We ended our 3 match losing streak by somewhat comfortably beating bottom-placed Tokushima Vortis at Banpaku in front of 12,654 paying fans that saw Gamba’s first home clean sheet in J1 since November 2011 in a win over Vegalta Sendai. The win moved us out of the bottom three and saw two players net their first goals of the season.
A couple of changes occurred following our 2-0 defeat to Yokohama F.Marinos on the weekend with Daiki Niwa dropping to the bench with Takaharu Nishino earning his J1 debut as a starter at centre-half. In midfield, Konno rejoined Endo in defensive midfield with Uchida injured whilst Abe went to the bench with Futagawa getting his 3rd start of the season. In the forward department, Usami got his first start since his injury with Akihiro Sato the one to lose out. On the bench we saw Yuto Uchida back on the bench as the other Uchida was missing.
Iwashita was in the wars early on in the game with Douglas bashing the defender’s nose in what has now transpired to caused a fracture for centre-back, but he continued throughout the game nonetheless. The visitors had an early chance following a poor pass by Nishino but Eto fired high and wide from a very tight angle. What was clear was that we were far too deep with the ball and needed to squeeze the play to retain the ball easily, especially with Vortis having all their men behind the ball. Omori and Usami were the ones buzzing around, the former always taking up good positions whilst the later was not afraid to be offside when trying to run behind the high Vortis line.
It was Omori that set up our first good chance, playing a lovely ball down the left for Fujiharu to break behind but with the defence closing on him, he shot from a tight angle and forced a save from Hasegawa. Usami was also not afraid to shoot from distance whilst hitting the target. Just after 30 minutes, Omori played a couple of passes with Lins before setting the forward away into the box but his shot from a difficult angle was easily saved by Hasegawa once more.
With half time looming and Vortis still so rigid, we finally got the breakthrough and it was birthday boy Usami who netted on his starting eleven return in the 39th minute. Endo passed wide to Futagawa who returned the ball inside to Konno whose delightful flick put Fujiharu into the box behind the defence and he picked out Usami in the middle who got a touch ahead of Hasegawa with defender Lee helping the ball home. Most likely an own-goal but nobody was going to deny Usami the goal and us a lead at half time.
Usami was involved early in the second, playing his part in 4 half chances they did not come to fruit – the start of the half was all spark and no fire – whilst Kurata replaced Lins 10 minutes into the half, the Brazilian hardly in the game and deservedly pulled early on in the half. The visitors should have been level moments later as Alex’s corner was flicked on at the near post to Hashiuchi whose header was destined to go in but Higashiguchi pulled off a stunning save to claw the ball away from the line in mid-air. This was the turning point in the game.
A few minutes later, Abe came on for Omori which I was not happy about at the time as Kotaro was once again excellent but Hiroyuki shut me up 10 minutes later by making it 2-0. The goal was all about Oh Jae-Suk’s tenacity to win a throw-in from nothing and he picked out Abe who played a lovely one-two with Futagawa before rifling the ball into the roof of the net from 7 yards. Lovely by Futagawa, the hard work from Oh was superb and the finish from Abe was clinical. Game over.
Douglas was still able to win too many headers as he was winning the aerial battle with Nishino but Higashiguchi made a fine save down to his left and was quick to the loose ball on the rebound. Oh was trying to get himself a goal down the other end but his good effort from the edge of the box was unfortunately deflected wide, whilst Usami was showing glimpses of his best by turning on the edge of the area and firing a wicked effort off the underside of the bar via a minute deflection. Usami, Kurata and a goalmouth scramble did not give us a warranted 3rd goal.
So Kurata did in the third and final minute of added time. Futagawa again pulling the strings and chipping a delightful pass for Shu to run onto and he turned inside easily with his marker slipping and coming in on his right foot he curled a beautiful shot into the far corner to earn his first goal of the season. 倉田スーパーゴール！
It was a hard-earned win and there were many positive things, such as Usami’s return, Kurata’s goal, Futagawa’s top play and Oh Jae-Suk’s impressive display once again. The season has been tough so far but we must continue like this in our final 2 games in the league before the World Cup break. Confidence and morale should be high now and we must use this to beat 2 very beatable opponents. The only way this win will be useful is to go and get good results in the next two matches.
Gamba Man of the Match
There were a few guys who impressed and you can see my full ratings below. If I had to pick from those guys, it would have to be Futagawa but only just. He played a part in all 3 goals and assisted 2 of them, manipulating the space Vortis left him with ease. Whilst it is only Vortis, fans have been saying that he always gets better as summer comes closer and they are not wrong going on this performance – he looked at ease during the whole game and finally started and finished one. Whether he starts against Grampus on the weekend is questionable but we saw the best of Futagawa on Tuesday and I am sure he will be useful be it from the bench or as a starter. Kudos to Oh Jae-Suk and Takashi Usami for excellent performances too!
Higashiguchi – 8
Oh Jae-Suk – 8.5
Nishino – 7
Iwashita – 7.5
Endo – 7
Konno – 7
Omori – 8
Futagawa – 8.5
Lins – 5.5
Usami – 8.5
Kurata – 8 (Sub)
Abe – 8 (Sub)
The matchday was a strange one with Sendai, Omiya and Nagoya all winning whilst Kofu managed a draw meaning that whilst we did not make a break from the pack, we did move out of the relegation zone on goal difference as we traded places with Omiya. There are now 3 sides on 12 points and the small group ahead of us is easily caught if we can beat Nagoya and FC Tokyo next.
Photo taken from Gamba Osaka’s Official Site. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.