Friday, 23 October 2009

J1: Sanfrecce vs Gamba (The Kobe Samurai VIew)

Alan, over at jsoccer, gives us his take of Gamba's game against Hiroshima.

Gamba went into this game hoping for a win and a continued march to the Championship and, as the teams around them show inconsistency, the day could well have ended with Gamba on top - where they belong! But, it was not to be. Despite Kashima dropping more points and Shimizu being taken out by bottom-placed Trinita, this one ended in a draw that kept Sanfrecce's slim hopes of coming top alive, while frustrating Gamba's hopes for hitting the top spot in the home stretch.

Gamba began with Takagi replacing Shimohira in the back line, suggesting a back three, but it appeared more of the normal 4-4-2 after all. Sasaki took the place of the injured Futagawa and showed why he is an able deputy with plenty of useful passes, as well as the final goal of the game to bring home a point. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

The records show Gamba had over 20 goal attempts, as Nishino played the usual attacking free-flowing passing football, but there was noticeable extra pressure higher up the field today, to try to close down Sanfrecce's own brand of quick break and rotating positions style. This extra pressure and defending in attack actually produced both goals in the end, also.

After going 2-0 down in the few minutes before half-time through goals from Aoyama - a looping header back across the goal and over Fujigaya - and Makino - a well-placed curving shot from the corner of the area into the top corner, Gamba came out looking for parity, or better, and could - or should - have had all the points by the end of the game.

While Gamba had made all the running in the opening 15 minutes of the 2nd half, they had nothing to show it and, on 60 minutes Bando replaced Pedro Junior and the difference was immediate! A minute later, and Endo free kick was headed against the post by Sasaki, Bando had Nakabayashi in the Hiroshima goal stretching, and Lucas latched onto the rebound, set up Hashimoto, and the Japan midfielder blasted home... 1-2 and all to play for.

Sanfrecce defended desperately and whenever they managed to intercept a ball, a Gamba player was onto the defender within seconds to win the ball back, or block the clearance, and this work ethic paid off big time in the 70th minute as Endo regained the ball out on the left, looked up, feinted one way and the other and then chipped an inch-perfect cross to Sasaki, ghosting in behind the defenders on the right of the area. He chested the ball down, touched it aside to steady himself and shot it back across the keeper as a desperate defensive lunge came in, and into the net for the equaliser. 2-2.

Gamba went all out for the winner and were covering every blade of grass in the final minutes as Bando broke free in the 83rd minute but the ball was stripped by the keeper as Bando rounded him for the kill. And still Gamba had chances to take the game with Endo (twice), Lucas and Yamazaki all getting in shots in the final minutes as Hiroshima circled the wagons. But, to repeat a phrase from the beginning of this report, it was not to be, and Gamba were frustrated in the end.

Gamba Osaka: Fujigaya, Kaji, Nakazawa, Yamaguchi, Takagi (Shimohira, 84), Myojin, Hashimoto, Endo, Sasaki (Yamazaki, 73), Lucas, Pedro Junior (Bando, 60)

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