A superb second half performance and an all-round comfortable showing did not prevent us from falling to our first defeat of the Nabisco Cup campaign at the hands of Shimizu S-Pulse in front of 8,033 people at Nihondaira.
A few changes were made from the 2-0 defeat to Sagan Tosu. In defence, Takaharu Nishino and Kim Jung-Ya took over at centre-back from Iwashita and Niwa – Kim making his first appearance since his return to the club. Out came Myojin, Abe, Lins and Sato for Kurata, Omori, Futagawa and Ogawa, the latter making his full professional debut. Places on the bench for non-regulars Yuto Uchida and newly professionalised Yosuke Ideguchi, as well as a first appear in a Gamba squad for Evson.
Little occurred in the first 20 minutes or so as both teams sparred with each other and the first real chance turned up in the 25th minute as Endo went to take a shot but slipped on the greasy surface – his poor effort turning into an excellent pass for Kurata who controlled well but poked wide of the post and was made to pay for that miss less than 10 minutes later as Nagasawa put the hosts ahead in the 33rd minute. Omae was allowed to dribble forwards in midfield and his pass went through his target and Nishino, who was too tight, and the ball ran on through to Nagasawa who simply slid the ball past Higashiguchi in goal. Kim Jung-Ya had stopped with his hand up for offside (which it was not) and was disappointing in his lack of effort.
There was nothing else major to report in the first half. The combination of Futagawa and Ogawa was not working up front, simply because they had never played in that system together before, and whilst we were comfortable, we made another silly error to concede a silly goal. 1-0 down but I felt that we could turn it around for sure as long as we could move the solid defence of S-Pulse around a bit.
Two changes at half time came with Futagawa and Ogawa being replaced by Lins and Sato. We started the second half as we would go on throughout it, with excellent passing football and creating chances galore without the finishing touch – not for the want of trying though. Fujiharu had the first chance, getting his boot onto the end of an Omori cross but he could only direct it over the bar. Sato and Lins then had long-range efforts without a positive result as we hit the hour mark and Sato scuffing a decent chance after a scramble in the box.
We continued to pile on the pressure and it was Oh Jae-Suk who was the real threat going forward. His tantalising cross was not put in but after another scramble, Omori tried an overhead kick from 18 yards which was comfortably cleared off the line after the keeper had gone walkies. Oh and Kurata both had decent chances but headed at the keeper and well over the bar respectively and entering the last 10 minutes, Oh and Lins had both been booked.
The Brazilian tried again and sent a lovely half volley just over the crossbar and Tatsuya Uchida came on for Kim in the final minutes. Oh almost pulled us back level in the final moments from the edge of the penalty area but Kushibiki got down well to save it and earn his side all 3 points.
The second half display was all-out attack and we should have and probably deserved something out of it but when you do not take your chances, you can only blame yourself. We were over really good and the connection between the forward players were good and I had no complaints with the effort and desire shown by the players. On another day, we would have scored 4 or 5.
Gamba Man of the Match
Oh Jae-Suk was superb in the second half and his attacking play was brilliant. He really showed that he is a good player and silenced his critics from the weekend. He made good chances and maybe should have had one himself and really gave his all so that we could get something from the game. He was the best player in the second half and took the mantle, even from right-back, and I was very happy for him to do so. I hope he gets more chances to show us that he is a good player and I hope he continues to take any chances that come his way.
We stay 3rd in Group A with Vissel not playing. S-Pulse stay top on 6 points and lead FC Tokyo by 2 points after they drew with Vegalta Sendai whilst Kashima Antlers downed Sagan Tosu to take 4th place. The group will take a lot more twists and turns as the final 4 rounds go by and I expect every team to lose at least once.
Photo taken from Gamba Osaka’s Official Site. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.