Match Report – 16/08/2014 – J1: Match Day 20 – Gamba Osaka 0-1 Nagoya Grampus

Our five game win streak game to an end in the league at the hands of former manager Akira Nishino as visitors Grampus won 1-0 in front of 15,383 fans. The referee was dire, Grampus’ foul tactics were annoying, our attacking was slow and our effort rewarded nothing.

One change was made with Fujiharu coming in for Yonekura, meaning Oh Jae-Suk move to right-back. It was an unnecessary change but Oh was the best equipped to take on Leandro Domingues and therefore understandable. Lins joined the bench in place of Kenya Okazaki – that was very disappointing.

Match Summary
HOME v Nagoya GrampusWe were the better team in the first half with Patric volleying off the bar within the first two minutes without Grampus threatening in the first 20 minutes although Nagai’s pace was threatening – Nishino forgot this and sold a back-pass short that Nagai got onto – fortunately he could only hit the post towards half time. Grampus strangled our attacking play and Usami was being kicked all over the place but the inapt referee was doing all he could to not give us justice.

Patric went close again as he hit the outside of the woodwork from an Endo cross but that was as close as either side got to breaking the deadlock as the half-time break arrived.

We started the second half with some intent but made no clear-cut chances whilst Iwashita was next to clear straight to a Nagoya player but Leandro Domingues fired well wide. The game seemed to be opening up a bit but Nagoya stayed tight in defence and Higashiguchi kept us in it with some good saves. Kurata and Usami with penalty appeals went away.

Yonekura and Futagawa came on for Abe and Kurata and added a bit of intensity that had been lost after our early spurt in the half. Endo was next to hit the bar after Danilson was finally pulled back for a free kick – Narazaki kept his team in the game and then his team went ahead. Fujiharu superbly blocked a cross but Endo was too lax on controlling the ball, allowing Leandro Domingues to pick it out the air and wonderfully volley home.

We had no answer. Usami hit the post after a super one-two and Lins disappointed after joining the fray. It was one of those days where we made few chances and they all hit the woodwork and we conceded to a wowzer of a goal. Heads up and onto the next one!

Man of the Match
HigashiguchiHigashiguchi made some superb saves again and was stunning. I have said what I need to say about this guy before so no need for a repeat! Masaaki olé!

Higashiguchi – 9
Oh Jae-Suk – 6
Nishino – 5
Iwashita – 5
Fujiharu – 6
Abe – 5
Endo – 3
Konno – 4
Kurata – 4.5
Patric – 7
Usami – 6
Yonekura – 6 (Sub)
Futagawa – 5 (Sub)
Lins – 4 (Sub)

Table Standings
We dropped down to 7th but are in the area of the table that I think we will finish in. We just need to bounce back from this defeat with positive displays against Vortis in the cup and Kofu in the league. I am sure we will get back to winning ways on Wednesday night!

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Match Report – 29/04/2014 – J1: Match Day 10 – Gamba Osaka 1-2 Kashiwa Reysol

The scoreline does not say it all as Kashiwa Reysol easily attained all 3 points from us in front of a bumper holiday crowd of 16,845 people who saw a lacklustre, heartless and mistake-filled 90 minute performance from Gamba that saw the atmosphere change to that of 2012 for the first time since we were promoted to J1.

With Oh Jae-Suk out of the game with concussion, Konno was forced to play at right-back, allowing Endo to move back into his defensive midfield role alongside Tatsuya Uchida. This meant one spare space up front and that was taken by Takahiro Futagawa, a man who had not started in the league since March. It seems that Usami was still not ready to start a game but was joined on the bench by his good friend Kotaro Omori after he missed the Kawasaki game with a slight foot injury.

First Half
HOME v Kashiwa ReysolI felt that we were the better side for the first 30 minutes of the game, looking confident and aiming high for the match. With the first 10 minutes lacking any real action, it was up to Lins to break the deadlock and his dry spell in the league since joining us, netting his first J1 goal in the 13th minute. Uchida had burst forward from midfield and passed centrally to Futagawa who was tackled ahead of the ball reaching him but the ball came loose behind him and Lins’ effort and desire got him to the ball, albeit the ball hitting his hand, but he controlled nicely and fired a low effort into the bottom corner from 20 yards with Sugeno beaten. Delighted for him after getting close on many an occasion, his effort made the goal so. A nice early lead for us against our recent bogey team.

We should have made it 2-0 10 minutes later after Lins battled well again and Endo was set free on the right. He kept his cross in and sent it to the back post and Abe headed back to Futagawa whose shot was well blocked by a covering defender. The visitors got warmed up with an effort by Kudo well saved by Higashiguchi. And after a pass mistake by Kurata set Reysol on the counter, the visitors got the ball out to their left and Kudo crossed to the edge of the area for Tanaka to shoot first time in acres of space and find the top corner via a hand from Higashiguchi. Konno had pushed up the pitch as we were on the attack and Uchida and Endo dropped back into centre-back positions with Iwashita out on the right and Niwa there. Either Uchida or Endo should have stayed with Tanaka, probably the former, and that is why we conceded. Poor by the “defensive midfielder”…

Uchida was quickly substituted for Myojin, a change understandable with the former by why Myojin? Surely Omori or Usami wold have been better choices considering Myojin was not going to add anything Uchida cannot do. Kudo should have it 2-1 to the visitors but put his effort right into the hands of Higashiguchi from 3 yards out, but the visitors did soon take the lead. Endo conceded a free kick 25 yards from goal, central, and Higashiguchi’s wall was awful, not covering his right post enough which allowed Tanaka to sweep the ball up and around the wall and into the unguarded side. A killer blow right on the stroke of half time.

Second Half
We were dead in the second half. Kudo and Tanaka were set in on goal 10 minutes after the break with lax marking but they fluffed their lines and a culprit of that, Iwashita, should have headed us level from an Endo corner but he failed to his the target from 3 yards. Around the hour mark, Usami and Omori came on for Futagawa and Kurata. I still cannot understand why Abe was kept on ahead of Kurata – our number 13 showed nothing to say he was up for the fight whereas Shu was, and I can only continue my confusion here – reasons please!

We showed no goal threat from here on out with Fujiharu getting booked for a foul on Barada – his 3rd caution already this season. Usami had a chance to unjustly level the score to 2-2 in the 85th minute but his effort was blocked short of the line by a mix of defender and goalkeeper and that was that.

The fans were not happy with one ultra throwing his flag in disgust at the players and why I can understand his feelings, there was no need for that. I was left speechless and almost emotional about how we could not string passes together given our good 30 minutes – the players showed no desire bar one or two and we lacked any team spirit. The players are not giving their best and the manager is not getting the best out of them. I can accept us losing if we gave it our all – like against Kawasaki – but I cannot accept losing if we were simply awful.

LinsGamba Man of Match
Despite all the negativity above, I do think Lins was our best player. When he got a chance or a half chance – which was not very often – he did something with the ball and finally got a goal he has long deserved and threatened to get. He did put effort in and tried his absolute best whenever he could and I think he is finally getting his feet under the table. I still think he could do with not being the main striker because he is simply not that but I think the goals might come a bit more regularly with this monkey off his back, if he gets the service. Well done Lins, I am happy for you!

Higashiguchi – 5
Konno – 5
Niwa – 5
Iwashita – 5
Fujiharu – 4.5
T.Uchida – 4
Endo – 4.5
Abe – 4
Kurata – 6
Futagawa – 5
Lins – 7.5
Myojin – 4.5 (Sub)
Omori – 5 (Sub)
Usami – 5 (Sub)

Table Standing
We dropped a place to 15th, one above the relegation zone, thanks to the defeat coupled with a win for Nagoya Grampus. In the relegation zone, Tokushima Vortis got their first ever J1 win thanks to a 1-0 scoreline over Ventforet Kofu whilst Sendai and Omiya both drew. Our next opponents Yokohama F.Marinos sit above us by 2 points and has now turned the fixture to a must win for both sides.

Photo taken from J’s Goal. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.

Match Preview – 22/06/2013 – J2: Section 20 – Gamba Osaka v Fagiano Okayama

Fagiano Okayama v Avispa FukuokaWe return to Banpaku for the first time since the 1st of the month and having won the last 6 games in a row, 3 without conceding, spirits will be high for this 18:00 kick-off time against Fagiano Okayama, who have slipped up considerably in these last few games but are the drew-specialists in the league and definitely cannot be taken lightly. With the news that Leandro and Ienaga will not be staying beyond the next game against Tokushima Vortis, us fans will be hoping that they can both end with a bang as a farewell present.

Fagiano come into this game having not won in their past 4 games, split equally between 2 draws and 2 defeats. In that time, they have managed just 3 goals and have conceded 5, failing to score in 2 of those games. Last weekend saw one of those draws come in the form of Avispa Fukuoka and despite winning a penalty in the final few minutes, the hosts missed it twice as it had to be retaken, even though they changed the kick taker. You can see their starting eleven from that match to the side.

Fagiano finished in 8th place last season on 65 points, 6 points off a play-off position. This was a massive leapt from 13th in 2011, 17th in 2010 and last place in 2009, in what was their first season as a J.League club. They have risen steadily since their inclusion to the division and are now once of the biggest threats that J2 has to offer.

Their season so far has been a very strange one to say the least. They started with 4 draws, then they won 3 matches, followed by 2 draws, a win, a draw and then their first defeat of the season against Tochigi SC. They somehow managed to bounce back against Montedio Yamagata 4-3 despite being dominated but then they drew to Tottori and picked up a win against Tokushima Vortis. Their defeat to Roasso Kumamoto at home was their first for 10 months and they seem to be struggling a little at the moment. They have slipped out of the top 6 and are caught between regaining 6th place or falling into the depths of mid-table obscurity, starting this weekend in 7th place.

Gamba Osaka Prediction

In the form of Tomoyuki Arata they do have a goal scorer though as the 27 year old who was snapped up from JEF United during the winter and has netted 8 goals this season from 16 starts with 19 appearances in total. Not bad for Fagiano but in these last 4 games he has not scored and the team has suffered because of it. The visitors this weekend have not lost when he has scored so they will be pinning their hopes on that fact once more.

Focussing on Gamba now, we know of course that Endo and Konno are still playing for Japan in Brazil. As mentioned last weekend, Keisuke Iwashita has been joining in the training matches and it would not be a surprise if he does make the bench – I would have the same feeling if he does not make the bench. Keep an eye out on that one. Of course, Akihiro Sato is still in light training, if anything at all, and will therefore not make it but with Leandro leaving soon, he might just get his chance when he returns to full fitness, and boy will I love that! News on Ienaga’s head injury has not come so I would expect him to retain his spot despite Paulinho having a great game last weekend. I would like to see Okazaki back in for Myojin and who knows what Hasegawa will decide! Therefore, I have given you my desired team to the side.

As for Fagiano, they have midfielders Tadokoro and Sawaguchi reportedly unavailable, as is striker Kamijo. Tadokoro did start Fagiano’s match last weekend against Avispa Fukuoka, playing the full 90 minutes and with search results pulling up nothing about an injury on the official Fagiano Okayama site, one can only presume that he picked up a slight niggle in training and he might just miss this weekend’s match. The visitors did not start top scorer Arata last weekend but if they are to bag a goal or 2 this weekend, then they really need to play him to stand a chance.

Yosuke FujigayaWith the team being a rather consistent entity (excluding all those forced changes), it is quite difficult to pick a player to watch for this weekend as I have run out of players to highlight. Yet I think that Yosuke Fujigaya will be my man to watch on Saturday. He has been absolutely solid this season and has been a commanding figure in goal which has had a massive impact on the defence in front of him. He has picked up 3 clean sheets in a row and has not been troubled in goal for some time now. When he has been called upon, he has risen to every challenge and I would expect that with him in such great form we will be secure at the back. I cannot praise the man enough and if he can continue going on like this then I am sure everyone will forget 2012 ever happened for him. He is confident in his own abilities and so am I! Great stuff Yosuke, keep it up!

We are doing enough in games at the moment to win matches without being prolific in front of goal whilst being professional at the back to limit the opposition to just half-half-chances at best. With Fagiano having a tough time at the moment, I can only see a 2-0 home win to our boys in black and blue. I am sure that they will give us a hard match and I expect nothing less but right now, we are on opposite ends of the form scale and with Leandro and Ienaga hopefully wanting to make the fans happy before they depart, I am sure they will go at it 100%. Our defence is resolute and at home we look back to our best and teams just do not know how to play us right now. We have the upper hand in quality and execution of plays and Fagiano will do well to take a point back to Okayama. I have full confidence of taking 3 points, I really do!

Photo taken from f.image.geki.jp. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.

Blog plans whilst I am in Japan

From the 27th June until the 7th August, I will be leaving these English shores for my first ever trip to Japan, more specifically the best city Osaka, for a 6 week “holiday” involving sight-seeing, improving my Japanese language skills, meeting new people and of course, watching Gamba Osaka on their (or should I say OUR) way back to J1. This trip will have an effect on my work on the blog and the podcast, so I wanted to let you all know what can do whilst I am in Japan!

Before all that, I might as well tell you which games I will be going to and ones that I should be able to go to will be marked with (***).

29th June – Gamba Osaka v Tokushima Vortis長良川スタジアム
3rd July – FC Gifu v Gamba Osaka
6th July – FC Tokyo v Sanfrecce Hiroshima
7th July – JEF United Chiba v Gamba Osaka
10th July – Cerezo Osaka v Yokohama F.Marinos ***
14th July – Gamba Osaka v Giravanz Kitakyushu
17th July – Cerezo Osaka v Sagan Tosu
20th July – Gamba Osaka v Vissel Kobe
3rd August – Cerezo Osaka v Ventforet Kofu ***
4th August – Fagiano Okayama v Gamba Osaka ***

The Cerezo v Yokohama match is marked as I do not know if I can be bothered to go and see them play as I am not much a fan of Yokohama, even if they do have Nakamura and Nakazawa, and Cerezo are Pigs. The games in August all depend on if I can afford to go to Okayama and get a ticket – if I fail to do so, I will go and watch the Pigs lose to Kofu. As for the Tokyo v Hiroshima match, I am in and around Tokyo for 3-4 days and I like these 2 teams so I thought I would take my chance to see them. The only Gamba game I will definitely not be going to is the away match against Tokyo Verdy, simply because it is bloody expensive to travel there without buying another JR Rail Pass, which I certainly cannot afford.

フクダ電子アリーナ

With all this travelling and football, as well as doing the standard tourist stuff, my output on this blog and the podcast will probably be reduced. Nevertheless, I still vow to get the match previews and reports online before and after each match, although they might be a bit more condensed than usual. As for the podcast, I still want to keep that going too but depending on my time availability, I might have to put 2 games into 1 (like Gifu and JEF as they are during the same week) or shorten them a bit to make the most of my time in Japan.

I am determined to keep my end of the deal on all this blogging and podcast recording. The only thing I cannot do is the commentary of games that I do on Twitter, neither can I tweet streams. What I can do is take lots of photos to make up for all of that! One day, I hope all of you can get a chance to have my experiences in Japan.

I will keep you all up to date with my footballing travels in Japan if I can, probably via Twitter and Facebook if not the blog. The final game before I leave is this weekend’s home match against Fagiano Okayama. Then I get to see Leandro and Ienaga’s last match whilst Usami and Rocha join for the vital derby against Vissel Kobe. Excellent stuff and extremely exciting.

Thank you for your understanding of this matter.