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Monday, 29 March 2010

Gamba 2-2 Vegalta

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Peter's back again with a report on the Gamba. (For those of you wondering, Grampus did not play this week due to HIroshima's ACL commitments.)

Gamba are on the way back. The result may look not very different from that in the Albirex game, but the performance, especially in the second half, was altogether better. This was a fascinating and interesting game. Three of the goals were from penalties. If Uemoto set the Reds on their way against Cerezo with a catastrophic error at Nagai, the just returned Yamaguchi threw away Gamba's first league victory with a blatant and unnecessary hand-ball in the first minute of injury time.

The first two goals, both penalties, cancelled each other out in the sense that both decisions were 50-50, in my opinion. The first, against Gamba for pushing at a corner, was dicey because although there was undoubtedly contact, it's very doubtful if there was much pressure on the Vegalta player. For Gamba's penalty, there is no doubt that the players got their legs tied up a bit, but when you see the slow motion replay it's clear that in the final moments the Vegalta player's leg was outside Hashimoto's rather than in between Hashimoto's two legs--Hashimoto made a meal of it, and I think most refs would have given a penalty in live action. I feel on both these penalties that, if the ref had had the benefit of slow-motion replay, he might have given neither; but in the heat of the moment you can't blame the ref for giving either. Both incidents gave the impression that there should be a penalty without the reality quite corresponding to the appearance, in my opinion.

The highlight of the game was a brilliantly, taken goal from Hirai after a speedy break by Sasaki down the right and a fast low cross which Hirai met first time more or less in front of the Vegalta goalie's left post and, swiveling, hit hard into the top far corner. This was Hirai's first ever goal in the league.

The equalising penalty came after Yamaguchi, behind other defenders and Vegalta players, jumped too early for a cross from Vegalta's right, left his hand straight up in the air above his head as he came down and, unfortunately for him, the ball made firm contact with it. That is on the charitable, but probably correct, assumption that it was not deliberate hand-ball.

Although Vegalta had played it tight in the first half, they had already looked a bit more adventurous in the first eight minutes of the second half. Gamba should probably have scored in that slightly tentative first half. The first half was half-way between the level of the Albirex game and the level of the second half. If the ref's 50-50 decision on the first penalty was partly motivated by a desire to liven things up, he certainly succeeded. After that, Gamba really went for it, while Vegalta were often dangerous on the break.

One is inclined to think that Gamba looked the classier side and deserved to win; on the other hand, Vegalta twice hit the woodwork after good moves. So, perhaps, a draw was a fair result. The ball that hit the bar was a brilliant header from Nakahara who, nearer to the winger than the post was to the winger, met a fast cross that was not much more than waist height and, somehow, flicked it up over his shoulder--if it had gone in, it would have been a brilliant and spectacular goal. That was the second-ranking highlight of the match.

As Ryang Yon-Gi scored both of Vegalta's penalties, he is now the sole top scorer in J1 with 4.

Goals: Ryang (53 pen), Endo (78 pen), Hirai (84), Ryang (96 pen).

Team: Fujigaya; Kaji, Nakagawa, Yamaguchi, Takagi; Hashimoto, Myojin, Endo, Futagawa (Sasaki 71); Cho (Ze Carlos 71), Hirai (Michihiro Yasuda 88)

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