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Monday, 15 September 2008

Grampus Eliminate Gamba from Title Chase

Yesterday's 1-0 over Gamba at Banpaku Stadium was another important win that sees Nagoya open up a three-point gap at the top of the table, and effectively ends Gamba's faint hopes of challenging for the title. 11 points now separate the two teams.

On a relatively cool evening, Nagoya's relentless pressure in midfield and sound defence meant that Osaka never looked like posing a threat to Narazaki. The Japan custodian only had to make one meaningful save the whole evening, diving low to his left to make a smart catch midway through the second half. Like the game at Toyota Stadium, individually the Gamba players were slightly better at finding a team mate when under pressure. But they had to be just to stay in contention, and most of this superior skill had to be exhibited in defensive situations. Unlike the game in Nagoya, Gamba no longer have Bare on the team to turn the game in their favour.

Once Ogawa's low diving header had given Grampus the lead after 10 minutes, Nagoya never looked like conceding a goal and had several chances to extend their lead. Naoshi Nakamura in particular should at least have tested Fujigaga after bursting into the box early in the second half, but his shot flew over the bar. Johnen was also unlucky not to add to his goal tally, when a good ball across the face of the goal just eluded the charging Norwegian. Such was Nagoya's control of the game, that many of the Gamba fans were heading for the turnstiles long before the final whistle. A criminal lack of faith in the team, considering they were only one goal behind.

Grampus
Seigo Narazaki
Akira Takeuchi, Milos Bajalica, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe
Magnum (Yoneyama 78), Naoshi Nakamura, Keiji Yoshimura, Yoshizumi Ogawa
Keiji Tamada (Kei Yamaguchi 69), Frode Johnsen (Yuki Maki 83)
Scorer: Ogawa 10

Gamba Osaka
Yosuke Fujigaya
Akira Kaji, Sota Nakazawa (Masato Yamazaki 83), Satoshi Yamaguchi, Takumi Shimohira (Shinichi Terada 62)
Hideo Hashimoto, Tomokazu Myojin, Ysuhito Endo, Takahiro Futugawa (Ryuji Bando 62)
Lucas, Roni

For Grampus fans, this was a reassuring display after the disappointment of the Nabsico Cup semi-final loss to Oita. Although the defensive nature of the substitutions meant that it was hardly a thrilling performance, it reflects the strengths of the team. As Peter said in hi comments on the Vissel game, Nagoya's defence is good. Abe and Bajalica were outstanding i this game, and there is strength in depth in this department. Maya Yoshida, Takashi Miki and Atsushi Yoneyama are all able to step in the team without weakening the team, indeed Yoshida would probably be in the starting line-up were it not for Masukawa's exceptional form.

What the team still lacks is a creative midfielder who can instigate some rapid attacking moves. Yoshimua and Nakamura are too defensively minded, content to lay the ball off square or behind, but too important to the overall balance to be replaced unless the team has a more comfortable lead. Ogawa is the creative and effective, which brings us to Magnum. Although the Brazilian is skilful he has not emerged as the midfield maestro many had hoped for. He is also prone to reckless challenges. He picked up yellow card for a two-footed challenge yesterday, and was lucky not to see red. This was reminiscent of his challenge in the opening minutes of the Vissel game, when he lead with a elbow. A challenge that might well have bee punished with a red card had it not been so early in the game.

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