Friday, 7 November 2008

Another View on Gamba's ACL Win

Mark and I went to the Expo Stadium with it threatening earlier in the day to be a chilly experience, but in fact the evening turned out to be a beautiful autumn one for watching footie.

Point 1) Nishino is probably the best Japanese manager. Gamba are consistently competent. Their skill level is high, they always cover for each other well and their movement off the ball is also usually first class. This has been true for many years and Gamba can be said to be one of Japan's Big Three (with Kashima Antlers and Urawa Reds).
Nevertheless, only occasionally do Gamba put on the style. This seems to be mainly a matter of Nishino's temperament. One can criticize Gamba for not playing to their potential. Within the Japanese context, you feel that Gamba ought to be an exciting team like Arsenal or Manchester United; but they often seem content to play within themselves and to have no temptation to show off. This is a pity, because on the rare occasions they put on the style they can be genuinely exciting.
So last night was a typical performance: well in control of the match throughout, but not doing more than enough to win comfortably. In fact, it is almost a scandal that two of their three goals followed give-aways by Adelaide United players and the third goal, while quality, was lucky to find its way through a crowded penalty area. One feels that with a sharper attitude Gamba should have won this game about 6-0, without a single if or but.

Point 2) Apart from Shunsuke Nakamura at Celtic, Endou has no rival as the best Japanese creative player on the planet. IMHO, Endou is as good as Nakamura--only he has been persuaded by Gamba to stay in Japan or has chosen to stay in Japan. After the Adelaide give-away, with Lucas using the opportunity well and sending Endou clear, there was no way he was going to miss that goal, nor did he, finishing with a typical quality strike inches inside the post. His assist and his disallowed goal also showed his excellent skills.
With a player of Endou's quality in the Gamba side, it was suicidal for Adelaide to yield the midfield.

Point 3) I believe Adelaide were 2nd in the A-League. Top were Melbourne Victory. In the group stage of this tournament Gamba beat Melbourne 2-0 at the Expo Stadium and 4-3 in Melbourne. Rumour has it that Victory have the stronger attack and United have the better defence. In that case, last night's game was a disaster for Adelaide. On the basis of that, if the rumour is true, it is almost impossible to see Adelaide beating Gamba in the second leg, never mind beating them by three goals; especially as Gamba have a 100% away record in the Asian Champions Cup (and even in the J-League have shown more consistent form away than at home). (At home in the Champions League, up to the semi-final Gamba only managed two wins and three draws.)
The only goal threat Adelaide seemed to pose was from their lively striker after hoofs--there seemed no systematic build-up play at all. Fujigaya in the Gamba goal was hardly tested. Last night's result looks to have been in line with Adelaide being slightly weaker than Melbourne.

A very satisfactory result from a partisan view from the Japanese side, but I am left regretting that such a defensive team as Adelaide made the final and that Gamba choose to play so far within themselves.

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