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Classic Gamba matches #1

Sunday 17 November 2013
J.League Division 2 Round 41
Gamba Osaka 3-2 Montedio Yamagata
Expo 70′ Commemorative Stadium
Attendance: 13,970

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The teams come out.

The Background

Gamba suffered a shock relegation to J2 at the end of 2012. However, under the leadership of Kenta Hasegawa, in his first season with the club, and owing to the excellence of star players such as Endo, Konno and Usami, they came into this round 41 clash with promotion back to the top flight already in the bag. A win at home to a Yamagata side mired in mid-table would see them crowned J2 champions ahead of another Kansai club who had suffered relegation to the second tier the previous year, Vissel Kobe.

Gamba came into the game on the back of a 4-match winning streak which included impressive away victories at, 3rd place Kyoto (2-0) and 4th place Tokushima (5-1 – Usami scored 4 in that game), but, they’d have to do without their current Japanese internationals, Yasuhito Endo and Yasuyuki Konno who were with the national squad for a set of friendly matches in the build up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The Team

Experienced right-back Akira Kaji captained Gamba in the absence of Endo and Konno as Kenta Hasegawa lined them up in his usual 4-4-2 formation. Enigmatic ‘keeper Yosuke Fujigawa had a solid looking backline in front of him. Daiki Niwa was partnered by the promising Takaharu Nishino who had enjoyed a breakout year while Kaji and Hiroki Fujiharu were the fullbacks. Shu Kurata started on the right-wing, with Tatsuya Uchida, another player who enjoyed plenty of game time in 2013 and Kenya Okazaki in his first year out of university in the midfield engine room, while it was the veteran Takahiro Futagawa who played down the left. Takashi Usami with 16 goals in 16 games since returning from a loan spell in Germany in the summer was the great hope in attack and he was partnered by the tall Akihiro Sato who had only recently recovered from a serious knee injury (writing this in 2020 and seeing the path his career has taken, I wonder if recovered is the correct word?)

The Match

Gamba started on the front foot and were rewarded with a brilliant solo effort from Usami after 15 minutes where he really showed that he didn’t belong in J2, running onto Sato’s headed touch, flicking the ball over the defender and drilling it low into the bottom corner.

The home side had something to defend and began to sit back, however this played into Yamagata’s hands, as the Tohoku side had nothing but pride to play for and decided to go for it. Hiroki Bandai equalised for Montedio just 4 minutes after Usami’s opener, flicking on a corner from the main stand side which flew past Fujigaya and into the Gamba goal…game on.

Gamba were not for taking that one lying down and good work down the left by Usami and Fujiharu saw the latter’s cross turned in by Yamagata defender Taisuke Nakamura to send the men in blue and black back into the lead just 3 minutes after Bando’s goal.

The second half saw chances for both sides before Usami effectively sealed the game 22 minutes from time, picking up Futagawa’s cross-field ball, he cut inside under the attention of several defenders before unleashing a shot from 20 yards out which flew past Tokizawa in the Yamagata goal.

Hiroki Bandai caused a nervous final 10 minutes in Suita by pulling a goal back after Fujigaya could only parry a shot from the edge of the box. Despite some frantic defending by Gamba towards the end, Montedio, breaking with JLeague tradition and not wearing a white away kit (opting for a yellow and blue Napoli away-esque effort) couldn’t find an equaliser and Kaji went on to lift the J2 trophy in front of an ecstatic home crowd while his team-mates brought on the #7 and #15 shirts of Endo and Konno to be part of the post match photos.

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Man of the match Usami and post match fun

Match Highlights
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gt5i1LWqEw

The Aftermath

No-one could have predicted that just over 12 months on from this slightly chilly early Autumn afternoon in 2013 that Gamba would have completed a domestic treble, winning J1, the League Cup and Emperor’s Cup. Indeed, the core of this side made up that treble-winning squad, Niwa, Fujiharu, Kurata, Endo, Konno and Usami were all big players whilst some who didn’t feature much in 2013 for a variety of reasons such as Keisuke Iwashita, Hiroyuki Abe, Oh Jae-suk and Kotaro Omori all made big contributions too.

The Stats

Gamba’s line up
*Apps and Goals correct to the end of the 2013 season.
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Montedio Yamagata
Satoshi Tokizawa, Satoshi Horinouchi, Tatsuya Ishikawa, Takumi Yamada (Goshi Okubo 56′), Taisuke Nakamura, Lee Tae-ho, Masaru Akiba, Romero Frank, Masaki Miyasaka, Masato Yamazaki, Hiroki Bandai:
Unused Subs: Kenta Shimizu, Kohei Higa, Kim Byeom-yong, Yuji Sakuda, Kenichi Tanimura, Alvaro Pena.
Kantoku: Ryosuke Okuno

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