Friday, 30 April 2010

Cerezo 0-1 Grampus: Take 3

Alan chips in with a third take on last week's encounter at sunny Nagai.

Cerezo Osaka were up for this game on the back of a game that finished in roller coaster fashion against Shonan Bellmare the week before. Cerezo had almost thrown away the points when Tahara was allowed to equalize in injury time. Then Kagawa pulled one out of the hat with a winner in the 5th minute of added time for the three points. But, today, the lost time winner went to the away team, but I am getting ahead of myself!

It was a beautiful day. The sun streamed onto the fans, the beer sellers were doing a roaring trade, the players looked relaxed in their pre-game rituals. The imposing figure of goalkeeper Kim listened to some "toons" on his iPod, while three Cerezo players played keepy-up awaiting the pre-game get-together.

Cerezo were without Adriano and Martinez, but more than covered in the forms of Ienaga and Bando. Nagoya's notable absentee was Josh Kennedy, so the Cerezo back three were hoping for an easier ride against the diminutive Magnum and Tamada and their cohorts.

And so, the game began ... Magnum was first to register an attempt on the goal, his 2nd minute half volley screamed low across the goal and fired a warning to the Cerezo defence but it was Cerezo who opened the better side, with Kagawa, Inui and Ienaga spraying short passes around the field and creating numerous openings, with Inui having his first shot blocked in the 4th minute. But the early signs were good for Cerezo.

In the 6th minute Magnum went down unchallenged and was carried off, but his replacement was the more than capable Ogawa, so it hardly made a difference to the game as far as the home team were concerned. Cerezo continued to pass their way up the field, while Nagoya looked for the long ball and quick break. Burzanovic found himself in the area in the 13th and made the most of a challenge, hoping for a PK. Instead he picked up a yellow card for his dissent.

In the 17th Ienaga finished off another fine move with a shot that the keeper smothered and in the next move, Ienaga robbed Alex in midfield - much to the consternation of the Nagoya defence - and slipped a pass to Kagawa, who couldn't quite find the target, but it looked only a matter of time.

IN the 26th Burzanovic sent a free kick over the bar from 30 yards, but the defence were on high alert after his two free kick goals in previous games.

Cerezo keeper Kim was using his range with long kicks, unfortunately, since the targets were Bando, Inui and Kagawa - not the biggest players on the field - this writer was wondering why he was not giving shorter passes to start moves from the back. Bando finally got in on the act after a fine cut back low cross from Ienaga found the ex-Gamba striker able to send in a 20 yard blast, but it was too close to the keeper.

Cerezo came closest to opening the scoring in the 38th minute, although it was from a stroke of luck in the end as Amaral mis-hit a shot, which bounced off Bando and into the path of Kagawa, whose excellent side-footed volley almost placed the ball in the net, but the fans saw the ball roll agonisingly wide of the post. And so the teams went in for the break scoreless, but Cerezo will have been the more disappointed of the two sides.

The 2nd half was much of the same, with the Cerezo youngsters spraying the ball with confidence and speed, but no finishing touch was forthcoming. Takahashi headed weakly into the keeper's arms from a good position from an Omata corner in the 62nd minute, Bando fed Kagawa for a superb - but just off target chip - in the 63rd, and Amaral stung the keeper's fingers with a 25 yarder after Ienaga had created the space.

In the 77th Amaral hot another blast at Narazaki, who failed to hold it, but the advancing Inui and Komatsu - on for Bando minutes earlier - were judged offside as they followed in.

Into the final 10 minutes and the chances had not been taken, would Cerezo drop the points from lax finishing? It seemed that way when Tamada was given too much space on the left and his cross was almost turned in by Maki. The Nagoya striker was foiled by Kim, although the Korean paid the price in pain as Maki caught him in the challenge.

In the 86th Komatsu wriggled past three challenges but lost control of the ball as he prepared to pull the trigger and minutes later Inui came close as his shot screamed in, Narazaki forced into a save, and a corner. And then, sure enough, into injury time and a needless free kick given away on the right wing was blasted in by Tamada. His wicked inswinger hitting the back of the net of a defender's head.

Cerezo 0-1 Nagoya Grampus, and Cerezo had only themselves to blame. On this form, relegation would not be a problem, but the chances will have to be taken, if that is to be the case!

Cerezo 0-1 Grampus

Peter gives us the cherry-pink eyed view of last week's game against Cerezo.

Cerezo inexplicably went into their shell in this home game. For some reason, manager Culpi changed from his favourite 3-5-2 system to 4-5-1. As a result, Grampus were able to seize control in midfield from the beginning, eventually dominating possession 57% to 43%. Did Culpi make this change of formation because of the continued absence of key man holding midfielder Martinez? Or did he just have too much respect for high-flying Grampus? Or was it a tactical move for this one game--after all, despite the lack of possession, Cerezo did outshoot Grampus? To me, the hallmark of Cerezo’s game is their ability to keep possession and to play Brazilian-style passing football, so this yielding of the midfield seemed incomprehensible--or perhaps it was a consequence of the change of formation unforeseen by Culpi. Whatever, the effect was to hand Grampus the initiative.

Martinez continued his absence, presumably through injury after being stretchered off at Yokohama two weeks before, but we are still without a word of explanation from the club. His place was again taken by Akihiro Ienaga. Also unexplained was the absence of Adriano both from the team and the bench. The change in formation did not involve a change in personnel except that Bando started as the sole striker but, although he did not appear noticeably weaker than Adriano, he failed to make a real mark--to be fair, he was ploughing a lonely furrow.

Given the new tactics and the absence of Martinez and Adriano, the Cerezo players on the pitch gave a very creditable account of themselves. Cerezo outshot Grampus 18 to 16 and, on the whole, they had the clearer chances and would have won without a stellar performance from Grampus’s captain and Japan national team goalie, Seigo Narazaki; although, to be fair to Grampus, Jin-Hyeon Kim also had to put in a fine goalkeeping performance.

For the second week in succession at Nagai Stadium the result was decided in injury time. (In two successive games at Nagai four goals have been scored, three of them in added time!) Japan international Tamada on his return from injury put in a well-placed free-kick from about 28 metres roughly in front of Kim’s left post; Kim looked to have it covered but another Japanese international CD Tulio rose high in front of Kim and seemed to unsight him, and the ball ended up in the top near corner of the net. Tulio also seemed to celebrate. Watching from the stand, I thought Tulio had got a touch and was staggered when the announcement came that Tamada was the scorer; if that was the case, maybe Kim was not faultless.

A 3-3 result would have better reflected the flow of the game; or, if Cerezo had to lose, 2-3. Although Ienaga had another fine game he had four attempts on goal, one or two of which were optimistic, and failed to find the net. Amaral had his best game so far and got away five attempts on goal, not bad for a volante; nearly all of these efforts were powerful, three of them being blocked and two whistling wide, the second of them in the 94th minute. Despite this, Cerezo missed Martinez’s powerful presence and skill in midfield. Grampus had the majority of possession, but compared with Cerezo’s it was leaden and unimaginative. This was a game of power versus scintillation, with poor finishing and fine goalkeeping from both sides.

Cerezo > Grampus
Shots: 18 > 16
GKs: 17 > 10
CKs: 9 > 7
FKs: 14 > 23
Poss.: 43% > 57%

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Grampus Cruise to Comfortable Win in Nagai...


... well, not quite. They had control of possession for much of the game, but were never able to dominate and only emerged narrow 1-0 winners. Cerezo held their own, and often looked more purposeful in their build-ups, with their crisp passing moves getting the ball forward fare more effectively than our rather ponderous efforts.


Grampus got off to a bad start when Magnum pulled lame within five minutes of the start. Pixie quickly had Ogawa warming up and the former Rookie of the Year was soon on the field in place of the injury-prone Brazilian. Fortunately, despite Josh Kennedy still not being fully recovered from his back injury, Keiji Tamada was back in the starting lineup. ALthough the Japan international looked a bit rusty, and continues to look more useful as an attacking midfielder than a striker, he frequently unsettled the Cerezo defence.

Ultimately this game came down to the quality of the 'keepers. Kim had a good game and made one outstanding save early in the first half. However, Narazaki was in imperious form stopping all of Cerezo's efforts that found the target, including a couple of World Class saves again.

Cerezo 0 1 Grampus
Starters Starters
P. No. Name Name No. P.
GK 21 Kim Jin Hyeon Seigo Narazaki 1 GK
DF 2 Kenji Haneda yellow.gif Hayuma Tanaka 32 DF
DF 3 Teruyuki Moniwa yellow.gif Takahiro Masukawa 5 DF
DF 22 Taikai Uemoto Tulio 4 DF
MF 20 Daisuke Takahashi Shohei Abe 6 DF
MF 6 Amaral Naoshi Nakamura 20 MF
MF 14 Akihiro Ienaga Alex Santos yellow.gif (OUT 68') 10 MF
MF 16 Hiroyuki Omata (OUT 90') Igor Burzanovic yellow.gif (OUT 79') 9 MF
MF 7 Takashi Inui (OUT 90') Mu Kanazaki 25 FW
MF 7 Shinji Kagawa Keiji Tamada 17 FW
FW 11 Ryuji Bando (OUT 71') Magnum (OUT 8') 8 FW
Subs Bench Subs Bench
GK 1 Kenya Matsui Koji Nishimura 21 GK
DF 4 Kota Fujimoto Akira Takeuchi 2 DF
MF 17 Noriyuki Sakemoto Mitsuru Chiyotanda 3 DF
MF 28 Yusuke Maruhashi Yoshizumi Ogawa 10 MF
MF 19 Naoya Ishigami Keiji Yoshimura 14 MF
MF 25 Masato Kurogi Danilson 20 MF
FW 15 Rui Komatsu Yuki Maki 17 FW


Tamada 90+1' (Amaral OG?)

Cerezo Osaka



Substitution Magnum > Ogawa 8' (Hamstring injury again)
yellow.gif Card Burzanovic 13'

yellow.gif Card Santos 51'
Substitution Santos > Yoshimura 68'
Bando > Komatsu 71' Substitution
Moniwa 74' yellow.gif Card
Substitution Burzanovic > Maki 79'
Haneda 85' yellow.gif Card
Omata > Maruhashi 90' Substitution
Inui > Ishigami 90' Substitution
GOAL Tamada 90+1'

Friday, 23 April 2010

Cerezo 2-1 Bellmare

Peter again gives us a rundown of Cerezo's form, as he takes a look at their game against Shonan.

Cerezo had nearly 60% of the possession in this game, scored a penalty in the 34th minute but then missed several chances to more or less kill the game off. Bellmare hung in there and equalised in the first minute of five minutes added time, but Kagawa clinched the game for Cerezo with a superb individual goal four minutes later. A match which should have been a comfortable win for Cerezo became a game that turned on a dramatic finale.

Key man holding midfielder Martinez missed the game, presumably through injury after being stretchered off at Yokohama the week before but without a word of explanation from the club. His place was taken by Akihiro Ienaga, and this change was accompanied by a change of tactics with Ienaga playing further forward than Martinez usually does. This was partly compensated for by volante Amaral playing even more defensively than usual, but I am not going to count this as a change of formation, although some news sources did; still, it marked a change from two conservative MFs and three attack-minded to one very conservative, and four more attack-minded MFs. In my opinion, formation still 3-5-2, but OMF Kagawa also pushed further forward than he has been doing.

First half: the game started with Cerezo having the best of the exchanges but not creating many clear-cut chances; although they had shots blocked in the 7th, 16th, 19th and 22nd minutes. Kagawa missed the target from a reasonable chance in the 21st minute. At the other end, Tahara had shot wide in the 10th minute, and that was to be Bellmare’s only serious attempt on goal in this half. In the 33rd minute, Cerezo were awarded a penalty following a corner after an off-the-ball incident involving Uemoto and Bellmare’s Tamura; it wasn’t clear to me what happened, but there was some wrestling going on and there was no doubt that both players went down with Tamura falling on top of Uemoto. (It looked to me as though Tamura had a grip on Uemoto and Uemoto played for the foul by going down and pulling Tamura down with him--Tamura failed to release his grip soon enough to avoid the sucker punch.) Tamura got a yellow card. Kagawa hit a firm but not-really-fierce penalty along the ground towards the goalie’s left corner; although Nozawa, who had a good game, guessed right and got a touch on the ball with his hand, he failed to stop it reaching the corner of the net. In effect a lovely penalty, but a near thing! That was the end of the significant action in the first half.

Second half: In this half, Bellmare improved marginally, managing one blocked and one off-target shot in regular time. Cerezo started off the half in the same way as they had in the first half, with Amaral having a shot blocked on the line in the 47th minute. Inui in the 57th, Adriano in the 70th, Bando in the 74th and Inui again in the 89th minutes also had shots blocked. One or two of these Bellmare blocks were off the line, when you felt sure Cerezo were about to score again. In between the blocks, Ienaga in the 54th, Bando in the 79th and Inui in the 89th minutes missed the target, when perhaps they should have done better; particularly the last one by Inui, a free diving header straight in front of the goal. And so to five minutes of injury time with the score 1-0 to Cerezo.

Added time:
In the attack following Inui’s miss, Nakamura got away down the right channel, held off Uemoto and got in a shot that Kim did well to deflect on to the bar. The ball rebounded to the unmarked Tahara who had to adjust himself to get in his shot, with the result that Kim and a defender almost had time to block the shot on the line, but Kim only succeeded in lifting the ball into the roof of the net with his foot. In the 93rd minute Kim made a good save from a header by Tahara after a good cross from Nakamura. With literally seconds remaining, Kagawa came into the penalty area from Cerezo’s left, and then going across the face of the goal and slightly backwards to the edge of the penalty area swivelled and hit the ball just inside Nozawa’s right-hand post for a superb individual goal.

This game was a good lesson for Cerezo on the importance of taking your chances, but in the end justice was done in spectacular fashion.

Cerezo > Bellmare
Shots: 16 > 5
GKs: 7 > 11
CKs: 10 > 4
FKs: 20 > 25
Poss.: 59% > 41%

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Grampus Lose Ground on Leaders

With both Keiji Tamada and Josh Kennedy missing, Nagoya were no match for the home team as they lost their game in hand. This was another dull performance, from what should be an attacking formation, time for Pixie to reassess his tactics, since without the lanky Aussie up front we look lost.

It was a shame we did not get to see Hikaru play, despite making it into the senior squad for the first time. Unlike Maki and Magnum, at least Kuba claims to understand his role in the manager's 4-3-3 system. Elsewhere, it was good to see Chiyotanda and Danilson get their first starts.

However, apart from the early games against Gamba and Frontale, we have not looked good this season. Let's hope some of the other players start to understand their roles in Stojkovic's system, or this could indeed be his final year in charge. (Hs is the last year of a 3-year contract.) That would be a shame since he has clearly taken the team in the right direction, but seems to have lost his inspirational effect, at least temporarily.

Sanfrecce 1 0 Grampus
Starters Starters
P. No. Name Name No. P.
GK 21 Shusaku Nishikawa yellow.gif Seigo Narazaki 1 GK
DF 24 Ryota Morisawa Hayuma Tanaka 32 DF
DF 35 Koji Nakajima Mitsuru Chiyotanda 3 DF
DF 5 Tomoaki Makino Tulio yellow.gif 4 DF
MF 19 Satoru Yamagishi (OUT 81') Shohei Abe 6 DF
MF 22 Tsubasa Yokotake Danilson yellow.gif (OUT 61') 20 MF
MF 7 Koji Morisaki Yoshizumi Ogawa (OUT 82') 10 MF
MF 17 Kota Hattori Igor Burzanovic (OUT 74') 9 MF
MF 33 Masato Yamazaki Mu Kanazaki 25 FW
MF 13 Issei Takayanagi (OUT 71') Yuki Maki 17 FW
MF 11 Hisato Sato Magnum yellow.gif 8 FW
Subs Bench Subs Bench
GK 34 Hiroshige Nakabayashi Koji Nishimura 21 GK
MF 20 Shinichiro Kuwata Takahiro Masukawa 5 DF
MF 23 Hironori Ishikawa Alex Santos 38 MF
MF 25 Junya Osaki Naoshi Nakamura yellow.gif 7 MF
MF 27 Junpei Shimizu Keiji Yoshimura 14 MF
FW 28 Takuya Marutani Hikaru Kuba 29 FW
FW 9 Tadanari Lee Keita Sugimoto 19 FW

Sato 88'


Sanfrecce Hiroshima



yellow.gif Card Danilson 29'

yellow.gif Card Magnum 38'
Substitution Danilson > Nakamura 61'

yellow.gif Card Tulio 65'

yellow.gif Card Nakamura 75'
Yamagishi > Lee 71' Substitution
Substitution Burzanovic > Yoshimura 74'
Nishikawa 77' yellow.gif Card
Yamagishi > Ishikawa 81' Substitution
Substitution Ogawa > Sugimoto 82'
Sato 88' Goal
Yamazaki > Kuwata 88' Substitution

Morisaki 90' yellow.gif Card

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Kansai Roundup (Round 6)

Sorry for missing a round, but I was busy last weekend. So here we are with another rundown on our local teams. (Tokushima Vortis had a week off this week, allowing the injured Tomohiro Tsuda a bit more time to recover ahead of the Shikoku Derby.)


Kyoto Sanga 0-2 Nagoya Grampus

Another game another two goals for the Red Whales. Although Kyoto played reasonably well and had their chances to get back into the game, they were unable to find that extra bit of class to really test the visitors.


Omiya Ardija 1-3 Gamba Osaka

Akira Nishino is clearly a great coach, inspiring his team to its first win of the season with his half time team talk and changes. MInd you, he was lucky his team was still in the game at half time, let alone on level terms at 1-1. Fujigaya kept the Suita team in the game with a string of fine saves in the opening 45 minutes, which would otherwise have seen them three or four goals behind and out for the count.


Yokohama Marinos 0-0 Cerezo Osaka

Cerezo earn another draw, even surviving the dismissal of one of their best players, Martinez at the end of the first half. See Peter's report on the game for more details. So despite a shaky start on their return to j1, the pink half of Osaka is level on point with its blue rivals from Suita.

Vissel logo

Vissel Kobe 0-2 Montedio Yamagata

The battle of the likely relegation candidates saw the visitors earn all three points despite Vissel having much the better of the game. The absence of Popo and Okubo proving fatal for their chances of converting their possession into goals. A result that leaves the home team second from bottom.

Cerezo's 10 men hold Marinos

Peter reports in on Cerezo's battling performance against the Marinos.

Cerezo put up a heroic defence to hold the Marinos for over 50 minutes (including 4 mins injury time) to a 0-0 draw, after key man Martinez had received a ridiculous straight red card just before the end of the first half. Martinez may have used two feet eventually but he came in from the side and got possession of the ball, with Kurihara, the Marinos player involved, looking the more reckless of the two. The problem was that it was a violent clash with both players going down, and, with Kurihara a current member of the Japanese team and Martinez a foreigner, I suppose we should not be surprised by the outcome: Japanese internationals are fragile plants who can do no wrong and have to be protected like delicate flowers. I'd like to see the incident again, but I'm pretty sure Martinez led with his right foot stretching for the ball and only moved his left foot up when he was well on the way to being flat on his back on the ground, the ball ending up actually right next to his right foot--because Martinez was hurt in the incident and the ref immediately blew the whistle, that was where it remained. Kurihara went down because Martinez had a firm foot on the ball! Martinez left the field a couple of minutes later on a stretcher, so perhaps it's a good job he'll have three-and-a-half games to recover!

Otherwise, the game was more or less a bore except for Cerezo fans. The Marinos had the best of the first 30 minutes but failed to score because of good defending, good goalkeeping by Kim, and some poor finishing. Then Cerezo started to come into the game and Cerezo fans started to hope that Culpi's Brazilian-style football would flourish in the second half; but this hope was nipped in the bud by the straight red to Martinez before half-time. After that it was heroic defence with Inui, Kagawa and Adriano (in the last ten minutes just Kagawa and Ienaga) doing a great job of posing enough threat to keep the Marinos defence off-balance and of consuming time.

Nakamura Shunsuke came on for the Marinos for the last ten minutes, had one free-kick well blocked by the wall, and a sumptuous cross from the right to the far post wastefully headed over by the unmarked Tanaka.

Formation:  3-5-2 (from 48' 4-1-3-1)
Haneda (Kurogi 87), Moniwa, Uemoto;
Takahashi, Amaral, Martinez, Kagawa, Omata;
Inui (Fujimoto 83), Adriano (Ienaga 86)

For the second half Omata moved back to LWB and Amaral to volante; the midfield became Takahashi, Kagawa, Inui. From the 83rd Fujimoto moved into the centre of the defence and Uemoto to RWB.

From the 87th Kurogi replaced Amaral as volante and Amaral moved into the middle/front 4. For the last 4 minutes (8 including added time) the formation was 4-1-4, with the midfield/front 4 showing quite a lot enterprise.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Pixie Rotation Stuns Sanga

This week it was Yoshizumi Ogawa's turn to play striker alongside Josh Kennedy, with Magnum dropping back to a more familiar midfield role. While opponents try and work out who is his partner for the week, Josh just keeps banging in the goals. Today, netting is third goal of the young season. The win too us top of the league for an hour os so until Frontale and Urawa finished their games. However, we have a game in hand on the leaders.

Tulio's early headed goal, his first in Grampus colours, sparked a concerted effort by the home team to get back into the game. They rattled off 10 unanswered shots by half time, but only four of them were on target. The second period was much more even, but highlighted by a similarly early goal for the visitors, after nine minutes, a 20 yard blast by Kennedy.

Sanga 0 2 Grampus
Starters Starters
P. No. Name Name No. P.
GK 21 Yuichi Miizutani Seigo Narazaki 1 GK
DF 3 Thiego yellow.gif (OUT HT) Hayuma Tanaka 32 DF
DF 5 Kwak Tai-Hwi Tulio 4 DF
DF 4 Hiroki Mizumoto Takahiro Masukawa 5 DF
DF 19 Jun Morishita yellow.gif Alex Santos 38 DF
MF 22 Daigo Watanabe (OUT 23) Keiji Yoshimura (OUT 70') 14 MF
MF 26 Makoto Kakuda Igor Burzanovic (OUT 74') 9 MF
MF 7 Yosuke Takaoka Magnum 8 MF
MF 15 Hiroki Nakayama Yoshizumi Ogawa 10 FW
FW 10 Diego yellow.gif Josh Kennedy 16 FW
MF 14 Atsushi Yanagisawa (OUT 75') Mu Kanazaki 25 FW
Subs Bench Subs Bench
GK 1 Naoto HIrai Yoshinaari Takagi 50 GK
DF 24 Tatsuya Masushima Mitsuru Chiyotanda 3 DF
MF 16 Jun Ando Shohei Abe 6 MF
MF 17 Taisuke Nakamura Naoshi Nakamura yellow.gif 7 MF
MF 18 Koken Kato Danilson 20 MF
FW 14 Dan Howbert Yuki Maki 17 FW
FW 31 Takumi Miyayoshi Keita Sugimoto 19 FW


Tulio 8'

Kennedy 55'

Kyoto Sanga



GOAL Tulio 8'
Watanabe > Kato 23' Substitution

Thiego 32' yellow.gif Card
Thiega > Masushima HT Substitution

GOAL Kennedy 55'
Substitution Yoshimura > Nakamura 70'

yellow.gif Card Naoshi Nakamura 73'
Substitution Burzanovic > Danilson 74'
Yanagisawa > Miyayoshi 75' Substitution

Substitution Kanazaki > Sugimoto 88'
Diego 90+2' yellow.gif Card

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Jubilo 4-3 Gamba

Peter reports on Gamba's mishap at hapless Jubilo.

Gamba showed good spirit against bottom-of-the-table Jubilo Iwata to come back three times from being a goal down to equalise, but, anyway you look at it, something is badly wrong when Gamba concede four goals to the bottom team.

The first half: Gamba started off playing reasonably good possession football and had the edge for most of the first half. The game was proceeding more or less as Gamba fans had expected until the 29th minute when Yamamoto tried a fierce, high long shot, Fujigaya failed to hold it and, before he could get his hands to the ball again, Maeda, completely free, was able to jump up and head the loose ball into the net. Gamba responded well to this setback and six minutes later, after Endo had set Takagi free down the left, the latter got in a good, fast, low cross which Hashimoto in the left channel skilfully deflected just inside the near post from about 10 metres. After that Cho picked up a knock and appeared to be limping a bit, but Gamba continued to have the edge in possession; so we reached half-time at 1-1 with little hint of the disasters to come.

The second half: Cho failed to appear, presumably injured, and so did Nakazawa, ditto, although there had been no obvious hint that he was hurt in the first half, so one wonders if he was dropped for allowing Maeda to score unchallenged. Cho was replaced by attacking wide-right midfielder sub Sasaki, and Nakazawa by Takagi who in turn was replaced by sub Michihiro Yasuda. Gamba started the second-half with a 4-5-1 formation, with Sasaki taking Hashimoto’s place wide right, Endo moving into the centre of the middle five, and Hashimoto taking Endo’s place in centre-left midfield. Unfortunately for them, the Gamba defence was undone eight minutes after the break by a beautiful through pass from Naruoka which Maeda controlled with one touch, beating Takagi in the process, and scored with a fierce ground shot from about twenty metres. Nishino responded to this setback in the 71st minute by taking off defender Takagi and replacing him with FW Dodo, who played as a second striker. Three minutes later, Nishino’s attacking intentions seemed to have paid off when, after good work by Sasaki, Dodo was able to set up Hirai to equalise with a clinical finish from about twelve metres. We were then treated to two superb goals in two minutes to make it three in three minutes. First of all, in the 75th minute, Maeda provided a good cross to set LWB Park Joo-Ho free in the left channel to fire in a scorcher from 22 metres. Then in the 76th, Endo provided a wonderful curving very long ball from defence for Hirai to run on to, just beat the goalie to the ball and then steer it with the outside of his foot past the goalie and into the net from about nine metres. Gamba had equalised for the third time. However, Gamba’s attacking approach was to end in failure in the 81st minute as, for the second time, Sasaki allowed Park Joo-Ho to get in unmarked: this time closer to the goal and, after his first shot was blocked on the line, he was able to poke the ball into the net from a lying position. Gamba were able to make one defiant gesture in the last nine minutes as, with three minutes to go, Endo got in a good position to head wide, when, perhaps, he should have done better.

This was an exciting game with some good goals; but, regrettably, the defending was nearer that of a relegation battle than to a championship clash. The last two weeks Gamba’s midfield and attack have started to move well; but Fujigaya is not performing at his best--and have the ageing defenders in front of him started creaking?

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Burzanovic Blasts Sink Kobe

This foul-tinged game came down to the quality of the kickers, and the keepers. Although, Enomoto is pretty good, he could not do anything to stop Igor's two brilliantly-taken free kicks, while Narazaki was able to pull off a brilliant save to deny Popo. Both of the Montenegran's blasts were wickedly rising efforts that would have given any keeper little chance, the sought of kicks we have not seen at Grampus since Honda left. So while Igor's work-rate and defensive capabilities may leave a a bit to be desired, as long as he keeps getting on the scoresheet, Pixie is like to use him.

Highlights as ever via FootyTube. For once our Serbian and Montenegran viewers can enjoy the interview as well. :-)

The game started with a couple of early efforts by Nakamura and Magnum were blocked, as was a near-post effort by Ogawa. We quickly closed down Kobe, denying them space and often breaking up or intercepting their attempts to get forward. Kobe double-teamed Kennedy and a clumsy sandwiching foul led to free kick, which saw Popo booked for failing to retreat the full distance. Igor blasted the kick past the ineffective wall and into the top left corner, giving Enomoto no chance. Although Kobe fluffed a couple of half-chances to pull level, we continued to control the game and Josh should have done better than hit his effort straight at the keeper after being released by Magnum. The half ended in scrappy fashion with neither team really being able to gain an advantage.

We had a narrow escape early in the second half when a Popo free kick was brilliantly turned over by Narazaki. However, we soon resumed normal service, regaining control and Nakamura sent a difficult shot fizzing just wide. This was followed by a Kennedy header from a typically accurate cross by Alex, but the lanky Aussie's effort was straight at Enomoto. Kobe brought on their nippy Korean early on to try and exploit Hayuma's enforced restraint due to his early yellow card, but Stojkovic was wise to the move and soon swapped Tanaka for Tamada. This saw Ogawa dropp back into the vacant side half position. Another inept challenge on Josh gave Igor another chance to show us his bag of tricks, and the Montenegrin duly obliged with dipping effort that cleared the wall and left Enomoto stranded again. Some good work by Nakamura sent Mu Kanazaki down the left and his cross-ball fell inviting for the Tamada, but ht out-of-form striker inexplicably made no effort to get to the ball. Kennedy looked set to break clear as the clock wound down, but was ruthlessly upended Mu. Komoto who was duly booked for his cynical foul. We duly ran out the clock, with a more controlled performance then against FC Tokyo on Wednesday with the only excitement being Popo's dismissal for lashing out at Alex as the two tangled on the right touchline.

Grampus 2 0 Vissel
Starters Starters
P. No. Name Name No. P.
GK 1 Seigo Narazaki Tatsuya Enomoto 1 GK
DF 32 Hayuma Tanaka Yohei Ishibitsu 25 DF
DF 4 Tulio Kunie Kitamoto 4 DF
DF 5 Takahiro Masukawa Hiroyuki Komoto 5 DF
DF 38 Alex Santos Hiroto Mogi 21 DF
MF 7 Naoshi Nakamura Hideo Tanaka 18 MF
MF 10 Yoshizumi Ogawa Ryosuke Matsuoka 8 MF
MF 9 Igor Burzanovic Botti 10 MF
FW 25 Mu Kanazaki Popo 11 FW
FW 16 Josh Kennedy Ken Tokura 27 FW
FW 8 Magnum Takayuki Yoshida 17 FW
Subs Bench Subs Bench
GK 21 Koji Nishimura Takahide Kishi 29 GK
DF 3 Mitsuru Chiyotanda Tsuneyasu Miyamoto 14 DF
DF 6 Shohei Abe Daisuke Tomita 33 DF
MF 7 Keiji Yoshimura Park Kang Jo 20 MF
MF 20 Danilson Ryota Morioka 20 MF
FW 11 Keiji Tamada Masatoshi Mihara 24 MF
FW 17 Yuki Maki Kensuke Nagai 35 FW

Burzanovic 26'

Burzanovic 72'





yellow.gif Card Popo 25'
Burzanovic 26' GOAL
Tanaka 29' yellow.gif Card
Masukawa 42' yellow.gif Card
Burzanovic 45+2' yellow.gif Card
Tulio 50' yellow.gif Card

Substitution Botti > Park 59'
Tanaka > Tamada 68' Substitution

Substitution Tanaka > Nagai 70'
Burzanovic 72' GOAL
Burzanovic > Yoshimura 74' Substitution
yellow.gif Card Komoto 89'
Nakamura > Danilson 90' Substitution
yell2red.gif Card Popo 90+4'

Cerezo 3-1 Sanga

Peter chimes in with news of Cerezo's first win of the season.

No changes. Last week I wrote, "Cerezo's loss resulted from giving the ball away too often and trying to walk the ball into the net. Two of the statistics confirm the story, which anyway stood out like a sore thumb to the game's observers: Cerezo had 53% of the possession, but the Reds outshot them 14 to 7." Well, Cerezo certainly learnt their lesson: today they outshot Sanga 19-9, although the possession was only 55% to 45%.

Today, Cerezo justified Culpi's team selection and philosophy and played some very good Brazilian-style football. (Although I still think Uemoto, Amaral and Omata are the weakest links.)

The first goal resulted originally from cool play by goalie Kim who came out of his penalty area and made a shortish pass when you wished he had given it a good boot. But after nearly a dozen passes Kim's decision was vindicated as Inui put in a beautiful through-pass assist with the outside of his boot and Kagawa cleverly chipped it over the goalie and into the net from about 15 metres. (30')

The second goal also resulted from good football and a great first-time lob over the goalie from Martinez which would have probably gone in off the far post, but the goalie and Adriano both went for the ball, the goalie got a hand to it and couldn't hold it and the ball bounced loose for Kagawa to tap it into the net with a volley. (36')

The third goal also came from some good Brazilian-style stuff and several passes with sub Ienaga providing the assist and the joyful sub Bando banging it into the net first time under pressure. (90')

In between Kagawa's second and Bando's goals, Sanga's 17-year-old sub Miyayoshi, making his first appearance, scored with a deflection off a Cerezo defender which wrong-footed Kim, who had a very good game today.

Yanagisawa of Sanga looks a class act to me. He has matured and expanded his range of play.

But today one has to finish with praise for Cerezo's football, which at certain times can be stunning.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Gamba 3-0!

Alan, the Stadium DJ, chips in with his view of Gamba's easy win on Wednesday.
Gamba looked better than the "only" three goal margin suggests ... but still some work to do to get that top spot in the group.

The sakura was in evidence outside the ground and, thankfully it wasn't as cold as earlier in the week as Gamba Osaka took on Singapore Armed Forces in the home leg of their Qualifying Group battle, having won the away leg in a not-so-convincing 4-2 victory. The fans were hoping for more goal in this fixture, with a view to gaining some confidence to take into the J.League.

The game began with Gamba passing the ball around a-la-Gamba-style, but with little success in front of goal. Yasuda popped a couple of decent crosses in, and Futagawa and Sasaki took shots from distance but caused little excitement until Yasuda intercepted a pass on the halfway line, advanced, swapped passes with Futagawa and found an opening, but his final shot was weak.

In the 19th it was Yasuda again, with a deep cross that Sasaki controlled and hit, the ball ricocheting away off a defender.

Hashimoto came close before Cho had two chances within 30 seconds, the first hitting the post and the second, after Kaji put the ball back in saw a splendid half volley well saved by the busy keeper.

So it was down to the ever-energetic Yasuda to finally open the scoring with a super left foot strike from the left side of the area. 1-0! More to come! Perhaps Š while Gamba had never looked in trouble they were having difficulty making that final flourish count. Hirai was working hard, but a couple of weak left foot finishes had not helped. Yasuda tried his luck again in the 37th, as he cut inside on his right foot and let fly from 25 yards out, but the ball flew well wide.

The 2nd half began with a flurry of corners and the away keeper denying Cho yet again - until Sasaki fed Hirai on the break and slipped the ball to the right and the onrushing Hirai blasted it into the net with a right foot first-timer! 2-0!

Gamba continued to create space, run the game completely, rack up the shots, the corners and the possession, but the keeper foiled Cho, Futagawa, Hashimoto and Hirai once again, while at the other end Kimura had not had a shot to save.

With 18 minutes to go Cho broke free from the half, fed Futagawa who placed it perfectly for Hirai to scoop over the bar from 18 yards out. The Sasaki made a run through the middle and, when all expected a pass to the wide open Futagawa on his right, he feinted brilliantly to the left and the goal was at his mercy. he did everything right in placing it to the keeper's right post, but that's exactly where it went - hitting the right post!

At this point, with around a quarter of an hour left on the clock Gamba coach Nishino decided to freshen things up, bring on Ze Carlos and Shohei Otsuka for Cho and Hirai. Otsuka and Ze too the two top spots, with both getting in on the action pretty quickly... Ze Carlos was rewarded and made the score a little more respectable with a deflected goal in lost time, and earned a yellow card which could come back to haunt him if he is needed at a later stage, for his wild celebrations of his goal.

To be honest, we could have hoped for more goals. On the other hand, the keeper was brilliant at times, and at others his goal led charmed life! The official stats will show about 40 shots on goal for Gamba, while the visitors managed one on target! This month, we'll take a win however we can get it!

The refereeing, from the Uzbek officials, was spot-on, controversy free, not that it was a game that one expected to erupt!! :-) It was a pleasure to scream GGGGGGOOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLL three times tonight in my role as stadium "DJ", too ... 'though wouldn't have minded getting more practice in!

Gamba Osaka:
GK - Kimura
DF - Kaji, Nakazawa, Yamaguchi, Yasuda
MF - Sasaki, Myojin, Hashimoto (Shimohira, 86), Futagawa
FW - Cho (Otsuka, 76), Hirai (Ze Carlos, 76)