The first home win of the season, and a dramatic one at that. What a fine way to celebrate some Saturday night football at the Nagaragawa.
For Gifu, Hirofumi Moriyasu, suspended for last week’s bore draw with Okayama, returned to the side while Takahiro Takagi kept his place in goal.
For the visitors, Gifu old boy Koichi Sato made his return to the club where he made his name. The Nagasaki line-up was dripping with attacking intent with Mizunaga, Sato, Yamada & Ogasawara in the side.
It didn’t take long for the visitors to take control of the game as they took the game by the scruff of the neck. Shuto Kono was behind most of Nagasaki’s early play and the visitors took the lead in the 5th minute. A cross from the right was played back across the face of the goal by Kohei Yamada and his cross/shot found, you guessed it, Koichi Sato who had the simplest of tasks to direct the ball in to the net. I was absolutely convinced it was offside, as were the majority of Gifu supporters, but the replays showed that the assistant ref got the call right as it looked like Arata Sugiyama played Sato onside.
The tone was set, and throughout the first half Nagasaki’s forward line of Mizunaga, Sato & Kono gave Gifu all sorts of headaches. As with last week, it was on the wings where Gifu were getting caught time & time again. Yamada and especially Kono were having field days but, like Okayama last week, the final ball left a bit to be desired. As it was Gifu rarely threatened in the first period, save for a Higuchi snap-shot which sailed harmlessly over the bar. At the other end, Sato had a shot blocked, Mizunaga headed over and Kono blazed over as Nagasaki failed to convert their undoubted superiority into goals. Gifu were completely devoid of any ideas and with the half time score at 0-1 I had that all too familiar feeling that Gifu weren’t going to score at home. Again.
Then, something amazing happened. Gyotoku made an ATTACKING tactical switch. Moriyasu, hitherto anonymous in a very undefined midfield role, was pushed up to give Higuchi some support, while Someya was also relieved of his defensive duties. It meant that Gifu came out for the second half in a 3-4-3 formation with Hattori, Sugiyama, Mio & Nogaito making up the four in midfield. It also meant that Hattori & Nogaito were outnumbered 3-2 in the centre but the upshot was that Gifu had much more attacking malice.
Gifu showed promise in the opening minutes of the second half with Higuchi & Moriyasu showing well together, but it Nagasaki who had the first clear chance of the half. Firstly Fujii had his shot saved by Takagi, then Sato wildly mis-hit the follow. His mis-hit fell to Yamada on the left and his excellent cross picked out Sato who powered his header towards goal only for Takagi to pull off a fantastic point-blank save to deny him. In hindsight, that was the turning point as if Gifu had fallen two behind, then I doubt they would have come back. But come back they did and their enterprise, led by the impressive duo of Moriyasu & Someya was rewarded in the 62nd minute. Nogaito picked up a loose ball in the centre of the park and fed Sugiyama on the right. His dangerous cross caused panic in the Nagasaki area with defender Fujii and ‘keeper Kanayama leaving it for the other to deal with, but all they accomplished was allowing the ball to Kazuki Someya who sidefooted the ball past Kanayama to make it 1-1. The game was now open, and big Des hit a 40 yarder which sailed well over the bar. Gifu were pinning Nagasaki back, but the visitors were looking very dangerous on the counter, especially when Kohei Yamada was involved. He loved the wide open spaces that greeted him and without fail he tried take on Masuyama & Desmond whenever the opportunity presented itself. From one those breaks, Inoue slammed the ball just wide of Takagi’s post. If Yamada had held his run (or known the offside law) a couple of times he would have had one on one chances, but he was too eager to get behind Masuyama and was subsequently flagged offside.
In the 88th minute, Yudai Inoue had a glorious chance to win it, but he inexplicably chose to try and connect with outside of his left foot instead of taking the much easier option of his right and he skied the ball high and wide. Gifu went straight up the other end and won a corner, which Mio delivered into the danger area. There was a scramble, and Desmond smacked a shot against the underside of the bar and, on closer inspection, over the line, but neither the ref, nor his assistant, had a clear view and the “goal” wasn’t given. In the third minute of the allotted three minutes of injury time substitute Kiyomoto got the ball in midfield and released Sugiyama down the centre. Sugiyama played the ball to the onrushing Someya, who looked liked he had taken the ball too wide before smashing a stunning shot hard & high past Kanayama and into the net to give Gifu a stunning win.
I hope Gyotoku and the coaching staff take note of what an attacking set-up does for the team. In the second half they were superb. Yes they rode their luck, but Nagasaki are no mugs. They are third for a reason and on another day they would have won this game comfortably. But from Takagi in goal, Des in defence, Nogaito in midfield through to Higuchi up front, Gifu stood up and played in the second half. Although Someya will, quite rightly get he plaudits, Moriyasu was absolutely magnificent in the second half. Playing with, and off, Higuchi, he caused all kinds of problems for the Nagasaki backline. Who knows, he may have found his new position.
Next up, Gifu travel to the Torigin Stadium to face Gainare Tottori, in what is a winnable game. To follow up this win with another would be a huge statement from the team they are not going to go down without a fight.