Our 3rd win of the season in all competitions came in Tosu as we downed hosts Sagan Tosu 2-0 to make it 2 wins from 3 games in the Nabisco Cup to put our qualifying campaign back on track. 4,972 people turned up for the midweek game which saw us take our first victory from Tosu in the professional football era.
What was even better than the win was the amount of players who had come through the youth team throughout the years that were part of the squad. 10 changes were made from the Osaka Derby from the previous weekend with Kotaro Omori the sole survivor as Kenta Hasegawa looked to rest his main men for the up-coming game against Omiya Ardija. Professional debuts were handed to Yuto Uchida and Yosuke Ideguchi, and surprisingly Akito Takagi, the 16 year-old striker still part of the Gamba Youth team and only in his second year of high school – he became the youngest player to make an appearance, even ahead of Takashi Usami. Kohei Kawata finally made his debut for Gamba as goalkeeper after loan stints in J2 and J1, whilst the mix of veterans and youngsters was great to see. The full starting eleven is to the right.
What was even more interesting was the inclusion of only 6 substitutes on the bench, two of them also still part of the Youth team. Midfielders Shota Yomesaka and Mizuki Ichimaru, known to have played in training games from time to time, got their chance to be part of the squad, both just 16 and 17 respectively. It may only be a matter of time before their get their debuts too. The other players on the bench were Kimura, Evson, Sato and Ogawa, the latter probably steaming that he was not chosen over Takagi.
Unfortunately, I could not watch the game because there was no stream available, so I will just talk through the goals and the significance of the game.
There was not a lot of goalmouth action throughout the entire game but with our 5 shots, we scored 2 goals. In the 34th minute, Kurata was at the heart of the goal as he traded passes with a couple of guys before driving inside on his left foot and firing a shot towards the bottom corner which the goalkeeper could only parry straight to Omori, who had done superbly to keep himself onside, then to race in on goal and smash the ball under the keeper from 6 yards to net his 2nd goal of the season. Lovely work by Kurata to drift freely as he does so well in the role behind the striker.
Sagan barely threatened during the half with just a couple of tame efforts that were simple for Kawata in goal, who was looking to make his debut a memorable and clean sheet one.
Takagi was changed immediately after half-time for Sato, the youngster putting in a good 45 minute shift in his unexpected debut. Kurata should have made it 2-0 after Omori drove forward and played a ball over the top of the defence but Kurata, who maybe did not expect the ball to come to him, took a touch to control then fire narrowly wide with his left foot – he will get there, it is just a sticky patch right now.
Even though the hosts threw on talisman Yohei Toyoda, he could not find a way to goal and stop his team falling another goal behind, with Ogawa coming on for Omori and netting immediately. Futagawa picked the ball up from Kurata and sent in a whipped cross from the left which found the excellent run that Naoki made and he got the slightest of touches to flick the ball onto the inside of the post and eventually into the back of the net, 17 minutes remaining.
There was little Sagan could do from there after and even though Oh Jae-Suk (now suspended for the next Nabisco game) and Kurata were both booked, we seemed to float to the finish line. There was even time for Evson to make his debut deep into stoppage time, coming on for Futagawa for seconds of action – happy he at least made it onto the pitch.
What was most impressive about the win was the number of youth products used – 11 of the 17 squad members graduating from the youth team. Even though three players got their professional debuts, we seemed to easy to the win and the young guys got nothing but praise from fans and the manager. Youth is power.
Gamba Man of the Match
I can only go by what Gamba fans have said online, and therefore Yosuke Ideguchi gets the vote. He was as we would expect him to play, with no fear and quite delightfully controlled the game. There was nothing but a buzz of excitement on Twitter from fans watching this guy for the first time and we all know that his future is going to be a very bright one indeed. He will be aiming to a place on the bench on the weekend and it would not be a surprise if he made it. Delighted for the kid.
We stay in 3rd place after this win, level on points with Shimizu S-Pulse but they have a game in hand. FC Tokyo lead the way on 7 points after a 3-0 win over Vissel Kobe whilst Kashima Antlers took a 2-1 victory away from Sendai. Sendai, Kobe and Tosu all look like the outsiders at this point whilst we have everything to play for. The next round of games for us will come around this time of the month in May.
Photo taken from J’s Goal. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.