Giravanz claimed a thoroughly deserved win against a largely toothless Gifu side, and it was a win that put daylight between the two clubs in the relegation battle.
Gifu, under new coach Karashima, went with Bhlaze up front with Someya in a free role behind him. Hattori was benched in favour of returning Ri Han Jae and Hiroshi Sekita made it on to the bench for the first time in a while.
Giravanz started brightly, knocking the ball around well, with Ikemoto showing particularly well, eager to make up for his missed penalty in the return fixture. However, it was Gifu who were first to threaten and they should feel pretty aggrieved after having a goal ruled out in the 9th minute. A throw in from the right was held up by Bhlaze, who laid it off to Mio who smashed the ball in, but the whistle had already gone as the ref had adjudged that Bhlaze had held the shirt of a Giravanz defender. It looked a harsh decision at the time, and nothing has changed my mind after watching it again.
Giravanz took the lead after 21 minutes, following a superb passing move. I counted 21 passes in the build up before Ikemoto’s excellent cross found Watari, who made no mistake in burying his header past Tokihisa. Just a really good goal. Gifu were lucky to escape going two down after Nogaito’s very weak chest pass back to Tokihisa was nearly intercepted by Inoue, but the keeper was down smartly to rescue Shun. Half time came, and Giravanz went in 1-0 up.
Gifu made a change at half time, bringing on Croatian midfielder Stipe to replace the ineffective Taisuke Mizuno in midfield. Ri Han Jae produced Gifu’s first shot of the night, a daisy cutter that was easily handled by Takeda in the Giravanz goal. It was Ri’s last contribution to the game as he replaced by captain Hattori. Gifu were again fortunate to stay only one goal behind when Arai’s thunderbolt from 25 yards cannoned back off the crossbar. Tokihisa kept the score at 1-0 in the 70th minute as he saved a one on one with Inoue as Giravanz pressed for that all important second goal. Stipe was proving to be Gifu’s most dangerous player and he had a couple of long range shots that tested Takeda, but Giravanz’s killer blow was delivered in stoppage time. Ikemoto received the ball on the right, and instead of taking it to the corner to kill time, he drove at Kitani, got the ball on to his left foot and curled a beautiful shot past Tokihisa into the far corner. Game over – 2-0 to Giravanz.
Gifu must recover quickly as they face a difficult trip to JEF United on Sunday. Games are starting to run out now, but they must take heart from the fact they won at the Fukuda Denshi Arena last year. Still, it is going to be a huge ask.