Gifu were outplayed for long parts of this game but were able to come away with a valuable point against their promotion chasing visitors.
Gifu look to be a team that are transitioning into a 4-4-2 side after showing nothing whilst playing a 4-5-1 formation. Today, Higuchi & Sugimoto started up front, while Sugiyama moved to right back – the position most people thought he would play when he signed.
Montedio surprisingly rested Miyasaka, and they went with an attacking line-up that included strikers Hayashi, Yuki Nakashima and Masato Yamazaki.
Montedio were in control from the off with Franck looking head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch. Also looking good was Taisuke Nakamura as he bombed forward down the left and his first half battle with Arata Sugiyama was a good one to watch.
Yamagata thought they had taken the lead on twenty minutes when, from a Nakamura free kick, Ryohei Hayashi headed in Horinouchi’s flick on but the striker was adjudged to be offside. It looked offside on first glance, but replays showed it was touch and go. Gifu were struggling to get out of their own half, but they very nearly took the lead after a swift counter attack. Kazuki Someya scampered down the left, cut back on to his right foot and curled a dangerous ball into the box that found Makoto Shibahara, but the youngster on loan from S-Pulse couldn’t keep his header down.
Yamagata took the lead on 41 minutes when the Gifu defence stood off Akiba and he made them pay by hitting a left-footed shot low past Tokihisa from just outside the box. In the good old days of the #greatgifugoaldrought that would have been that, but there have been signs recently that Gifu are starting to believe they can score goals, and this rang true as Gifu went immediately up the other end and Higuchi was only denied by a smart save from Yamagata ‘keeper Satoshi Tokizawa. That should have served as a warning to Montedio, but they didn’t heed it and paid when Gifu equalized just before half time. Arata Sugiyama picked out a great run by Sugimoto and played 40 yard ball to perfection over the Montedio defence. Sugimoto deftly controlled the ball and, spotting Tokizawa off his line, chipped the ball perfectly over him and into the net. A quality goal all round, and one that meant the half time score was 1-1.
Montedio started the second half in the same way they had started the first – controlling the tempo and stringing nice passing moves together with Franck at the centre of things. Despite all their territory, it was the home side that had a great chance to take the lead in the 65th minute. Hattori stole the ball in the centre of the field and fed the on-rushing Shibahara, but his shot lacked any power and the ‘keeper got down easily to make the save. In the middle of the second half Gifu suffered yet another injury blow, this one a potentially serious one. Desmond went on one of his customary charges forward but was brought down and landed heavily on his shoulder. Earlier in the second half he had gone down with what looked like a knee problem but he decided to play on. This shoulder injury was too much to for him to play through and he came off. Gifu fans await with baited breath about the severity of the injury.
Yamagata had a lot of pressure in the second half, as you would expect, but they didn’t really test Tokihisa an awful lot, save for a Yuki Nakashima shot that was blocked and a chip from Akiba that was easily dealt with.
Full time came and it finished 1-1 in front of 4,120. Most definitely a point gained, and some good signs. They don’t look like the impotent team of earlier this year and they have some skillful players now: Shibahara, Mizuno, Higuchi (all on loan) are giving the team a new look. Gifu have two very tough assignments this “Golden Week” as they face Gamba Osaka & JEF United Chiba. But at least they are giving teams something to think about now, which wasn’t the case earlier this season.