A much needed win, but Gifu were indebted to goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi as the veteran pulled of two stunning saves to stop a Sanuki fightback.

FC Gifu starting XI: Kawaguchi, Masuyama, Kitani, Sekita, Tanaka, Miyazawa, Mizuno, Takachi, Endo, Inoue, Nazarit

Gifu started well and deservedly took the lead in the 17th minute with a goal of high quality. Taira Inoue, making his first start for nearly 18 months, lofted a through ball to Nazarit who proceeded to out-pace Evson and lob the ball superbly over Sanuki ‘keeper Seguchi. An expert finish, good enough to be his 8th league goal of the campaign so far.

Gifu were the better team, and had two good chances to extend their lead: Junki Endo had a shot from a narrow angle saved, and Taisuke Mizuno really should have hit the target from 12 yards out after a neat lay off by Nazarit. Gifu did deservedly double their lead just before half time, and the goal came from the very unlikely source of Hiroshi Sekita. Keiji Takachi floated a corner in, Kitani headed down and the ball ricocheted off Junki Endo and into the path of Sekita who couldn’t miss from just half a yard out.

Game done and dusted……far from it. FC Gifu fans know that no game is ever safe at 2-0 and so it proved as Kamatamare turned the screw in the second half. They pulled a goal back in the 71st minute through former Gifu player Kazumasa Takagi. The highly impressive Hiroyuki Furuta bombed down the Sanuki right and laid the ball back to Takagi who finished past Kawaguchi.

Kawaguchi then made a stunning one handed save to turn a Sanuki header on to the cross bar, and the defence eventually cleared. Just after that, Kosuke Kitani was very harshly adjudged to have fouled Evson in the box and gave away a penalty. It was ultra harsh on Kitani – but his pal Kawaguchi bailed him out with a brilliant one handed save from Takagi’s penalty. Gifu held firm (just about) to escape with the three points.

It was great to see Taira Inoue start a game, and he did well considering. Nazarit’s confidence will be buoyed by that finish & Junki Endo again displayed edge & verve. If he can improve his end product and/or decision making, he will be a quality player. BUT this game was won because Gifu had a superb goalkeeper. Kawaguchi was outstanding, not for the first time this year, and fully justified his star billing yet again.

Next, Gifu will have to be on guard as they welcome fiercely in-form Fagiano Okayama on Wednesday night.