Two wins in a row for the first time this season in the league welcomed us after what appeared to be an excellent victory over Nagoya Grampus at the Toyota Stadium in front of 20,781 fans. Nothing like the 5-0 win last time out there but superb nonetheless – just a real shame there was not a single stream to watch the game, but a long highlights video on YouTube is the saviour!
There were two changes to the starting eleven following the win over Tokushima Vortis on Tuesday, with Hiroyuki Abe and Shu Kurata taking the places of Kotaro Omori and Lins – the former unlucky to find himself on the bench but Hasegawa did say that after the game he did want to use Kotaro to use his pace and stretch the game later on. Keisuke Iwashita wore a face mask to protect himself from further injury to his fractured nose. On the bench, Koki Yonekura made his comeback from almost 2 months out by taking the spot of Yuto Uchida whilst Kimura took over from Kawata as the back-up goalkeeper, the latter probably with a slight niggle.
I think this was a good starting eleven given what we have – only Omori could say he deserved to start but was used to full effect later on in the game. The players and the manager finally seemed to be given some freedom and confidence.
We had clear control of the game early on as Abe sent an effort well over in the first few minutes whilst Konno just failed to get his head on a lovely cross by Endo but we were clearly comfortable and confident, the passing was slick and there was a lot of positivity in the attack. Grampus sat off too much and this allowed Usami to turn and play a lovely cross behind their defeat but Abe was beaten to it by a defender. Taguchi with the first effort for Grampus after 12 minutes from the edge of the box which whistled wide.
Kurata forced Narazaki into a good save following a long range effort which concluded a long passage of short, crisp passing through the midfield and attack – a bit more like the Gamba we know. A close call in the 27th minute on a correct offside decision came as Fujiharu and Usami were through on goal but both were offside. A long range free kick from Ogawa did not threaten Higashiguchi in goal. This was a bit of an attacking splurge as Matsuda also fired over with us doing well to fend them off at set-pieces.
We ended the half on the front foot with Usami forcing Narazaki into an easy save whilst we were the attacking side but could not find a breakthrough as the half ended level. We seemed comfortable at the back and sharp going forward without a cutting edge to that point. The football did look good though and thoughts would have been on getting ahead quickly after the break.
We started as we ended with Kurata jinking his way into the box before releasing the ball to Endo and the ball came back to Shu whose effort on the edge of the area was well saved by Narazaki. Usami went down in the box but no penalty was given as he was adamant it was and his “fouler” was adamant it was not. Grampus were limited to long range efforts whilst Omori came on for Futagawa in the 57th minute.
We stopped a Grampus counter well and Kurata forced Narzaki into another decent save at his near post as we pressed for the opener and we finally got it through Hiroyuki Abe. Endo nonchalantly chipped a ball down the side for Kurata to chase and he edged closer to the box, passed to Usami who flicked behind him to Omori who went to shoot but kicked the man chasing him when swinging back, allowing the ball to come to Abe who side-footed home from 14 yards. Lovely goal, fully deserved! Grampus’ lack of pressure came back to bite them.
It should have been 2-0 3 minutes later as Kurata played in Usami and with no defenders around him he beat Narazaki but also the far post by inches – he would have been very disappointed with that. Nagai fired wide down the other end but Fujiharu looks to be getting back to his best as he got behind the Grampus defence with ease. Usami was subbed for Sato in the 75th minute and the big man first set-up Kurata who shot just wide off the bottom corner from long range and then hit the bar himself as we countered and Omori found Endo to find Sato who could not quite catch himself a break.
We made the game safe just 2 minutes later as Endo again chipped behind the defence to Omori down the left – faced with a defender, he breezed past him and Narazaki before firing home from 7 yards. It was a stunning individual goal and seemed really easy but he made it all himself. Brilliant Kotaro, just brilliant!
Grampus pulled one back though through Tulio as Iwashita lost him at a corner and the big man fired home from just a few yards to get a simple goal. Sloppy by us as we had looked comfortable all game really and set-pieces are something we need to work on. It was too soft a goal to concede and made the final few minutes nervy ones at that. We threw on Niwa for Abe but safely made it to the end of the game in the lead to grab an important and impressive win!
Gamba Man of the Match
From the highlights I saw that showed all the chances in the game, it was easy to see that Kurata was the heartbeat of the team going forward. He made chances for the team and was very close to scoring a goal himself on several occasions – as I said after he scored against Vortis, we will be full of confidence now and I was not wrong. His movement was great, his choices were more often than not superb and it will only be a matter of time before he reaches his best again. Kotaro Omori’s substitution did change the game in our favour though as it gave us a bit more impetus and pace in the attack that did finally make the difference.
We shot up to 11th as we lead FC Tokyo, Nagoya Grampus and Vegalta Sendai on goal-difference, 15 points apiece. That puts us 2 points ahead of Ventforet Kofu in the relegation zone and with a win against FC Tokyo next weekend, we could well be sitting nicely in mid-table coming into the World Cup break. Let’s do it!
Photo taken from Gamba Osaka’s Official Site. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.