Not without its drama, FC Gifu claimed an important win against play-off chasing Montedio Yamagata.
FC Gifu starting XI: Kawaguchi, Abe, Nakamura, Mori, Tanaka, Sudo, Miyazawa, Masuyama, Ota, Namba, Nazarit
The home side were without the suspended midfield duo of Keiji Takachi & Henik, and so it was Yusuke Sudo & Miyazawa who were to patrol the middle of the park.
In the first half, Montedio played like a team who had eyes for the play-offs and they had some very good chances to score. Matsuoka was first up, controlling the ball in the area from a long throw before smashing a shot against the underside of the bar. Next, Kawaguchi denied Yamazaki in a one-on-one situation. Gifu had the final chance of the half, but Nazarit’s free-kick was saved by Montedio ‘keeper Yamagishi.
In the second half, the game evened up a bit with both sides looking for the win.
A huge moment of controversy came in the 58th minute, and it involved Masashi Miyazawa. The ex-Oita midfielder was dispossessed on the edge of the area by Diego but as he fell to the ground he stopped the ball rolling into the area with his hand. While everyone else stopped, Diego retrieved the ball and smacked it into the net, only for the referee to disallow it having apparently already blown for the free kick. The subsequent free-kick was wasted, and Miyazawa was replaced soon after by Taisuke Mizuno.
Kleiton Domingues was next to come on, and this substitution started to give Gifu more control as he, Mizuno & Sudo began to force the issue. Gifu almost took the lead in the 68th minute, but Hiroaki Namba couldn’t keep his header in the face of severe pressure from Yamagishi. Yamagata brought on Romero Frank to try and counter the influence of Kleiton & Mizuno, but Gifu still held the upper hand. Yusuke Sudo had a couple of efforts from outside the box, and Yamagishi made a good save from a Nazarit header before FC Gifu finally broke the deadlock in the 77th minute.
A long throw from Masuyama bounced over the head of Nazarit and into the path of strike partner Hiroaki Namba, who had his back to the goal. He swiveled and volleyed over Yamagishi and off the underside of the bar. It was close, but the ball was just over the line although Nazarit removed any doubt by smashing in the loose ball.
But, as FC Gifu supporters know, Gifu are vulnerable when they are winning – and Montedio didn’t waste any time trying to prove that vulnerability. In the last 10 minutes Miyasaka headed wide from 6 yards out, Hiroki Bandai had a goal ruled out for offside and Romero Frank somehow shot wide from close range. Masuyama nearly made the game safe for the home side, but Yamagishi produced a stunning one-handed save to deny him.
The final whistle was greeted with huge relief from the majority of the 5512 inside the Nagaragawa stadium, although the traveling Yamagata fans will probably feel they deserved something from the game.
FC Gifu played well, especially Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi & Shuto Tanaka who helped keep the second clean sheet in a row. But, once again, it was Yusuke Sudo who drove this team performance. He was superb, and he was almost everywhere on the pitch. He has a drive & energy that doesn’t seem to wane as the game goes on. If he keeps up this level of performance, he is someone that Gifu can build their team around for the rest of the season and beyond.
The schedule doesn’t get much easier as Gifu’s next appointment is with Hiroshi Nanami’s Jubilo Iwata. It will take another epic defensive display to keep Jubilo quiet, but Kawaguchi will be out for revenge. Should be an interesting afternoon at the Yamaha stadium.