FC Gifu breathed much needed life into their relegation survival campaign as they claimed a vital 1-0 victory at fellow relegation rivals Thespa Kusatsu Gunma.

Gifu started with Stipe, making his full debut, and Hiroki Higuchi up front and the midfield contain attacking intent with Someya, Mio & Moriyasu. Gifu were also boosted by a surprisingly strong (for Gifu anyway) bench that included Desmond, Masuyama, Nakamura and Blazhe.

Despite Gifu’s apparent attacking intentions, it was Thespa who were first to threaten when their star man Ryuichi Hirashige burst through and placed a shot that inched just wide of the post. Lessons weren’t learned and 10 minutes later ex-Kataller Toyama midfielder Koken Kato should have done better than curl the ball past the post from a good position.

The game changed in the 32nd minute when Thespa midfielder was shown a straight red card for clattering into Arata Sugiyama. It looked bad, but personally I think it was a very harsh red card. No damage was done to Sugiyama, and there was no intent to do damage. Still, this was good news for Gifu, but they failed to take advantage and the first half ended scoreless.

At half time, Karashima, sensing the chance, brought on Blazhe for Stipe in order to go for the win. His change was rewarded handsomely when Gifu took the lead in the 67th minute. Arata Sugiyama, yes THAT Sugiyama, made a surging run down the right and his great ball was met by the outstretched boot of Blazhe who steered the ball past Thespa ‘keeper Kazuma Kita to give Gifu a precious lead. It really should have been 2-0 when Tatsuya Arai thundered a header into the bottom corner from Atsushi Mio’s superb corner, but the referee unfathomably ruled that Arai had fouled a Thespa defender. Rubbish, it was a great header. Gifu didn’t let the injustice get to them as they saw out the final phase of the game with only one major worry, when Tokihisa saved a powerful shot from Hirashige. Final score Thespa 0-1 FC Gifu.

Did I mention it was a vital win? Yes? Good. Karashima deserves credit for bringing on Blazhe to spearhead the push for the win. Next week, just the small matter of second bottom Gainare Tottori visiting Gifu…..well, Ogaki. Put your seatbelts on, it is going to be a bumpy ride……

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