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Visiting Yamaga gained revenge for their shock defeat earlier in the season, coming away from the Nagaragawa with a 2-1 win.

The hosts were forced into two changes. On-loan Shimizu S-Pulse youngster Makoto Shibahara replaced the suspended Kazuki Someya while Takahiro Takagi took the place of injured ‘keeper Shogo Tokihisa. The visitors went with Takayuki Funayama and Shiozawa up front.

Backed by a large and vociferous traveling support, it was Yamaga who made all the early running, with Funayama & Tamabayashi pulling all the strings and it was those two who combined to fashion the first chance. Funayama was set free down the left and he weaved his way into the box, pulling the ball back for Tamabayashi, but his shot was blocked by Takagi. Tamabayashi again tested the home defence, Arai getting in the way of goalbound shot. Funayama was next to try his luck, hitting a sweet volley a couple of yards wide of the right hand post. Most of the play was for Yamaga, but they couldn’t find the finish, and so the teams went in 0-0 at the break.

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Gifu came very close to opening the scoring in the 53rd minute when Mio’s corner found Stipe at the back post, but the ball seemed to surprise him and he couldn’t direct his header down enough. An almost identical chance came Stipe’s way five minutes later, this time he pushed his header on to the post. The chance looked more difficult than it appeared in real time, but it was a good chance none-the-less. And they were about to be punished……

Yamaga took the lead in the 58th minute. A ball into the box was cleared out to the right where Tamabayashi picked it up. He sent a nice ball into the box where Shiozawa was lurking, and he turned the ball past Takagi and into the net. 1-0 to Yamaga, and probably what they deserved. Gifu tried to fight their way back into the game, forcing a series of free-kicks that caused a bit of panic in the Matsumoto defence. However, while chasing the game, Gifu were undone by a sucker punch counter attack. A ball was played through to Funayama and he made his way to the dead ball line, pulled it back into the run of Iwakami, who headed in to virtually seal the game.

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Gifu didn’t give up, and they brought on Desmond in order to push Arai up front, remembering how he tormented Yamaga in their last meeting. Blazhe tried an overhead kick twice, unsuccessful on both occasions but he was rewarded with a goal from the last kick of the game. The ball swung into the box, Desmond made a nuisance of himself allowing the ball to fall to the Macedonian. He showed great strength in holding off two Yamaga defenders before driving the ball past the ‘keeper.

All in all, a really decent game for the 8000+ who attended. Gifu played well, but Yamaga have that cutting edge that Gifu lack. I’ve felt a little despondent after some defeats this year, but after this one I thought there were reasons for optimism. Personally, I thought Tatsuya Arai was outstanding. He is blossoming into quite a defender, no doubt learning from experienced veteran Kitani alongside him. Further forward, Gifu really missed Someya, his pace and energy would have troubled Yamaga a lot more that Shibahara did. That isn’t to say Shibahara didn’t play well, but Gifu are a different beast with Someya on the wing.

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Higuchi performed well when he came on, as did Blazhe. It is a bit of a pipe dream, but I wonder how Gifu would look with Higuchi, Stipe, Nakamura & Blazhe in the team at the same time. Blazhe has played well coming on as sub in the last two games, it wouldn’t surprise me if he is given a start in the next game. Stipe needs to be involved more, I would like to see him play in midfield or in the “hole” behind Nakamura & Blazhe. The kid looks a fine player, Gifu would do well to give him the freedom to go and control games.

Again, Gifu have a long wait before their next outing – a trip to play-off hunting V-Varen Nagasaki and another team seeking revenge for a 2-1 defeat earlier in the season.

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