A great result for Gifu, and one which lifted them off the bottom and simultaneously fired a shot in their arm to boost their hopes of survival.
Gyotoku rang the changes and went attacking, pairing new signings Yuki Nakamura & Bhlaze Ilijovski up front, while Hiroki Higuchi moved out on to the right side of midfield. Another new signing, Kyosuke Kitani also made his Gifu debut as they went 4 at the back.
Fagiano went with Yuki Oshitani up front and the impressive Ryo Tadokoro as the left winger.
In a dream start for the visitors they went one nil up after only three minutes. A ball from Atsushi Mio was left by Ilijovski, Nakamura took the ball in his stride and fired a left foot shot past Nakabayashi. great start but, as Nakamura was at pains to point out during his celebration, Gifu needed to keep calm. From then on, it was nearly all Okayama. Chances fell to Ueda, who headed wide, and Keita Goto, who headed into the ground and over the bar. Despite Fagiano’s pressure, Gifu held firm to go in 1-0 up at the break.
Fagiano nearly leveled in the 57th minute, but Kauwada’s deft touch from a cross from the right just evaded the far corner with Tokihisa beaten. Fagiano got the equalizer they deserved in the 64th minute. Tadokoro’s corner from the left was headed goalwards by Ueda. The header was blocked by by his own man in Goto, but the ball fell ever so kindly for Kuwada who smashed the ball past the despairing dive of Tokihisa.
However, despite the boost that the equalizer gave the home side, the away side stunned Kanko Stadium as Gifu punished Fagi on the counter attack. A ball from the left by Mio missed Nakamura in the box, but bounced through to the completely unmarked Higuchi who held his nerve and dispatched the ball past Nakabayashi. The goal was Higuchi’s third of the campaign. The hosts were shell-shocked, poured forward in numbers and almost equalized immediately. The ever dangerous Tadokoro’s low cross found Shoichi Tanaka at the far post and his effort beat Tokihisa but not Kitani, who produced a stunning goal-line clearance that preserved the lead. A truly miraculous effort from the Sagan Tosu defender. Ex-Gifu loanee Yuki Oshitani had a good chance but he blasted his shot over from the edge of the area. Gifu had scare in injury when Ueda headed a long ball down into the danger area, but Desmond & Tokihisa between them managed to deal with it. Shortly after, the final whistle went and Gifu had a vital win.
It is hard to assess the impact of the new boys so early, but Nakamura scored, Ilijovski looks a hulk up front and Kitani brought experience and no little skill to the defence. The decision to play two up front is to be applauded, even if everyone knows it is the only way Gifu will beat the drop. Things don’t get any easier in the coming weeks. Next week Gifu head to the Pocari Sweat Stadium in Tokushima to face in-form (aren’t all Gifu’s oppeonents usually in form?) Tokushima Vortis. But they will be buoyed by this result, and I sincerely hope they don’t make and tactical changes.