A disappointing, if not entirely surprising, defeat for Gifu against a team who slidified their play-off credentials.
Gifu were dealt a blow prior to kick off when it emerged the recent hero Stipe had suffered an injury, with his place being taken by Hiroki Higuchi. Takahiro Takagi was in goal again.
Gifu had a good chance to open the scoring on seven minutes, but Yuki Nakamura’s short was smartly blocked by Nagasaki ‘keeper Junki Kanayama. They would rue that miss when Nagasaki went 1-0 up in the 10th minute. After a bit of penalty area pinball, the ball fell kindly for Sai Kanakubo, and he had the incredibly easy task of knocking the ball into the open net. Shuto Konno then almost scored the goal of the season in the 21st minute. Just inside the Gifu half, he spotted Takagi off his line and his lob was almost inch perfect, but Takagi managed to get a flailing hand to it and just divert it wide.
Gifu had a chance in the 36th minute as a free-kick from the right was swung into the box by Atsushi Mio. Centre back Kitani met it but it was comfortably saved by Kanayama. That was the last action of a decent first half.
The hosts doubled their lead on the hour through, you guessed it, ex-Gifu forward Koichi Sato. A marauding run down the right by Yudai Inoue resulted in a cross that was swept home by Sato. Sato has been on the scoresheet in both games against Gifu this year. The impressive Konno made the game safe in the 74th minute when his shot took a deflection off Kitani and looped over the helpless Takagi and into the net. The match ended on a somewhat sour and bizarre note for the hosts as Hiroaki Okuno was given a second yellow for an off the ball foul on Shun Nogaito.
So, as I said in the intro, not a surprising turn of events. Things start to get very real from here on in, starting with Gifu’s vital game in hand against Yokohama FC on Wednesday night.