-mvd. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.