Despite a highly positive and energetic performance from Ruy Ramos’ men, Gifu slipped to a defeat against promotion favourites Cerezo Osaka at a drenched Nagaragawa memorial centre.
FC Gifu starting XI: Ota, Abe, Okane, Takagi, Sekita, Nogaito, Henik, Masuyama, Takachi, Rodrigo, Namba
The game started in really bad conditions, with lots of standing water on the pitch the ball was holding up and didn’t allow either side to pass the ball with any certainty.
Gifu started the better of the two sides, clearly fired up after Wednesday’s horror show in Oita. They set about their more illustrious opponents with vigour and forced a flurry of early corners, and from one of them Hiroshi Sekita should have put his header on target. Namba & Rodrigo were combining well and the Brazilian especially was causing trouble as he floated across the frontline.
Cerezo’s first chance came from a charged down clearance from Gakuji Ota, but the young keeper got back to stop Cacau’s goal-bound effort. Ota was then called into action again to brilliantly tip over Mukuhara’s shot. It was end to end stuff in the rain and Gifu were next to threaten, another Sekita header being well held by Cerezo ‘keeper Tanno.
Half time came, and 0-0 probably favoured Osaka more than Gifu, and the home side didn’t let up as the second half got underway. Just 3 minutes into the half, the effervescent Hiroaki Namba stung the palms of Tanno with a fierce shot that the keeper pushed away for a corner.
Then, in the 66th minute, came the moment the game turned. A hopeful long ball forward from Someya (I think) looked like it was going to be dealt with by Kazumichi Takagi, but Gakuji Ota raced out of his area and took out Takagi, but not the ball, and it left Diego Forlan with the easiest goal he’s ever likely to score. Gakuji won’t want to look at it too often.
But Gifu didn’t lie down and they came so close to leveling when Rodrigo’s shot was deflected cm’s wide of the post with Tanno well beaten. Cerezo made the game safe 10 minutes from the end, when Cacau delightfully chipped Ota from just inside the area.
Full time came, and Cerezo went off to celebrate with their pink-clad support.
On the other hand, Gifu were left to rue what might have been. They got a good reception from the supporters, and rightly so. They played the best they’ve played all season (maybe best for a long time) and showed the desire, determination & spirit that supporters had worried they’d lost.
If Gifu replicate that kind of performance & effort from here on out, they’ll be just fine. Naoya Okane was very good in the heart of the defence and Rodrigo excelled in what looked like a free role. Henik & Takachi stood toe-to-toe with Hotaru Yamaguchi, Takahiro Ogihara & Hasegawa and matched them. (Ogihara was irrelevant – I forgot he was even playing until he went down injured in the last five minutes).
Ramos’ job will be to replicate this performance next week when they make the trip to the capital to face Tokyo Verdy.