We slumped to our third league defeat in a row as poor finishing and slack defending allowed hosts Yokohama F.Marinos take a vital 2-0 win in front of a bumper crowd of 35,550 people which saw the hosts edge further away from the relegation battle whilst putting us right in the thick of it.
There were a couple of changes to the team’s line-up after the defeat to Kashiwa Reysol on Tuesday. Firstly, Oh Jae-Suk had indeed quickly recovered from his concussion to return at right-back and this surprisingly meant that Konno dropped to the bench with Uchida staying alongside Endo in defensive midfield. Further forward, Omori took the place of Kurata which was disappointing seeing as Abe has been the one out of the 3 who has been poor in his performances. Finally, Futagawa took his customary place on the bench as Sato earned an unlikely recall to the starting eleven which meant no place in the team for Usami who was again forced to watch from the bench. He was joined there by Takaharu Nishino who had been missing in the last 2 games, probably down to a small injury. This more of a 4-4-2 with the use of Sato in particular was to get us going forward a lot faster, using the direct ball to Sato to play it off to his teammates.
We were by far the better of the two teams and created the first good chance in the 7th minute, with Omori playing Fujiharu in to fire across Enomoto who saved well but the rebound came to Lins who could only head his rushed effort wide of the post – the start of that most some lovely one and two-touch football in the midfield. Our pressing was also good and this forced Marinos into an error which Uchida almost punished but Enomoto saved well to his right – Uchida being booked shortly after for preventing the hosts in taking a quick free kick. What was really evident was the passion, desire and fight the players were showing in the first period.
The next 15 minutes saw Omori and then Lins hacked down on the edge of the area for Endo to step up and take the free kicks but his first was marginally wide and the second crossed in and eventually came to nothing. A quick note from the first free kick which saw Iwashita elbow a Marinos player in the wall and he fortunately got away with it – not good by the centre-back and nothing to advocate. The final talking point of the half came when Shimohira, formerly of Gamba, buried his effort from an acute angle in at the near post but was adjudged to be offside – the replay suggested he was marginally onside and we got away with that one, not that you can blame the linesman for a call as tight as that.
At half time, I felt like the game was ours to take but with us missing some good chances, I always had the worry that the defence would collapse on us at one point like it always seems to do.
We started the half as we finished it, on the front foot with Sato charging down an Enomoto clearance which came to Lins but he went down under a challenge in the box but of course, nothing was given, whilst a couple of half chances came to nothing in the end. So of course, we let the home side take the lead through Fujita. Nakamura played the ball out to the left and Iwashita came over to close his man down without getting close to him, letting the ball come in to the 6 yard box where Fujita, who had escaped the clutches of Niwa who was not paying attention to flick in at the near post under Higashiguchi. The centre backs living up to their lowly reputation and we now had a mountain to climb.
We should have been level immediately as Oh forayed down the right but a cut back and a scramble later saw the ball cleared off the line. On the hour mark, we were all asking the question “How did we not score through Lins?” Fujiharu’s cross came to Sato whose shot was blocked but the ball came to Lins who fired wide of the far post when hitting the target would have meant a certain goal. This profligacy cost us two minutes later as Nakazawa headed home from a corner. He started his run on the edge of the box, unmarked, and continued on his way to the penalty spot in the same fashion, not even needing to jump to get to the ball. Niwa and Iwashita, where were you?
In a 10 minute period, we made all our subs with the injured Uchida coming off for Konno whilst stunningly, Abe kept his spot as Omori was withdrawn for Kurata – I was stunned that Hiroyuki was still on the pitch for the 2nd game in a row. Only later did Usami come on in place of Sato, whose height was sacrificed and therefore our mini game-plan at times to get the ball long to him. Only one clear chance came after these subs and it was Usami who had it, firing a low cross from Oh well over the bar when he was unmarked and had time to pick his spot.
I have no more words. Positive in all aspects apart from the two most important parts – the ability to defend properly and the ability to take our chances, which there were plenty of. Neither were there and that is why we did not win. Hasegawa hanging by a thread?
Gamba Man of the Match
A couple of guys stood out in this most disappointing defeat, and those guys were Kotaro Omori and Oh Jae-Suk. The former was extremely bubbly in the attacking half, making himself a real menace and threat to the Yokohama defence and whilst he did not have any scoring chances, he was the one to be a big part of them. His pace terrified the opponents and this helped us greatly in the first half and of course, he was more than excellent in his defensive duties – he has gone through leaps and bounds in the last year, really cementing himself as our of our better players. As for Oh, a fair few of our good chances to score came thanks to his attacking prowess down the right flank, turning former Gamba man Shimohira inside-out on multiple occasions. He picked out the attackers more often than not and would have bagged himself an assist or two if the strikers had been a lot more clinical. Great play by these two and here is to more of the same from the pair of them!
Higashiguchi – 5.5
Oh J.S. – 7
Niwa – 3
Iwashita – 3
Fujiharu – 5
Endo – 5
T.Uchida – 4.5
Omori – 7
Abe – 4.5
Lins – 4.5
Sato – 5.5
Kurata – 5 (Sub)
Konno – 4.5 (Sub)
Usami – 5.5 (Sub)
We slide back into the relegation zone below Omiya Ardija thanks to an inferior number of goals scored. Being 16th is not the only bad thing, as our next opponents Tokushima Vortis lost to 17th place Vegalta Sendai who now join us on 9 points. Further ahead, we are still within touch of Nagoya Grampus and Ventforet Kofu as both sides lost their games. With Vortis and Grampus up next for us, Kenta Hasegawa’s fate may well be sealed by then.
Photo taken from Gamba Osaka’s Official Site. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.