Match Report – 19/07/2014 – J1: Match Day 15 – Gamba Osaka 2-0 Ventforet Kofu

HOME v Ventforet KofuA thoroughly professional performance saw us take all 3 points in the 6-pointer against visitors Ventforet Kofu at Banpaku in front of a 11, 373 strong crowd. Two super goals and a solid defensive display ensured that we moved out of the relegation zone and into the lower mid-table.

There was just one change from the starting eleven that beat Zweigen Kanazawa 5-1 in the Emperor’s Cup the week before, with Brazilian Lins being replaced by Hiroyuki Abe in the starting eleven. The Brazilian did not even make the bench but new man Patric did, along with Hiroki Fujiharu – this the first league game that he did not complete the full 90 minutes, ending a run of 94 games. He took the place of Yuto Uchida on the bench which was otherwise unchanged.

We lined up again with a 4-4-2 with Kurata supporting Usami up front. The key to the game would be who would score first and then how they would deal with the lead.

First Half
The visitors started the better of the two sides with Cristiano being the key man, having two efforts on goal, the first forcing Higashiguchi into a smart save following a 35 yard thumper from a free kick. He also set-up a decent effort in the box but his team-mate could only place a simple header well wide of the target.

So Usami punished them in the 9th minute with an exquisite finish having started the move in midfield, dribbling past his man and heading over to the left. He passed the ball off to Oh Jae-Suk who returned it to him. A slight dummy just inside the box gave him the time and space to pick his head up and lean back, curving his effort beautifully into the top corner giving keeper Ogi no chance. Brilliant finish – nothing more than we expect from Takashi.

Kofu fought hard to get back into the game on the counter forcing Nishino to step out quickly and dangerous to concede free kicks, we defended the lead superbly with Abe and Omori dropping to made it a 6 man defensive line, making it hard for Ventforet to penetrate. Sasaki went close follow one of those breaks but his effort from the edge of the bar sailed just over the bar.

And we made them pay again – Usami knocking a pass into who took the effort on his left foot and on the turn he produced a stunning finish from the edge of the area on the volley, hitting his effort just moments after flicking the ball up, which found its way into the far corner and against giving Ogi no chance. Brilliant, one of the best goals you could ever hope to see.

Shu Kurata

With our 3rd and final shot of the game, Usami forced Ogi into a good save but it was our defensive side of things that was very impressive – the midfield wit energy to tackle and prevent Kofu getting anything going really and the solidity of the back four was good to see. We eased to half time with our lead intact with things looking very promising indeed.

Second Half
The second half was a non-event really. Kofu had two decent chances to score but Higashiguchi bailed us out on both occasions. Patric came on for Usami with about 20 minutes left and looked determined to make an impact – it never really happened but he tried his best. We were too content with sitting on the lead and I couldn’t really blame us for that.

Unfortunately, Kurata picked up his 4th booking of the season after a series of fouls which puts him out of the midweek game against Shimizu S-Pulse. Hiroyuki Abe came off for Tatsuya Uchida with a few minutes remaining as we made it to the finish with an important clean sheet with thanks to our solid defence. We have won 8 of our last 13 games in all competitions now so we are not in such a bad shape as we might actually think.

Man of the Match
The defensive solidity and lack of clear cut chances can go down to two men in my opinion. Masaaki Higashiguchi and Keisuke Iwashita. I am going to give the award to Iwashita though, as his usual flamboyant style and somewhat loose defensive play was not at all present in the win as he put in good tackle after good tackle and lead the line superbly. He was a measure of calm and was extremely impressive. I take nothing away from Higashiguchi though, who made some excellent saves and was once again an ever present barrier that Ventforet could not penetrate.

Higashiguchi – 9Keisuke Iwashita
Yonekura – 7.5
Nishino – 7
Iwashita – 9
Oh Jae-Suk – 7
Endo – 8
Konno – 8
Abe – 7
Omori – 7
Kurata – 7.5
Usami – 7.5
Patric – 6.5 (Sub)
T.Uchida – 6 (Sub)

Table Standing
We climbed up into 13th place as it was a great weekend with the other teams around us failing to win their games. We are 2 points clear of the drop zone and a place ahead of The Pigs which is always nice to see. 17th to 10th has a gap of just 5 points though so we need to keep getting the wins in this vital period. We go level on points with S-Pulse who we play next on Wednesday. Another massive match!

Photos taken from Gamba Osaka’s Official Website. No copyright infringement intended. Originals here and here.

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Match Report – 12/07/2014 – Emperor’s Cup: Round 2 – Gamba Osaka 5-1 Zweigen Kanazawa

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.

HOME v Zweigen Kanazawa

First Half
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.

Second Half
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.

Kurata Hat-Trick!

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.

Evson departs to join Kamatamare Sanuki on loan

Evson23 year-old Brazilian defender Evson has said goodbye to Gamba for now (perhaps forever) by joining J2 outfit Kamatamare Sanuki on loan for the rest of the season.

We took the youngster on loan in December for the 2014 season with an option to extend the loan if we so wished. However, the guy has made just one appearance in all competitions, that being a one minute introduction to the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup as we beat Sagan Tosu 2-0 in Kyushu.

To further compound the lack of game time, Evson makes a whopping ¥40,000,000 a year on his current contract, taking up a lot of our resources and a valuable foreign player spot. With his departure, we now have room for a new foreign player if Kenta Hasegawa chooses to fill it, which I would highly recommend with a centre-back or defensive midfielder. Whether Evson will be taking a pay-cut or we will be in some way responsible for his wage is not yet clear.

I am pretty sure Evson does not have the quality for J1 and being sent to Sanuki may be at his level. Hopefully he will get some game time and get off of Facebook and Instagram. I think we can all agree that the move is a wise one for Gamba and for Evson himself. A completely understandable move and one that makes me extremely happy – as long as we bring in the correct players.

Good luck to Evson on his move to Sanuki and try to make buddies with the other loanee Keigo Numata down there. Show us what you’ve got (because we really don’t know)!

Photo taken from cloudfront. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.

Patric signs in on loan

We saw the first player confirmed to join us today as 26 year-old Brazilian striker Patric signed a loan deal from Brazilian Serie C side Salgueiro AC. The striker will be looking to take the burden of scoring goals away from Akihiro Sato and Lins, with the pair just netting 3 times between the in the first half of the season.

PatricPatric has had some J.League experience before with Kawasaki Frontale and Ventforet Kofu in 2013, scoring a decent 9 goals in 33 games in his debut season. He returned to play in Brazil for Fortaleza in Serie C for the first half of 2014 but has come back to Japan to flex his muscles and improve upon his maiden season’s record.

I have to admit that I do not know much about the guy but standing at a huge 189 cm will hopefully indicate positives in the attacking and defending halves – set-pieces being a big problem for us. Some fans on Twitter have stated that the guy has a good turn of pace but is perhaps lacking a definitive finishing touch, something I do recall from a Kofu game last season against Shimizu S-Pulse if memory serves me well. His debut may even come against Ventforet Kofu, his former club.

Patric will be able to join in training tomorrow (2nd July) and can make appearances from the 18th July. It will probably take him a short while to settle into his new surroundings before he gets used to our way of playing but his arrival might just be the kick up the backside Lins and Sato both need. Whether Patric becomes our main forward with Usami playing off him is yet to be seen but at least we do not look so bare up top now.

Let’s hope that this is the start of arrivals – I certainly would like to see a centre-back and an energetic, all action defensive midfielder join our ranks. Nevertheless, good luck to Patric and welcome to Banpaku!

Photo taken from jnew. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.

Akira Kaji switches to the USA

After spending the entirety of his career in Japan, at age 34 Akira Kaji has made his dream move abroad to the USA to join the ranks of struggling side Chivas USA. This was probably the last chance the defender had to play outside of his native country and so he has taken the big leap to test himself one final time.

KajiThe move does come as a surprise to Gamba fans with Kaji seemingly the first choice despite picking up and injury after the Osaka Derby which was his last game for us and interestingly enough against his first team. Oh Jae-Suk revelled in his chance to take over as first choice and has been stunning since, pushing Kaji down the pecking order whilst he was on the injury list. Yonekura also made it back from injury and cemented his place in the top 2.

Despite all this though, one could have been forgiven for thinking that Kaji would come back to fight for his place having started the season very well after a somewhat poor season in J2. Of course, Kaji came up with no goals and no assists but was solid enough at right-back. Perhaps the younger legs of Oh and Yonekura are what we need and cutting Kaji off the wage bill is probably a bonus for the club.

He will be joining Chivas USA having flown out to the States last week and he participated in a reserve match on the weekend. The team currently sits in 9th place and therefore last position in the Western Conference on 11 points, 5 points adrift at the bottom. It seems as though the team does need a fully-fledged right-back so Kaji might just be taking that spot for himself. He will need to keep an eye on injuries though as they have been particularly present in the last few seasons. I do not believe that the man speaks much/any English or Spanish so the sooner he can get that sorted the better.

I am unsure of success for Kaji in the USA but you can forgive him for trying it out before bowing out of the game. I certainly thought he would end his career with us but I hope he can bow out as a success in Chivas. We will be keeping our eye on him and cheering him on. Hopefully Chivas will be able to improve with Kaji around – he’s a funny guy too and will certainly be missed in Osaka.

Good luck Kaji! Don’t forget to come back if all else fails, we love you!

Photo taken from fc2.com. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.

Match Reports – 21/05/2014 to 28/05/214 – Nabisco Cup: Match Days 4-6

pc_20140524190640Q09SQTY0OTkuSlBHGamba secured top spot in Group A in the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup to end the first half of the season in higher spirits after taking 2 wins and 1 defeat in the final three group matches. We were joined by Kansai rivals Vissel Kobe in the quarter-final draw as both teams finished on 12 points.

Gamba Osaka 2-1 Kashima Antlers
It was the クラクラ (Kura-Kura) combination that won the game for us against a strong Antlers side with Shu Kurata netting his 2nd goal of the season early doors whilst Yonekura, deputising for the banned Oh, scored the winner late on in the game after Davi had pulled the visitors level with just under 20 minutes to go. The undoubted man of the match was Masaaki Higashiguchi however, as he pulled off top save after top save to keep us in the Antlers-dominated contest, whilst the defence did well to keep the opposition to long-range efforts for most of the time. Without Usami this was a big win but unfortunately for Yosuke Ideguchi, who started his first ever professional game at Banpaku, it was a day to learn from having made numerous mistake and being dragged off with only 30 minutes gone. The win put us on 9 points but still in 2nd place.

 

Gamba Osaka 3-1 FC Tokyo
Takashi Usami returned to the starting eleven following a short injury and inspired us to a wonderful win over FC Tokyo just a week after they had humiliated us in the league. Takashi found the net early in the game with a rocket from outside of the box that had Shiotani in goal stranded but Tokunaga scored for the second game in a row at Banpaku with a belter of his own. Into the second half and Usami was at it again, latching onto a one-two with Abe before passing the ball into the back of the net although he was surrounded by 3 defenders. Nishino capped the win off with a terrific header from a Kurata (who played in defensive-midfield superbly for the final 30 minutes) corner to seal the win and move us into 1st place on 12 points with just a point needed to secure our own fate in our final game.

 

Vegalta Sendai 1-0 Gamba Osaka
It was not to be though as we looked laboured and already on our break as a 66th minute Shingo Akamine goal was the difference on the scoreline but the hosts were clearly the better side. Lins was decent but dragged off just before half-time in a baffling move whilst things almost got worse as manager Hasegawa was about to bring on Niwa to defend the lead but Akamine’s goal put a dent in those awful plans. We did not threaten an equaliser and had to depend on Kashima and Sendai to do us a favour against Shimizu and Kobe, both teams needing a 2-0 and a 5-0 or similar win to knock us out of the top 2. Shimizu lost which sent them crashing out in place of 2-1 winners Kobe over Sendai to send the Kansai teams through.

Photo taken from Gamba Osaka’s Official Site. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.

Match Previews – 21/05/2014 to 28/05/214 – Nabisco Cup: Match Days 4-6

Despite the league campaign being done until mid-July, a week of Nabisco Cup games start from Wednesday as we look to qualify to the quarter-finals of the competition. Gamba will be the last team to get a bye in the group so will have to secure our position in the top 2 as soon as possible. Usually I would write out a preview and report for each but with so many games in such a short time, and the lack of said time, I will preview and report on all the games collectively.

The first game, which is on Wednesday 21st May, is a home game against Kashima Antlers with the kick-off time being 19:00 JST. Antlers have already beaten us at Banpaku this season in a comfortable 2-0 game for them with Davi and Caio netting for the visitors. They sit in 4th place on an equal amount of points as us (6 points) and will be looking to improve on their recent league form.

The second game comes on Saturday 24th May which is also at Banpaku, the kick-off time being 16:00 JST. We will host FC Tokyo, the team that humiliated us just last weekend in a 3-0 home win at Ajinomoto Stadium with Edu being the prime man we donated to as he scored twice. The visitors sit atop of Group A at the moment with 7 points from 3 games and will be looking to extend their lead knowing S-Pulse have a game in hand.

The final match before the 7 week or so break comes in Sendai as we take on Vegalta at the Yurtec Stadium with a 19:00 JST kick-off time on Wednesday 28th May. The league match between the two sides came back in round 3, ending in a 0-0 draw in Sendai. Vegalta have only 1 point from their 3 games so far but have been banging in-form in the league of late, winning 4 games in succession and taking themselves away from us and the relegation zone.

So to the players who will be out of the games. Firstly, Endo and Konno have already left to join up with the national team ahead of the World Cup and are therefore not available whilst Naoki Ogawa has joined the U-19 national team for a training camp in will miss the Kashima match. Oh Jae-Suk is suspended for the Kashima game having picked up the 2 necessary cautions it takes to get one suspended. Other than that, we should be missing no-one except for the obvious Kaji and Tatsuya Uchida who are both still a touch too far away – at best they can make the Sendai game.

You would be hoping that the guys who have been used thus far in the competition will continue to be given a chance – the likes of Yuto Uchida, Yonekura, Ideguchi, Myojin, Okazaki etc. spring to mind the most as they are all in search of some match practice in one way or another. These guys need to be given a chance to show the manager what they can do as his regular choices have not worked out so well as of yet. The manager also needs to be making a solid starting eleven as we have not had a consistent one yet, and these eleven players (barring Endo and Konno) should be given time to gel in these 3 games. I would rather see us show promise in these next 3 games than qualify with the same old same old. It will be up to the manager to decide on that.

We need to end on a positive note following the disgrace of a performance on the weekend. The players need to give the fans something to look forward whilst ensuring that the manager keeps his job. Hopefully these two points can be achieved in conjunction with making a solid starting eleven.