Tokyo Verdy 3-0 FC Gifu

The goal drought continues as defeat in the capital means Gifu stay rooted to the bottom of J2.

Gifu went into this game with selection problems up front with Fabio suspended and Taira Inoue still out injured. This set of circumstances led to Gyotoku selecting no strikers for this game, instead going with a kind of 4-6-0 formation with Atsushi Mio as the man furthest forward of the six man midfield. In that midfield, Ri Han Jae returned from his suspension and captain Toshihiro Hattori made his first start of the season after being out due to a knee injury.

The hosts kept faith with the same starting line-up that drew with Roasso Kumamoto the previous week with summer signing Satoshi Tokiwa partnering Ex-Shimizu & Hamburg forward Naohiro Takahara up front.

If Gifu’s plan was to try and frustrate the home team and the crowd by keeping it tight early on, it failed miserably as Verdy took the lead after only 3 minutes. A cross from the left was headed  away by Gifu centre-half Sekita but only as far as Takahara. The veteran striker controlled the ball on his chest before smashing a powerful 20 yard strike which left Tokihisa helpless. Gifu tried to respond from that hammer blow and had a half chance when Kazuki Someya’s ball sent Atsushi Mio in down the left, but his shot was easily dealt with by Verdy ‘keeper Sato.

It got worse for Gifu as they went two down after 17 minutes. A mazy run from Satoshi Tokiwa seemed to be going nowhere, but his cross from the left caught out Shogo Tokihisa in goal and the ball flew over the Gifu ‘keeper’s head and into the back of the net. Unless it was a deliberate chip, in which case bravo Tokiwa. The goal was the ex-Giravanz striker’s first goal for his new club. The game was effectively over as a contest on 35 minutes when Iio’s cross found ex-Jubilo midfielder Norihiro Nishi in acres of space in the box and all he had to do was calmly sidefoot it past Tokihisa. It was really poor defending all round from Gifu, Iio got past Tanaka far too easily but even then there was no-one within 5 yards of Nishi when he slotted home. 3-0 at the break.

Nakashima came on for Tanaka at the break to try and give even the merest semblance of an attacking threat. He did come close on 65 minutes when his snap-shot from the edge of the area forced Sato into a smart save, but that was about as good as it got. Just to add insult to impotence, Desmond was red carded in injury time, “earning” his second yellow card for a very innocuous looking bump against substitute Naoki Maeda. The game ended with Verdy as 3-0 winners.

From where I’m looking, there are two sides to this season’s story. On the one hand you can’t expect to score goals, let alone win games if the side is set up without any strikers. Mio is not a forward, he is best used (from what I saw of him at Tottori) as an attacking midfielder. Surely Nakashima deserves a chance to show what he can do, the same goes for Lemos & Hiroyuki Sugimoto. Fabio will be back from his suspension next week and Inoue will be back soon, but there needs to be some kind of re-focusing of the attacking plan. Most teams are, man-for-man, better than Gifu and to a certain extent that can be nullified by excellent strategy and organization. But the plan falls apart when there is no goal threat to keep defences honest and it just invites too much pressure.

On the other hand, the fact that Gifu are playing at all is a minor miracle, and that is a fact that most fans appreciate. Despite the ‘goallessness’ (I know – that is a made up word) you will very rarely hear bad words against the players & coaches as the fans know that, while the debt is on the road to being dealt with, the investment didn’t leave much left over to strengthen the squad. Gyotoku and his coaching staff are doing their best with a very limited squad. The results look bad, but they won’t be the last side that Vissel Kobe stick four goals on, and they have been ‘in’ most games, but this Verdy game looked like a game where they were beaten as soon as they went behind.

Next up are Kyoto Sanga. They have lost their last two games against two of the “lesser” teams in division (Kataller Toyama & Tokushima Vortis) so we know, despite their abundance of good players, they can be beaten. The main question is can Gifu get at them? As Andy Dusfrene (Tim Robbins) says in the Shawshank Redemption: “You either get busy living, or get busy dying”

It is a sentiment that FC Gifu would do well to heed as they prepare to face one the promotion favourites next Sunday.


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