Cristian Nazarit’s 5th goal of the season was not enough to stop an impressive Tochigi SC side leaving Nagaragawa with three points

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With Masanori Abe suspended, Henik came in for his full debut after performing so well in Yokohama last week. Up front, Hiroaki Namba was fit again, but Tomohiro Tanaka kept his place in the starting line up. Ryoto Higa, promoted from FC Gifu Second, made his first bench appearance. Visiting Tochigi lined up with in-form Yuji Senuma up front with Kondo & Kji Hirose  flanking him.

The visitors started well, and they went close in the 12th minute as Koji Hirose broke through, only for Kawaguchi to time his intervention expertly. Tochigi did go in front in the 15th minute, in a large part down to some excellent work by Senuma. He picked up the ball in midfield and was strong enough to hold off two Gifu players before laying the ball left to Kondo. The ex-Consadloe Sapporo didn’t hesitate and thumped a left foot strike which beat Kawaguchi at his near post. Gifu tried to regain a foothold in the game and Nazarit had two decent chances to equalize: a header was cleared off the line while he scuffed a volleyed chance when in a good position.  At the other end, Kawaguchi needed to be alert to deflect a Yosuke Yuzawa effort around the post with his foot.

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At half time, Hiroaki Namba came on to replace Tomohiro Tanaka for Gifu, whilst the visitors had to make a change of goalkeeper with Enamoto replacing the injured Suzuki. The introduction of Namba seemed to spark Gifu a little bit and he was all action in the opening stages. This passage of play heralded two chances. Nazarit’s header was cleared off the line (again!) and Takachi volleyed over from an inviting position. However, it was Tochigi who grabbed the important second goal. Kawaguchi made an excellent, one handed save from a Yuzawa shot, but the rebound fell to Senuma who placed the ball between Alex’s legs and into the net.

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Gifu were given a lifeline when Nazarit scored his 5th of the season in the 78th minute. Keisuke Ota’s good cross from the left was headed in by the big Colombian, although he was aided by Enamoto being in no-mans-land. Gifu went looking for an equalizer, but Tochigi punished them on the counter as the impressive Yuzawa hit a 20 yard shot that beat Kawaguchi.

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This can just be put down as an off day for the hosts. Too many players weren’t at their best. That is to take nothing away from Tochigi as they were cohesive, comfortable and in Yuji Senuma they have genuine goalscoring threat. Much different to the Tochigi SC I and many others expected at the start of this year.

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Next out, FC Gifu head the Alwin Stadium for a rematch of last year’s epic 2-1 win over Matsumoto Yamaga. Who will be Gifu’s hero this year?

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