A late goal by the hosts saw us crash to our 4th league defeat of the season after a decent display against a tough Kawasaki Frontale team at Todoroki in front of 19,164 spectators. The defeat was perhaps overshadowed by a shocking injury and big return for our travelling team.
The starting line-up saw the changes that were expected following our victory over Omiya Ardija the weekend before. Yasuyuki Konno replaced Akihiro Sato up front, meaning Endo moved as the second striker, whilst Kotaro Omori had suffered a minor right foot injury that left him back in Osaka and saw Shu Kurata deservedly take his place. On the bench, there was no Nishino so Kim took his spot whilst Takashi Usami made his long-awaited return to the first team in place of Naoki Ogawa. The final spot on the bench that changed saw Yuto Uchida join the team for the first time in the league this season.
We got off to a terrible start with Jeci heading home for the hosts after just 5 minutes of play following a free kick. The big centre-half towered above Iwashita to beat him to it and put it into the far corner and past the helpless the helpless Higashiguchi in goal. The Gamba players called for a foul on Iwashita who shot a look at the referee but Jeci was simply stronger and much more determined to win the header.
We responded fairly well with some lovely passing exchanges and control of possession without making Frontale pay for it and it was the hosts who should have made it 2-0 but Yu Kobayashi sent his volley from an acute angle well wide of the target. So it was with delight that Kurata’s lovely cross from the left got a little touch off Endo that steered the ball into the bottom corner to make it 1-1. Shu was allowed to cut in and his tantalising cross was probably going in by itself but Endo made sure with his second goal of the season. Game on!
The goal was nothing more than we deserved after dominating Frontale after conceding and the remainder of the half was more of a defensive job by us with Frontale trying to grind efforts out to no avail. We stood strong and gave no chances away and I think the tactic was the right one being away from home – we maybe could have gone for a second and would have been able to but staying in a game away from home is much more important.
Frontale had the first two decent chances of the half with Renato forcing Higashiguchi into a good save and Nakazawa putting a free header comfortably wide of the far post. Abe then had a glorious chance to score following a delightful cross from Endo from the right but his effort, that he beaten the keeper, was cleared off the line by the covering Tanaka – he did everything but score. Lins followed this with a header just wide.
Okubo should have put the hosts ahead having skied an effort from 4 yards or so over the bar following some quick pressure from Higashiguchi. Usami made his return following 2 months out by replacing Lins up front – a change which baffled me; we needed a bit more control in the midfield and though that Uchida would be taken off for Usami allowing Endo to drop back and dictate the game more – but what do I know? Good to have you back, Takashi!
Okubo missed another glorious opportunity from 4 yards but skied over with his left foot, again unmarked, whilst Endo’s 25 yard free kick was superbly saved to deny his a beauty. With 10 minutes to go, we received another blow at right-back as Oh Jae-Suk was clattered in the face from an overhead kick by Kobayashi who only received a yellow card – surely a red? The lad left on a stretcher and was fortunately only diagnosed with concussion – he was replaced by Myojin with Konno going to right-back.
Usami almost dazzled his away across the penalty area and the ball fell to Myojin whose effort was saved well. Going into the 6 minutes of added time the game seemed to be going to end as a draw but a sucker punch by Okubo gave the hosts all 3 points. A cross from the Kawasaki left saw the striker climb higher than Fujiharu who was unaware of his position and his effort went in off the bar. Both Konno and Fujiharu were to blame – Konno was at centre-back and had left his side exposed.
A tough defeat to take because I thought we had done enough to take a point but when you do not close the ball down and know where your man is, it will cost you. Tactically in the second half we were not great and did not strengthen our cause in the middle of the park. The positive is that Usami is back and looked not bad considering it was just a cameo appearance.
Gamba Man of the Match
I do not know, so no vote this week.
Higashiguchi – 6
Oh Jae-Suk – 6.5
Niwa – 6
Iwashita – 6
Fujiharu – 6
Konno – 6
T.Uchida – 5.5
Abe – 5.5
Kurata – 6.5
Endo – 6.5
Lins – 6
Usami – 6 (Sub)
Myojin – 5.5 (Sub)
Fortunately only Ventforet Kofu managed to pick up points around us having beaten Omiya Ardija 2-0 away from home which saw them climb above us and knock us down one place to 14th. The concerning thing is that the gap above the safer regions of the table is widening. The games that we can win are soon approaching so that is when we will see whether our season is going to be good or bad.
Photo taken from J’s Goal. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.