Despite dominating possession, FC Gifu fell to 0-2 defeat to very clinical Giravanz Kitakyushu side.
FC Gifu starting XI: Ota, Masuyama, Abe, Henik, Tanaka, Takachi, Mizuno, Kleiton, Kiyomoto, Namba, Nazarit
The big surprise was Gakuji Ota coming in to make his J.League debut in place of Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi. Ramos opted to put Henik back in defence and go with four ball-playing midfielders in the middle of the park.
The first half was, in all fairness, a rather uneventful affair. For Giravanz, Kazuki Hara had a shot easily saved, and Naito blasted over the bar from a tight angle. For Gifu, there was lots of possession, lots of passing but not a lot of creation. The only meaningful effort on goal was when Kleiton Domingues latched on to a through ball but had his goalbound shot blocked by a defender.
Half time saw Junki Endo replace Takumi Kiyomoto and Gifu’s boy wonder made an instant impact, gliding past a defender on the left and showing extreme pace to get into the box, but Endo was denied by a last ditch tackle by Watanabe. Gifu forced three corners in quick succession, one of which resulted in a deflected Henik header being cleared off the line. Gifu were in the ascendancy, but were undone by a Kitakyushu sucker punch in the 65th minute from Koki Kazama. Kazama exchanged passes with Hara before cooling rounding Gakuji Ota and passing into the empty net.
Gifu’s fate was sealed in the 83rd minute when a long ball out of defence caught Masanori Abe out of position which allowed Tomoki Ikemoto to run through and notch his 15th of a highly impressive season
It was never going to be an easy assignment, but Gifu were well in the game (could possibly say in control) before Giravanz showed what Gifu have been lacking: ruthlessness. When they got chances, they took them. Gifu didn’t. And therein lies the reason that Giravanz are 4th, and Gifu now find themselves in 18th.
Gakuji Ota showed up well on his full J.League debut, and he couldn’t really do anything about the goals. I doubt he’ll take over full time from Yoshikatsu this year, but he has certainly put himself in the frame to be Gifu’s number two goalkeeper next year.
Things don’t get any easier for Gifu as they host play-off chasing Oita Trinita at Nagaragawa next weekend.