Another disappointing day in the league as we succumbed to our second 2-0 defeat in a row at early pace-setters Kashima Antlers at Banpaku in front of 12,899 spectators. Our lack of a finishing touch up front and a lack of solid leadership at centre-back was the difference between the two sides on this day.
Kenta Hasegawa made a fair amount of changes following the midweek excursion to Shizuoka in the Nabisco Cup, with the impressive and somewhat unfortunate Oh Jae-Suk being replaced by back injury returnee Akira Kaji at right-back, whilst the standard partnership of Iwashita and Niwa took over from the Kim and Nishino, the latter surely knocking on the door for Niwa’s spot in the team. Kurata, Sato and Lins took over from Omori, Futagawa and Ogawa as they all dropped to the bench. There was no place for Tatsuya Uchida on the bench which was disappointing, but he turned his duties to a high-five event outside the stadium. Myojin took his place after being rested in midweek. We formed with a 4-4-2 which could be classed as more of our standard 4-2-3-1.
The first 10 minutes were fairly even between the two sides with Lins crossing low for Sato who was beaten by his marker whilst Davi pulled a good save from Higashiguchi after Iwashita and Niwa went for a walk. Sato was involved in two pieces of good play that should have resulted in goals, the first with him just failing to connect to a good cross from Kurata and then second a super pass down the wing for Abe and with Sato free in the box, the midfielder failed to get it back to the big man up top.
Davi should have made it 1-0 to the visitors just minutes later after a good cross from Antlers’ Endo, who found the Brazilian unmarked on the 6 yard line but he only managed to hit the crossbar on the volley with Iwashita ball watching. Kurata responded with a brilliant pass to Fujiharu who had to shoot with his weaker right foot which made the save comfortable for Sogahata in goal, leading us to the 30 minute mark all square.
Davi finally made us pay in the 38th minute with a snap-shot from 20 yards which found its way into the bottom corner of the goal, giving Higashiguchi no chance. Niwa and Konno got the ball stuck between the two of them and Davi dragged Konno down to get the ball but rifling his shot home. The goal should not have stood and we should have had a free kick but again the sub-standard refereeing bit us hard again.
On that sour note, half time came. We were decent enough but lacked a decisive blow whilst the Antlers did, albeit illegally. Nevertheless, I do not think we could have many complaints about being a goal down and we needed to show more in the second half in all areas of the pitch to get back into the game.
The first thing that happened in the half was Kurata getting booked for a pull after his man got away from him and then he let the ball get away from him and allowed his man to get a pass to Davi who was on the last defender, but he could only smash his effort right at Higashiguchi from an acute angle. So Kurata was pulled for Futagawa around the hour mark whilst Sato’s barren touch again crept into his game. He was later subbed for Omori. Even Endo was playing poorly (not for the first time mind you) as he was getting frustrated and eventually earned him a yellow card.
To be honest, little happened in the way of goal-scoring chances apart from that Davi chance up until the 84th minute when 19 year-old Caio made it 2-0 for the visitors to seal the points following another dubious goal on his full debut. An unchallenged cross from the left was headed across goal by Davi which hit Shibasaki and came out to Caio to smash home from the penalty spot. Whilst Shibasaki may have been marginally offside – although it was too quick to tell – he definitely handled the ball back to the youngster to net his first professional goal. It does not help when your defenders stop instead of playing to the whistle but such is what Niwa and Iwashita do. Referees are no fun when they get it obviously wrong.
Whilst Niwa was exchanged for Myojin, the game was done and dusted. We could blame the officials for some vital decisions that went wrong but at the same time, we can only blame ourselves. Toothless up front and the centre-backs being about as clueless as a fan wanting to wear pink – you know what I mean. We had nothing to offer against a strong opponent and made it too easy for them. It looks like a goal will never come, but when it does come another one will probably swiftly follow. Until then, we need to show more desire and drive to grind out the points.
Gamba Man of the Match
Nobody stood out and therefore no-one gets it.
We are in the bottom three for the first time this season, but I am sure that things will look different each week. There is no reason to panic yet because we do have enough quality and there are teams worse than us. Saying that, it did not help us in 2012. Even if it does become a relegation battle, I will be with the team 100%. There is no room for negativity.