FC Gifu fell to their second consecutive away defeat as they were seen off by a vibrant Fagiano Okayama side that are on the up.
Coach Ruy Ramos sprang a surprise by naming Shogo Tokihisa in goal, replacing the rested/slightly injured Kawaguchi. Tsukasa Masuyama was selected at right full back and Stipe Plazibat made his return from injury on the right side of midfield.
FC Gifu starting line up:
Tokihisa, Masuyama, Abe, Sekita, Alex Santos, Miyazawa, Mizuno, Stipe, Takachi, Tomohiro Tanaka, Namba
For the hosts, ex-gifu pair of Yuki Oshitani & Kazuki Someya were named on the bench.
The hosts started well as they used the flanks well, constantly isolating the Gifu full backs, and they took the lead in the 10th minute. Kota Ueda combined with Ryusuke Seno on the right, and Seno’s low cross was bundled in by defender Keita Goto at the back post. Fagiano were in the ascendency and they nearly doubled their lead when Shintaro Shimizu hit the post with a shot from 20 yards. This stung Gifu into action and they went straight up the other end and Stipe, after receiving a pass from Tanaka, burst into the area but slammed his shot against the post. Tanaka had a couple of half chances from distance in the minutes that followed, and Alex Santos blocked a certain goalbound shot, but Gifu went into the break 1-0 down.
At half time, Korean midfielder Do Dong Hyun came on to replace Tomohiro Tanaka, a move that saw Stipe Plazibat move into a more central position. The first real chance of the second half fell to Fagiano. A counter attack led to Soichi Tanaka being put through on goal, but Tokihisa produced a fine save to deny him. Gifu came close to an equalizer on 67 minutes, but Hiroaki Namba headed over from a very good position. This was to prove costly, as a minute or so later, Fagi went 2-0 up. After Eichi Katayama robbed Stipe on the edge of the box, Kota Ueda played the ball into the box and the ball eventually fell to substitute Yuki Oshitani, who coolly placed his shot under Tokihisa.
Gifu tried to get back into the game and only a fantastic save from Nakabayashi prevented Namba from halving the arrears. But NMB24 wasn’t to be denied his goal, and when it came it was a beauty. Masuyama charged down the right side and crossed into the area where Namba slammed in a beautiful half volley on the turn. Alas, Gifu couldn’t turn their late pressure into a goal and the game finished 2-1 to the hosts.
It was an odd game in that Gifu didn’t play particularly well, but managed to create a few decent chances. On another day, NMB24 could’ve had a hat-trick. I think it is good that Sekita is getting games in. He was, a couple of years ago, touted as Gifu’s next big thing before the injury bug set in. He desperately needs a good run of games under his belt. Do Dong Hyun looked like he had energy to burn when he came on at half time. I expect Kawaguchi to be back next week, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Nazarit back in place of Tomohiro Tanaka.
Gifu play four of their next five games at home, and it will be a crucial period of the season for the club. It starts next Sunday when bang-in-form Giravanz Kitakyushu visit Nagaragawa. Should be a very good game. Get yourself down there!