Sunday, 7 March 2010

Gamba-Grampus; the blue-eyed view :-)

Alan's take on the fare at Banpaku.

Gamba Osaka kicked off their J.League campaign at home to Nagoya Grampus on a cool Saturday evening. While Yamaguchi was still out injured, Kaji, Nakazawa and Myojin had all passed fit for this game, giving the back four a more familiar look than in the Xerox Super Cup game last weekend - Kaji and Michi Yasuda as side backs, Nakazawa and Takagi in the centre. Endo and Myojin - wearing the captain's armband - formed a double volante and Hashimoto and Futagawa rounded out the midfield four. Cho and Lucas took the forward duties, leaving Hirai starting on the bench.

The game began well for Gamba with Yasuda getting forward and causing some consternation in the Nagoya defence three or four times in the first few minutes. Nagoya seemed to be starting with a 4-4-3, with Kanazaki and Tamada flanking Kennedy in the middle, so the Gamba back
four and/or the two volantes were going to have their hands full, but it was Gamba making most of the early play, with Lucas bursting forward from his own half in the 6th minute and getting off a shot. Soon after Endo and Yasuda combined to find the left back in space but his
cross-shot was over the goal.

Kennedy was lucky to get away without a yellow card in the 10th minute as he challenged for a ball with Fujigaya and flopped to the ground looking for a penalty when it was clear there was no contact - considering that the referee was Mr. Okada, who would probably looking for the use of arms and simulation in a big way this season, it was a let-off for the Australian forward, and it was Kennedy who rose high above Takagi and Yasuda in the 16th minute to head a deep left wing cross back across to the unmarked Tamada to volley home from point blank range. 0-1!

A minute later and Gamba came close to a quick leveler as Hashimoto fed Lucas in the area. The Brazilian turned two defenders and got the shot off, which Tulio managed to deflect just wide of the post. Two corners in quick succession failed to show dividend but Gamba's tails were up and they were surging forward, and next it was Cho who got on the end of a multi-pass movement to get in a shot that was blocked, and then Lucas headed onto the bar via a deflection from the resulting corner. And, from Gamba's 7th corner, in the 20th minute, the ball came out to Futagawa 20 yards out and he perfectly placed his first time shot into the top corner. 1-1!

Following the goal there was a long and animated discussion between the officials and Stojkvic, with Tulio putting his oar in, too. No-one seemed to have any idea what it was about, but nothing seems to have changed for either the Grampus coach or the former Reds defender.
"respect" is the name of the game! Or should be!

26 minutes, yet another Gamba corner and the ball fell again to Futagawa. This time his identically positioned shot was touched over by Narazaki for Gamba's 10th corner from which Nakazawa's header was deflected wide for yet another corner - but, no! The referee missed the deflection - possibly the only person on the field who did!

The Osaka boys continued to rack up the possession and the goal attempts as half time approached and the passing game was tearing Nagoya apart and creating holes ... even with Nakazawa off the field after on off the ball clash with Kennedy had left him bleeding, Gamba again carved up the away midfield and sent Cho free but the Korean was stopped in a last ditch tackle from Tulio, as he prepared to pull the trigger. Referee Okada missed that corner, too!

Stojkvic noted in half time comments that he would be more careful of Endo in the 2nd half, and try to close down his space - good luck with that!!

Neither side made changes at half time and Gamba began where they left off, with Nagoya hardly able to get a touch of the ball in the first few minutes until the 50th minute when a lucky ricochet found Kanazawa on the right and his low cross looked dangerous, but came to nothing. Minutes later, Endo robbed Yoshimura in midfield and advanced to goal, his curling low shot just slipping past the post with the keeper beaten.

Kanazawa picked up the first yellow card of the game in the 65th minute for persistent infringements, not a moment too soon

Gamba continued to press and pass but the finishing product was not there and coach Nishino decided to pull Hashimoto and on came Sasaki to add some creativity to the midfield. Nagoya countered with the Colombian Danilson, who replaced Yoshimura in the middle of the Nagoya team..
Sasaki soon showed what he could do as he burst down the right wing leaving three defenders in his wake before his cross was blocked by Danilson.

For all the pressure it was Gamba who conceded another soft goal as Endo, who should have known better, tried to control the ball 8 yards from his own goal instead of clearing, and he was robbed, the ball falling kindly to Kennedy who poked the ball into an open goal with Fujigaya on the ground. 1-2, and an uphill battle for Gamba now! And it was that Gamba preference of trying to play the ball out of danger instead of playing safe that saw Yasuda robbed by Tanaka on the right wing when the ball should have been in row Z! Thankfully, Endo blocked and the resulting corner was easily taken by Fujigaya.

At this point, with just over ten minutes to go, Nishino instructed Sasaki to get further up the field, and brought on Hirai up front for Yasuda - sacrificing a defender to go for the points. Myojin moved a little left to cover the gap left by Yasuda, but defence was the last
thing on Gamba's mind now. And the pressure almost paid off as Cho flicked a header down to Futagawa who volleyed against the post from 20 yards out. The rebound fell to Sasaki who streaked the ball across the goal but Hirai missed the chance as the ball sped off the turf with the goal gaping. To be sure this was going to be a very open last session, and it was Hirai again - this time stopped by a sliding tackle from Tulio - who was not quite quick enough to get the shot off as he found himself in space.

With four minutes to go Hirai latched on to a through ball and sliped past one defender to get the shot off, which was deflected into the side netting by Tulio. And so, with three minutes left, the fans got their first chance to see the 19-year-old Brazilian forward Dodo, who came on
to replace Cho, with little time to impress. Nagoya countered by bringing off Magnum and bringing on another centre back to go for a five back finish, hoping to nullify any attacking threat from Gamba. And nullify it they did, with Nagoya holding on for three points that, on
one hand was extremely fortunate, but on the other, it was Gamba who gave away the goals - hopefully lessons learned in the first game of the season!

Gamba Osaka 1-2 Nagoya Grampus

Gamba Osaka:
GK - Fujigaya
DF - Kaji, Nakazawa, Takagi, M. Yasuda (Hirai, 80)
MF - Endo, Myojin (captain), Hashimoto (Sasaki, 63), Futagawa,
FW - Lucas, Cho (Dodo, 86)

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