Another quite astonishing game, and a deserving outcome for the majority of supporters that came out in horrendous weather conditions.
FC Gifu starting XI: Kawaguchi, Masuyama, Abe, Kitani, Nakamura, Tanaka, Henik, Miyazawa, Kiyomoto, Namba, Nazarit
Gifu chose to kick with the wind in the first and completely dominated it. They had chance after chance before finally taking the lead in the 35th minute. Nazarit laid the ball into the path of Henik, and the Brazilian midfielder arrowed a right foot shot into the bottom corner for his first ever J.League goal.
The lead was nothing more than Gifu deserved, but that didn’t count for much as Ehime equalized almost immediately. The ball holding up in surface water fooled Hideyuki Nakamura allowing Ricardo Lobo to steal the ball and drive the ball past Kawaguchi. Just a minute later Kazuhisa Kawahara chipped Kawaguchi beautifully to put Ehime FC in the lead. It was a scarcely believable end to a first half that Gifu completely dominated.
At the start of the second half, a huge rainstorm came in and Ehime went 3-1 up. Hideyuki Nakamura was adjudged to have handled in the area (he did handle the ball, but replays showed it was outside the area) and Ricardo Lobo stepped up to calmly place the ball in the net. The mood was of shock in the stands – but Ramos wasted no time in making changes and brought on Junki Endo to replace Hiroaki Namba – a change I didn’t agree at the time. But, the 19 year old sparked Gifu into life for a second time as he provided the pull back that led to Tsukasa Masuyama smashing the ball into the roof of the net to make it 3-2. With five minutes remaining, FC Gifu equalized and another substitute was involved. Kaisuke Ota hit a dipping long range shot which bounced just in front of Ehime ‘keeper Kodama who could only spill it into the path of Henik who made no mistake from close range.
It was all on for Gifu to get the winner, and it came in the 90th minute. Junki Endo charged into the area and was adjudged to have been brought down by an Ehime defender. It looked a good decision at full speed, but it looks a harsh decision when you see the replay. Nazarit, who had missed his two previous penalties, showed great nerve to power the ball past Kodama and to send the Gifu fans into ecstasy.
It was difficult not to feel sorry for the 50 or so Ehime FC supporters who made the trip to Gifu but on the balance of play it is hard to argue that Gifu didn’t deserve the win. Whilst everyone is rightfully happy with the comeback, something must be done about the lapses in concentration that allow teams to get back into games at Nagaragawa – it has happened too many times this year. But, considering the fare that was on offer last year, some entertaining 4-3 wins are absolutely fine by me!