- 4 goals
- 1 red card
- 1 missed penalty
- 2 controversial incidents
- Countless heart-in-mouth moments
- 1 exceptional game of football
FC Gifu and Fagiano Okayama played out a thrilling 2-2 draw in one of the best games Nagaragawa has seen for some time.
FC Gifu starting line-up: Kawaguchi, Abe, Nakamura, Sekita, Tanaka, Masuyama, Mizuno, Kiyomoto, Takachi, Endo Nazarit
The majority of the first half simply couldn’t have gone worse for Gifu as they found themselves 2-0 down after 25 minutes. The first goal was a really poor one to concede. It came from a simple corner that was swung in to the near post where Fagiano defender Shingo Kukita lost his marker before angling a header in. Gifu have to cut these kinds of simple goals out of their diet. Worse was to come when Soichi Tanaka put the visitors two goals to the good. It came after good work from Mimura and Eiichi Katayama down the left led to the ball ricocheting to Tanaka, and he kept his cool to put the away side firmly in control.
At this point I was considering the possibility that Ramos could quite easily make all three substitutions at half time because Gifu were so poor. But, from out of nowhere, Gifu pulled a goal back just before half time. Shuto Tanaka’s inviting cross was met by Nazarit, who powered a header past Nakabayashi. It was a real bullet header and one that lifted the doom & gloom away from the stadium. Suddenly, there was hope for Gifu.
It is hard to find the right words to say how much that changed the atmosphere and the outlook of the game, but when Gifu re-appeared in the second half they looked like a completely different team. They set about tearing Fagiano open time & time again with Nazarit looking undefendable at times, and the pace of Junki Endo was causing problems. Controversy in the 54th minute when a Hideyuki Nakamura header looked to have crossed the line before being swatted away by Nakabayashi, but the assistant referee was unmoved. (I don’t want to criticize officials too much, as they have a hard job – especially when a quick replay would’ve shown that the ball did indeed cross the line. All I will say is that I was stood roughly in line the ball and it looked to me that the ball was in. But goal-line technology exists, so why don’t we use it?)
More controversy followed when Yuki Oshitani was adjudged to have brought down Takumi Kiyomoto in the area. I can’t say whether the referee was trying to even things up, but there was a lot of pressure on him at that point. Nazarit, possibly remembering his miss against Nagasaki, opted for power instead of placement but his shot penalty cannoned off the cross bar and landed a full thirty yards behind him, such was the power.
Nazarit wasn’t to be denied though, as an in the 71st minute he slammed home his second of the game after a bit of a goalmouth scramble. Endo sent Higa away doen the right and his low cross evaded Nazarit and Kiyomoto, but an attempted clearance fell straight to Naza and he smashed the ball into the net. After scoring, he ran towards the fans in the corner and you could see the relief & ecstasy in both Naza & the supporters.
But, to keep the the game at 2-2, it needed a superb save from Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi to deny former team-mate (at Jubilo Iwata) Yuki Oshitani. Oshitani was sent clear to go 1-on-1 with Yoshi, but the keeper clawed Oshitani’s dink away for a corner.
Gifu were then reduced to 10 men as Hiroshi Sekita was given a straight red card for pulling down Yuki Oshitani thus denying him a goalscoring opportunity leaving Gifu to defend the final 15 minutes or so a man down. Fagiano hit the bar from a free kick and wasted a glorious opportunity when Oshitani blazed over, but Gifu managed to hold firm and come away with a thoroughly deserved point.
Talk about a game of two halves! Gifu were woeful for much of the first half – while Fagiano showed why they were 16 games unbeaten. In particular, winger Makoto Mimura tore Gifu to shreds in a display was possibly the best individual player display I’ve seen this year. However, in the second half, Nazarit decided to turn “beast mode” and bullied Okayama defenders into submission time & time again. If only he could take penalties!! But, it is odd to think he is still just 23 years old – he’s going to get better. Keiji Takachi ran the game in the second half but he had able assistance from Junki Endo & substitute Ryoto Higa (who seems to get better every time I see him).
Next up is another long trip to Nagasaki, typhoon permitting, for a meeting with Koichi Sato, Stipe Plazibat and friends.