Shogo Tokihisa was the hero for Gifu as his penalty save meant that Gifu escaped from Ehime with a point & a clean sheet.
Gifu headed to Ehime without injured striker Taira Inoue and he was replaced by Masato Yamazaki. Yamazaki played as the lone striker, with Atsushio Mio providing the support. For Ehime, Shigematsu started with Ishii & Tomic looking to get forward too.
In the rainy conditions it was Ehime first to threaten as a cross from the right was met by Hiroshi Azuma but his header skidded just wide of the left post. In the 23rd minute Ehime were given a glorious chance to take the lead. Tomic’s through ball found Mihara down the left hand side and when he got into the area his progress was crudely halted by Shuto Tanaka’s desperate lunge. A clear penalty & booking for Gifu’s number 4. Shigematsu stepped up but blasted his penalty over the crossbar, a big let-off for the visitors. Gifu rarely threatened but they did have a sight of goal on the half hour as Sugiyama, playing in a midfield role, drilled a 20 yard shot a couple of feet wide of the post.
At the break, Kohei Nakashima replaced Yamazaki for Gifu. The game turned into a very scrappy affair, as befits two sides whom most expected to struggle. Atsushi Mio, captain in the absence of Hattori, had a half chance when he spun and fizzed in a low shot but Ehime ‘keeper Akimoto did well to get his whole body behind it, especially in the greasy conditions. Then, with 15 minutes left, Ehime were awarded another penalty when Sekita was adjudged to have pulled back Ishii as they both attempted to go up for a header. It was the kind of penalty decision that the home team would get 50% of the time, but the away team would never get. Sekita did have his arm around Ishii, but Ishii was clearly backing in to him too. The Gifu players were incensed with the decision and Sekita was booked for his troubles. After Shigematsu’s miss in the first half, Ehime sent Tomic up to take responsibility but his spot kick was brilliantly saved by Tokihisa low down to his right. Incidentally that was Tokihisa’s second penalty save of the season.
Both teams had half chances in final stages: Masuyama blasted a long range effort just over for Gifu while Shigematsu just failed to connect with a low cross for the hosts. There were to be no goals, but in injury time, Ri Han Jae picked up a second booking for a foul and his red card means he will miss the next game, at home to Tokushima Vortis.
Positives for Gifu: A second clean sheet in a row and Tokihisa looking in good form. Gifu will need him to continue that form. Mio is growing into his role and has already emerged as a leader. I’m still unsure as to the merits of playing Sugiyama in midfield, but in his two games there Gifu haven’t conceded or lost.
Negatives for Gifu: No goals. Simple really.
Next up: Tokushima Vortis, home, Sunday 1pm KO