A crazy last 10 minutes or so (including stoppage time) saw us go from 2-1 up to 3-2 down to 3-3 as we drew with hosts Ventforet Kofu at the Chuo Bank Stadium in front of a crowd of over 12,000.
Two changes came from the weekend before through injuries to Oh Jae-Suk and Hiroyuki Abe with Yonekura and Okazaki coming in, the latter starting for the first time in J1 – two big losses from the starting eleven. This allowed Yuto Uchida to join the bench.
Although we started the better of the two sides, with energy and pressure – things that were missing against Grampus – yet Kofu took the lead in the 8th minute through a long range effort by Ishihara which took a little deflection off Endo as it looped in over the helpless Higashiguchi. Yatto should have pressed instead of dangling his leg out half heartedly – terrible “defending” by the captain again.
It took us a while to bounce back but Patric and Usami were well denied at the last, the latter dazzling his way into the box, around the keeper and shooting, his effort cleared off the line. We were too slow with the ball and Okazaki and Konno got deserved yellow cards although they were fortune to escape reds from that point on.
We entered the second half with Futagawa for Okazaki and great vigour, quickly equalising through Usami, who flew through the midfield before belting one home from the best part of 25 yards to get us deservedly level. Iwashita should have made it 2-1 with a free header from a corner but he poorly missed the target whilst down the other end Cristiano fired just wide of the far post.
Entering the hour mark and Usami burst his way towards the Kofu box and was pulled back earning us a free kick which Endo hit into the wall and a hand which saw us get our first penalty of the season – the captain coolly placed it into the top corner to give us the lead. From here we looked to counter attack and did that pretty okay with Yonekura flashing one wide after connecting with Kurata.
Here comes the crazy, ridiculous and unbelievable part. Hasegawa took off Usami and Endo for Niwa and Myojin, two extremely negative changes with around 5 minutes to go. Niwa went and played out on the left which is stupid when Yuto Uchida is a born and bred left-back – surely bringing on a bit of pace in Lins or Sato to hold the ball up would have been better – the changes show that Hasegawa has no confidence in all 3 of the mentioned guys.
So Kofu equalised immediately through a 40 yard screamer by Yamamoto and with us on the rocks they made it 3-2 just a minute later after a cross deflected off Nishino with Shohei Abe wheeling away in delight. Higashiguchi again left helpless but the defence did nothing wrong. I thought the game was over but now-captain Kurata had other ideas, heading home in the 93rd following an excellent knock-down by Patric to salvage just 1 point instead of 3.
Originally I was very angry with the result following the two goals in two minutes for Kofu along with those negative substitutions (which will forever remain stupid) but upon reflection, I prefer to think of the game like this – we conceded two stunners from long range and a cross that was deflected off Nishino who was trying to close down the space. We got a bit rattled but bounced back excellently to equalise. On another day, it would have been an easy day at the office but the rub of the green did not go our way for the goals we conceded. Hasegawa has to look at himself and use his substitutes better – a recurring problem for him.
It was still 2 dropped points but we showed great character to bounce back from 3 crazy goals conceded – none our fault. Overall, a much better performance by our guys and they deserve credit for that whilst Hasegawa went backwards once more.
Man of the Match
Usami was by far our best player. He drove us back into the game with his wonderful goal and his massive part in our taking the lead and was unfortunate not to get more than one goal once more. His pace and directness scared Kofu and he was a massive threat right until he was stupidly subbed off. He was once again top for us. Kudos to Fujiharu and Kurata for putting in a good performance after a tough period.
Higashiguchi – 7
Yonekura – 6
Nishino – 5
Iwashita – 6
Fujiharu – 7.5
Okazaki – 5
Endo – 5.5
Konno – 6
Kurata – 8
Patric – 7
Usami – 9
Futagawa – 6.5 (Sub)
Niwa – 5 (Sub)
Myojin – 5 (Sub)
Despite dropping 2 points we only dropped down one place to 8th with teams around us all drawing – only Vissel Kobe in our vicinity taking all 3 points. It was a shame we didn’t get the 3 points we deserved as the players put in a ton of effort but with a weakening Albirex Niigata up next, we should get back to winning ways next time. Onwards and upwards!
Photo taken from Gamba Osaka’s Official Website. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.