FC Gifu got the much anticipated Ruy Ramos era off to the perfect start, but were made to work hard by their enterprising visitors. SONY DSC

Gifu’s starting line-up saw a couple of surprises: Masanori Abe came in for his full debut at centre back while Taisuke Mizuno started in midfield. Stipe Plazibat, his hand still in a cast, started on the bench. Seven of Gifu’s starting XI were making their full debuts.

Kamatamare were without a large chunk of experience. They were missing Nishino, Ryosuke Kijima & Yutaka Takahashi and that meant it was left to Kazuki Ganaha to lead the Sanuki attack.

Gifu almost got off to the worst possible start, but an Andrea “goal” was correctly disallowed as the Frenchman had controlled the ball with his hand. Sanuki were enjoying most of the possession and almost went in front when Mochidome was played in down the right but his shot fizzed just past Kawaguchi’s right post. Ramos was urging his players to relax and when they did they opened the scoring. Some neat interplay sent new signing Nazarit clean through but his powerful shot was pushed over the bar by Seguchi. From the resulting Alex Santos corner, Nazarit powered a header goalwards that Hiroaki Namba got the last touch on. While the goal was slightly against the run of play, it signaled a rise in the already fervent atmosphere. Kamatamare Sankuki were still looking dangerous however, especially whenever Andrea got the ball on the left, and Kawaguchi had to be alert to tip a shot from him over the bar just before half time.

Whatever Ramos said at half time had a big effect and Gifu came out re-energized in the second half. They were playing with much more control and Miyazawa & Takachi were starting to heavily influence the flow of play and it culminated in a two goal burst that sealed the game. Gifu’s second goal was a stunning free kick from Nazarit after Hiroaki Namba was brought down by Sanuki’s Kohei Fujita (Fujita injured his ankle in the incident and had to stretchered off. Fortunately he was able to to walk back to the Sanuki dressing room, albeit heavily limping). Gifu’s third came after some fine play down the right from Stipe, who had come on as sub, and Nazarit that sent Keiji Takachi through on goal and he coolly slotted a left footed shot past Seguchi to put Gifu 3-0 up.

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It didn’t stay 3-0 for long as Kamatamare promptly went up the other end and scored when Kazuki Ganaha connected with a cross from the left and his shot just evaded the out-streched arm of Kawaguchi. Sanuki had other chances to pull a further goal back, most notably when Santos blocked a Ganaha shot that was almost certainly going in, but after four minutes of additional time the final whistle sounded to confirm Gifu’s first opening day win in four years.

Gifu played very well in patches, but Ramos wasn’t satisfied with the performance. What he must have been happy with was the performances of Hiroaki Namba & Cristian Nazarit. Those two looked very good up front, and Namba in particular showed a spikey-ness & willingness to do a lot of purposeful running. Masanori Abe can also take heart after a good debut. Miyazawa got better as the game went on and Alex’s excellent set piece deliveries/long throws are going to cause teams problems all year long. All in all, a very positive start to the 2014 season.

The attendance of 11069 was the third highest in Gifu’s history, and they made for a superb atmosphere. Hopefully it will be replicated in subsequent home games.

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Next up are Kataller Toyama. They’ll visit Nagaragawa next Sunday, 4pm

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