We eased into the 3rd round of the Emperor’s Cup after the mid-season break as we knocked-out J3 opponents Zweigen Kanazawa, beating them by a 5-1 scoreline with one man taking the spotlight.
There were no major surprised to the starting line-up. Koki Yonekura started at right-back meaning Oh Jae-Suk started on the left side of defence with Fujiharu missing out due a slight niggle. Endo and Konno returned from the World Cup to make our defensive midfield unit whilst Omori and Lins started out wide with Kurata partnering Usami up front in the former’s best position. Kawata, Niwa, Y.Uchida, Futagawa, Abe, T.Uchida and Sato all made the bench with new signing Patric not eligible until next week.
From this game, we just needed to make it through to the next round with no injuries whilst aiming to put out a side that would be close to if not the exact same one as that which will start against Ventforet Kofu next weekend in the league.
It took us until the 11th minute to break down the hosts and it was that man Usami who netted the opening goal with Endo providing the assist, looking one way but passing it the other for Usami to run onto and slot into the bottom corner to give us a deserved lead. Our captain started brightly and played a big part in the second goal, chipping the ball over the defence for Yonekura to run onto from right-back and he beautifully picked out Shu Kurata who, from 6 yards, was not going to miss. The perfect start with Zweigen lacking pressure on the ball and being loose in their marking.
They did get one goal back a few minutes after we had made it 2-0 to relight the fire in their game. A ball played behind Oh Jae-Suk got the visitors behind the defence but we were back with numbers. However, Sato had burst past Endo in midfield and he let him go, allowing him to go on a finish aplomb from 20 yards or so with Konno too far deep and not putting himself on the edge of the box to cut out the cross. Poor by him.
We were by no means in trouble though with Usami and Lins having efforts on goal, the latter desperately unlucky as his effort was blocked off the line by a determined defender – Lins just cannot catch a break, poor guy. His sorrows were put to bed by Nishino following a corner than came back our to Kurata who crossed first time to find our centre-back unmarked from 6 yards out and he easily increased our lead once again.
Zweigen had a chance to pull a goal back before half time but Nishino and Iwashita combined to block an almost decisive effort. We got in at half time 2 goals ahead and it could have been more. The forwards connected well and looked sharp together but again, in defence, we gave away silly chances that the opposition did not take. Good stuff going forward though.
Kurata made it 4-1 and practically game over shortly after the restart, Omori finding Lins who played a lovely chipped ball to Kurata who kept his run going and he controlled superbly before finding the far corner to cap off a lovely move. Lins and Konno came off for Abe and T.Uchida either side of Kurata being denied his hat-trick, going through one-on-one but Zweigen’s keeper denied him superbly. Usami made the same mistake when against just one defender, being over-relaxed.
Kurata poked just wide following a great cross from Yonekura but he was not to be denied his hat-trick in the 81st minute. Omori attacked down the left and drew the defence to him, leaving space for Kurata to pick up the ball, steady himself before poking in at the near post to bag his first professional hat-trick. Stunning stuff but the forward.
With the game over, Endo came off for Sato would should have made it 6 and Iwashita’a antics in the box denied a 6th from a corner but the game was done with and won professionally. No defensive worries in the second 45 and a ruthless performance by our attacking players.
Man of the Match
Shu Kurata was stunning. He has scored a couple of goals in recent training matches and finished the first half of the season in good form – he continued that today, pulling the strings and excelling in his preferred off-the-main-striker position. He put in a ton of effort and reaped the rewards, a pro hat-trick and an assist. He was truly marvellous today, being the one player who took charge and said “This is my game, I am going to lead us to victory”. Sure you can say it was just J3 opposition but he has been getting as the season progresses and he will be one of our main assets for the rest of the season. His performance today underlined why I love him so much.
Higashiguchi – 6
Yonekura – 8
Nishino – 7
Iwashita – 7.5
Oh Jae-Suk – 7
Endo – 7.5
Konno – 6.5
Omori – 7
Lins – 7
Kurata – 10
Usami – 8
Abe – 7 (Sub)
T.Uchida – 6.5 (Sub)
Sato – 6 (Sub)
In the next round we will face Tokushima Vortis as they beat Kagoshima United 1-0 to book their place in the 3rd round. We should be able to beat them and advance to the 4th round comfortably. Up next for us though is a massive league game against Ventforet Kofu. BE THERE!
Photo taken from Gamba Osaka’s Official Website. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.