After a wait of nearly 6 months, FC Gifu finally won at home again in 2016, beating Ehime FC 2-1 in a match full of drama. Here, I take you through the evening with the help of some photos. (All mine, unless stated)
Pre match: Not very welcoming weather. In fact, it is always Ehime FC who seem to bring this kind of weather with them. I remember a particular game in 2014 that was played in the aftermath of a typhoon. That game had a pretty dramatic ending as well….
Pre-match warming up: Yoshida had decided to stick with his preferred 4-3-3 formation, with Choi, Tamori & Aoki in the midfield three, with Namba, Evandro & Leo Mineiro up front.
Pre-match: Those flags are heavy enough. But covered in rain and with the wind howling? Consider lifting them exercise. Behind the goal was more scarcely populated than usual as supporters headed for the places in the stadium covered by the roof.
Warming up: I spoke to ex-Gifu goalkeeper Kyohei Noda – who acts as an analyst on FC Gifu games for the local TV channel – and said that these conditions were horrible for ‘keepers. Here you can see Gifu’s goalkeeper coach Yuji Keigoshi firing crosses in to test the handling of starting goalkeeper Yoshinari Takagi.
The visitors: Ehime FC don’t have a good record in Gifu. And they always seem to get drawn on a Sunday evening, meaning that they can’t bring many fans.
The game: From my vantage point in the main stand, the two teams go in their customary pre-match huddles.
The game: Ehime took the lead after two minutes with Sakano nodding in at the far post from a very routine corner which Gifu failed to clear. After eight minutes though, Ehime were reduced to 10 men when defender Nobuhisa Urata was sent off for bringing Leo Mineiro down when he was clean through on goal. The ref took his time to make the decision, but I’m not sure what he had to think about – it was a clear red card offence.
The above photo was one of many scenes I could have shown – it shows Ehime (in white) adopting a 5-3-1 formation after the red card. Because Gifu had selected three holding midfielders it meant they lacked creativity, with only Evandro playing in the gap between Ehime’s defence & midfield. Namba & Leo Mineiro are more “play on the shoulder” attackers, and loads of times throughout the game, I was screaming for Leo Rocha or Keiji Takachi to come on to give another creative mind on the pitch.
Leo Rocha did come on, but I was surprised it was for Namba as I thought we needed all the attacking help we could get. Still, we equalized through Masanori Abe who was in the right place at the right time. Rocha played well, dropping deep to get the ball and with him & Leo Mineiro playing through passes, Evandro had two great chances: one was saved by Kodama, while the other one hit the post.
Keiji Takachi & Naoya Okane came on – Okane came on as a striker – but it looked like being yet another 1-1 draw until Rocha scored direct from a corner to give Gifu a precious win – the first in 13 games, and first at home since March.
Post game: Almost as soon as the final whistle sounded, the Heavens opened and it just poured & poured with rain. Those supporters who had made their way to the front of the stands to greet the players were caught in a monsoon.
Post game: I hid under the back stand to shelter from the rain, but my main man Nayoa Okane saw me hiding. We gave each other the thumbs up, and I ventured out into the elements to take the victory photo that I had been so desperate to take for so long.
Celebrations: Thumbs up from Evandro, and a look upstairs by Leo Mineiro. Leo ran all game – he must have been knackered at the end. But it was another brilliant performance by Leo. Evandro also worked hard, not that you can tell by his relaxed demeanour.
Celebrations: THAT is the picture I waited so long to take. I didn’t even care that I was soaked and that my camera was getting drenched (I need a new one anyway).
Celebrations: Keiji Takachi (right) and goalkeeper Yoshinari Takagi must have been fed up of going in front of the supporters behind the goal after yet another winless game. On this day, at least, they could enjoy the plaudits and hopefully it gave them a much needed confidence boost.
The final analysis
Did FC Gifu deserve to win? – Yes….just. We made most of the running (as we should have against 10 men for nearly all the game) and had far more chances. I do believe we should have attacked more, and used more creative players earlier in the game. It was difficult to watch when we had Tsubasa Aoki & Choi trying to be playmakers when Keiji Takachi & Leo Rocha were on the bench.
Where does that result leave FC Gifu? – It leaves Gifu on 31 points, five points above bottom placed Kanazawa, and four points above second-bottom Giravanz Kitakyushu – both of whom lost at the weekend. The 31 points means Gifu are also level with Kamatamare Sanuki.
What’s next? – Next for FC Gifu is a trip to Renofa Yamaguchi. That game takes place on Sunday September 25th, 6pm KO.