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Friday, 23 October 2009

J1: Sanfrecce 2-2 Gamba (Peter's View)

Forecast to be a cracking game, this match sure was, featuring four good goals. Sanfrecce put on an impressive attacking performance in the first half to lead 2-0 at half-time, but Gamba matched that performance in a second half which saw them fight back to equalize. As in Gamba’s previous match, this was very much a match of two halves, with Gamba dominating the second.

One wonders how much the absentees influenced the game: the two major doubts, the ill veteran CD Ilian Stoyanov for Sanfrecce and the hurting creative midfielder Futagawa for Gamba, both failed to make it in time for this game. Would Sanfrecce’s defence have stood up better in the second half if Stoyanov had been well, fit and present?

Would Sanfrecce have been able to seize the initiative in the first half if Futagawa had been there? (In the previous game, the inconsistent Futagawa had been in brilliant creative form.) Moreover, was Futagawa’s absence one reason why Gamba manager Akira Nishino dropped left-back Shimohira in favour of Takagi? Otherwise, it seemed a strange decision to change a winning team. Sasaki, who replaced Futagawa, did not have a bad game and scored once, but, although he got into good positions and scored one goal, also a missed a couple of good chances, including one in the 13th minute with the score still 0-0.

Takagi had a torrid time in the first half as Sanfrecce made hay down both wings, with Yojiro Takahagi and Hisato Sato alternately looking penetrative on their left, and Mihael Mikic creating mayhem on their right. For Gamba, central defenders Yamaguchi and Nakazawa, were in superb form and managed to hold the fort for most of the first half. Goalie Fujigaya also performed well.

Sanfrecce were getting their midfielders up well in support of the attack and even the defenders were looking for chances. After about 30 minutes, after good work on the left, the unmarked Mikic in the centre, with Fujigaya out of position, shot wide from about 15 metres when he should have done better. In the 33rd minute Sanfrecce defender Tomoaki Makino got in a powerful low free-kick that hit the outside of the post; but in the 41st minute midfielder Toshihiro Aoyama was on hand at last to convert Mikic’s heroics on the right into a concrete result by arriving unmarked deep on the left to get in a superb looping header from about nine metres over Fujigaya and just inside the far post. In lost time of the first half, Makino finally got his reward after the ball was played back to him unmarked on the left side by Takahagi, and from the corner of the penalty box he got in a fine shot that sailed over Fujigaya and into the far corner of the net.

At half-time both of Sanfrecce’s wide men had deserved assists. 2-0.

In the second half Nishino pushed his midfielders further forward and succeeded in cutting off the supply of passes to Mikic, who may well have been feeling the pace after his rampant first half. Whatever, the Mikic danger was virtually eliminated. Kaji played closer to Takahagi and closed down the threat on the opposite side.

Now it became a story of Gamba domination. In the 58th minute, Lucas headed well over when he should have made the efficient goalie Hirotsugu Nakabayashi work. In a game against a team of Sanfrecce’s class, Pedro Junior’s inexperience began to show in attack, and after an hour Nishino replaced him with Bando. From that moment on it only looked a matter of time until Gamba would score.

Immediately, Sasaki, completely unmarked, headed against the post from an accurate Endo free-kick--again, he should have done better--with the rebound bouncing straight into Nakabayashi’s arms. In the 61st minute Nakabayashi just beat Hashimoto to a through pass; but Hashimoto was not to be denied and, following a good block by Nakabayashi from a shot by Bando, Lucas fed Hashimoto ten metres out and, with the goalie out of position, he made no mistake.

In the 70th minute Endo won possession on the left edge of the Sanfrecce penalty area and, with a delightful precision chip, found Sasaki in front of the far post. The Sanfrecce defender had gone for the header and missed, Sasaki chested the ball down and then, unchallenged, beat the goalie comprehensively from seven metres.

A tale of two halves; but when on the defensive both teams created chances on the break. A thrilling, quality top of the table clash.

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