A long, trying and eventful season finished on a high note for Gifu as they won the final game of the season, beating a lacklustre Toyama side 2-1.
Toshihiro Hattori started his final professional game as captain and was given a rousing reception from both sets of supporters. Higuchi & Blazhe, both possibly starting their last games for the clubs, started up front.
Kataller took the lead in the fifth minute from the penalty spot. Kokeguchi was tripped in the box by Kitani, and Seo Yong-Duk was as cool as your proverbial cucumber in tucking away the penalty. Kokeguchi almost made it two six minutes later, but his close range effort was well saved by Takagi.
Gifu equalized in somewhat bizarre style on the half hour. Kazuki Someya made one of his trademark speedy runs down the left and crossed into the area. The rebounded off Makoto Shibahara (another who was probably playing his last game for Gifu) into the path of Kataller defender Ryo Hiraide who sliced his attempted clearance into his own net.
In the second half it was Gifu who were pushing for the winner. Someya went close when his right foot curler inched just past the post and Blazhe went agonizingly close when his clipped shot was deflected round the post by Morita. Then Hattori had a golden chance to finish his career with a goal. Nogaito’s sumptuous (that is possibly the first time I’ve used that word on here this year) pass found Higuchi who, after a brilliant piece of control, pulled the ball back to Hattori nine yards out but he pushed his shot wide. His rueful smile after it conveyed his feelings.
Gifu got the winner five minutes from the end, and it was fitting that Gifu’s best player of 2013 got the goal. Shun Nogaito marauded down the left and cut the ball back inside to Someya. Someya took a touch before curling a beautiful right footed effort into the top corner, leaving Morita with no chance. A deserved ending for Kazuki, who celebrated like it was his final game…….
So, Gifu finished with a win. A reward for all the supporters that made the trek to Toyama, and a reward for everyone who has stuck by them this season. Very happy that Hattori finishes on a winning note, and that Someya cemented his reputation as Gifu’s game changer.
How many of these players will we see in green next year? I would venture not that many, but hopefully Gifu can convince players like Someya, Stipe, Nakamura, Arai and Masuyama to stay as I feel these players can be building blocks for next season.
Finally, credit must be given to the Karashima & the coaching staff. They came in when Gifu were staring relegation in the face and proceeded to stop that happening. We all know the Ramos rumours, but Karashima should be given his fair share of credit for keeping Gifu in J2.