Today marked the start of the 2013 J2 season but Gifu will hope that this game doesn’t indicate what the season ahead has in store, because if it does then it will be a long season for the men in green.
Coach Koji Gyotoku sprang a surprise by starting 2 forwards, Yamazaki and Inoue, in a 4-4-2 formation. New signing Atsushi Mio was on the left of midfield while Kazuki Someya was on the right. New signing Desmond slotted in at centre back along side Sekita while Tokihisa remained in goal despite the presence of new signing Takagi on the bench.
It was Yokohama who started brightest on a very chilly day in Gifu and it only took them a minute to register their first chance. Okubo caused problems in the Gifu area, and when the ball made its way out to Uchida on the edge of the box, his shot rolled just wide. This was the pattern for much of the first half, Okubo making a nuisance of himself (although he did get booked for deliberate handball) and Uchida, Nakazato & Terada all willing to pick up the pieces and continue the attack. It wasn’t all Yokohama though, Taira Inoue flashed a volley just over the bar and Oizumi had a long range effort held by Yokohama ‘keeper Shibasaki. Half time came, and it remained scoreless. No surprise really because, although Yokohama were running the show, they lacked any real quality in the final third.
Gifu made one change at half time, Shun Nogaito replacing Yamazaki. The first real talking point of the second half came when Yokohama were awarded a penalty. I would describe it as a “debatable” decision. There looked to be little contact between Desmond and Uchida, but the referee deemed it worthy of a penalty – much to the chagrin of Desmond who protested vociferously. Okubo stepped up (after a prolonged wind delay, the swirling wind kept blowing the ball off the spot) but Tokihisa dived low to his left to keep it out. As with the first half, it was mainly one way traffic with Yokohama almost constantly attacking. There were a few breaks from Gifu, chiefly led by Mio, but there weren’t enough options to really trouble the Yokohama defence.
It was no surprise when the first goal came, but it was a little surprising in the way it came about. Up until the goal, new signing Desmond was having a really good game. Strong in the air and in the tackle, the boy looks like a pretty good find. But he failed to clear a pass which led to Yosuke Nozaki being through on goal, and his cool, left footed finish gave Yokohama the lead their superiority deserved.
Gifu were now in the position of having to come forward, and by this point Fabio had come on to replace Kazuki Someya. There was no lack of effort, but a lack of guile & cuteness in the final third was all too obvious, and it was ruthlessly exposed by Yokohama who wrapped up the win with 4 minutes left on the clock. A great through ball by Nozaki put Tomoya Uchida though on goal and the ex-Kofu & Omiya man confidently tucked the ball home. Game over.
Positives for Gifu? Well, coach Gyotoku started with an attacking formation which maybe signals an intent to go for it a bit more at home. Desmond looks strong and uncompromising. Mio looks decent, but I’d like to see him a bit more central where he can get involved a bit more.
Negatives? The aforementioned lack of guile up front. After the game, Gyotoku spoke about getting more physical up front, so I’m assuming Fabio will be more involved. Also, there needs to more creativity, so Mio & Someya will have to take on that responsibility.
Up next? Only a trip to the NOEVIR Stadium to face promotion favourites Vissel Kobe. Gifu will go there more in hope than expectation, but you never know in J2…..