It was always going to be a tough “Golden Week” slate for Gifu and it duly turned out to be so with defeats away at Gamba Osaka & at home to JEF United Chiba.
Gamba Osaka 2-0 FC Gifu
Last Friday night (JST) Gifu made the trip to Banpaku stadium in Oita to take on unbeaten Gamba Osaka. Coach Gyotoku sprang a surprise by dropping hitherto ever-present Atsushi Mio in favour of untried youngster Taisuke Mizuno. Desmond was also in the starting line-up despite his apparent double injury in the game against Montedio Yamagata.
At the start it was all Gamba with the peerless Yasuhito Endo pulling the strings. His finger prints were all over the game as he played with minimal fuss and exertion yet exercised control over proceedings. The first real chance fell to Gamba’s Ienaga but his shot, though well struck, was straight at Tokihisa who stood firm. Gamba did take the lead in the 23rd minute through the impressive Abe. Desmond did well to break up an attack but in doing so he found himself pulled out of position and Endo & Kurata took advantage of this space to tee up Abe whose shot found the bottom corner. No less than what the hosts deserved for their dominance of both territory and possession.
At this point, many observers would have expected Gifu to fold and for Gamba to rack up a score but the goal seemed focus Gifu and they started to get into the game a bit more. They very nearly stunned the home crowd on the half hour when Desmond rose majestically to meet a corner but he put his header wide, with Fujigaya in goal nowhere near the ball. Half time came, and Gifu were still in the game trailing by only the one goal.
The second half followed a similar pattern as the first with Gamba dictating play, but it was Gifu who came closest to scoring when Higuchi put the ball in the net, but referee Mishimura adjudged that he had controlled the ball with his arms before scoring – a huge let off for the hosts. Endo nearly sealed the win when he hit a shot from 25 yards which hit the left post before rolling across the line and just clearing the right hand post. Gamba eventually sealed the win with 3 minutes remaining. Okazaki got on the end of a cross and laid the ball back to substitute Shoki Hirai who had the simple task task off finishing it off. FT and the game finished 2-0 to Gamba.
Gifu showed they can live with teams, but seldom posed an attacking threat. Desmond was immense in defence, but the forwards, whoever they may be, need to start holding the ball up a bit more to give the defenders some rest.
FC Gifu 0-1 JEF United Chiba
This one is going to be a very short and sweet match report.
Gifu kept the same starting eleven which had lost at Gamba, so that meant once again Taisuke Mizuno was preferred to Atsushi Mio and that there was still no starting place for Hiroyuki Sugimoto. The visitors were without suspended top-scorer Kempes, but surprisingly decided to keep Jair on the bench and instead went with Yazawa & Nam.
JEF were in control throughout the first half but couldn’t turn their dominance into goals despite the best efforts of the aforementioned Yazawa & Nam. Ex-JEF man Masuyama & Desmond were once again very busy in defence as wave after wave of JEF attacks rained on the Gifu goal. JEF were given a golden chance to take the lead just as the first half was coming to a close. Desmond was punished for an alleged pull on the shirt of a JEF player, but NO players appealed and everyone looked stunned by the decision. I think most people thought the ref had given a free-kick to Gifu! On the face of it, it looked like a terrible decision but penalty specialist Tokihisa rode to the rescue. The Gifu goalkeeper had saved three penalties up to that point in the season, and he dived to his left to keep Yamaguchi’s penalty out. In all honesty it wasn’t a great penalty from the JEF captain but Tokihisa has now saved 4 penalties this year. Great stuff from the Gifu custodian. HT came and it was scoreless.
The second continued in the same vein as the first with JEF having the majority of the play. Both teams made substitutions: Gifu brought on Mio while JEF brought on winter signing Jair as they went for the win.
JEF got the goal their overall superiority (probably) deserved with 5 minutes remaining, but came in awfully fortuitous circumstances. A corner from the right, their 16th of the game, was swung in to the box, Tokihisa went to punch the ball but missed it. The ball hit an unknowing Yonekura in the face and rebounded off Jair’s knee and into the net. Those are the kind of things that happen when you are down the bottom of the table. Cruel luck for Gifu in the end, and Jair celebrated as if he had scored the winning goal in the world cup final. Still, you could sense how much it meant to everyone connected with JEF. Another defeat for Gifu, but defeats elsewhere for Giravanz Kitakyushu & Thespa Kusatsu Gunma mean they are still within sight of safety.
Gifu face a very big game next week, when suddenly in form Roasso Kumamoto, winners of their last three games, visit Nagaragawa next Sunday night.