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Sunday, 30 March 2008

Gifu Push Cerezo Hard in Close Encounter

FC Gifu gave a good account of themselves in closely contested encounter at Nagai Stadium yesterday. Before a crowd of 5,000, Cerezo were able to hold out for a 1-0 win against a spirited and organized Gifu team.

Gifu can consider themselves unfortunate not to have gone away from Osaka with at least a share of the points. The only goal of the game came in the 12th minute, when Noriyuki Sakemoto pounced on some dopy defending from a Cerezo throw-in. As the Gifu defense switched-off, he took advantage to drift behind the back line to receive the ball, cut inside from the goal line and curled in a well-placed shot inside the far post. Thereafter, Gifu were quick to close-down and hassle their opponents and prevent them from establishing control of the game. Indeed, for the remainder of the half it was Gifu who had the better chances, with both Kazumasa Takagi and former Grampus forward Atsushi Katagiri seeing shots saved by Cerezo keeper Aikawa.

The second half was also close, with neither side being able to establish clear superiority. For Cerezo, Germano looked influential and was clearly the best player on the pitch, but was not allowed the time or space to orchestrate any serious threats on the Gifu goal. Gifu look like they will soon find their feet in J2, with the likes of Mitsunori Yabuta and Koji Yoshimura providing experience to raw power of Masato Katayama up front. From what we saw yesterday, both teams should be able to hold their own in the league and should finish in the top half of the table. Whether either can go onto challenge for a promotion place will depend on players like Sakemoto and Katagiri stepping-up their game and being a consistent influence on their team, rather than the promising but not quite delivering performances they have tended to display to date.

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