Gamba conceded a heartbreaking 95th minute equaliser in Ibaraki last Sunday as Tomoya Inukai’s late header cancelled out Kosuke Onose’s early strike in Kashima legend Atsuto Uchida’s farewell match.
Kim Young-gwon returned to the left-side of central defence after sitting out the Urawa defeat, while Yuya Fukuda rotated with Hiroki Fujiharu down the left and Shu Kurata came in for Yuji Ono in midfield. In attack Patric got his first league start of the year, taking the place of Kazuma Watanabe who didn’t look sharp at all in the home loss to Reds.
Despite a positive start from Antlers which saw Shoma Doi and Ryuji Izumi fire weak shots at Masaaki Higashiguchi when they really should have done better (a theme that was constantly revisited in my match notes), it was the visitors who went ahead in just the 6th minute. Decent build up play culminated in a one-two down the left between Kurata and Patric, the former then made his way into the box and squared for Onose who finished coolly low to a diving Yuya Oki’s left. A dream start.
Kashima hero Atsuto Uchida made an earlier than anticipated entry replacing the injured Rikuto Hirose after just 16 minutes. After that the home side began to take more and more control of the game as Gamba were content to sit back and soak up pressure. Juan Alano struck the bar with a cross-shot in the 21st minute and ten minutes before the break a fierce left foot volley from Everaldo rebounded off Higashiguchi into the path of the advancing Ryuji Izumi who could only knee his effort wide.
Into the second half and it was more of the same, Kashima pressure and reasonably solid Gamba defence. My most commonly written note was…Kashima player #… weak shot from edge of the box, straight at Higashiguchi. Gamba did have a couple of decent chances on the counter, particularly when Usami took advantage of a mix-up between Oki and Ikuma Sekigawa but his touch took him too far wide and then in the 62nd minute when good build up play ended with Yosuke Ideguchi’s cross which found Onose in the 6-yard box but he was unable to properly direct his volley on the turn.
As ever Antonio Carlos Zago looked to his bench to try and sway things in his team’s direction, young replacement forward Itsuki Someno got in behind a tiring Gamba rear-guard a few times, but to no avail. Gamba looked dead on their feet for the remaining 20 minutes and tried to tippy-tappy play their way out of danger only to see their passes intercepted by Kashima players. Antlers would have had failed to score in 6 of their 12 league games this year if they didn’t find the back of the net here and the word I was preparing to use for their attack in my post-match Tweet was ‘toothless.’ Unfortunately for Gamba fans, I didn’t get to type that word. Inukai rose above Hiroki Fujiharu to head sub Ryotaro Araki’s cross in off Higashiguchi’s right-hand post to secure a draw few neutrals would begrudge them.
I’ve been reading a few books recently, The Football Code by James Tippett and The Numbers Game by Chris Anderson and David Sally, both talk about the role that luck plays in football and also how the final score skews the game’s narrative. Had Inukai’s header hit the post then Miyamoto would receive praise for winning 4 of the first 5 away from home this year while Zago would be slated for yet another defeat with no goals scored. But, of course, the scoreline was 1-1 and now Gamba management must consider if the current strategy we are pursuing in this unique season is the correct one.
Miyamoto can rightly point to the team’s league position and the fact that aside from runaway leaders Kawasaki, we can hold our own against anyone else in the chasing pack. As a Scottish person, however, Gamba’s strategy appears to mirror the one my home nation adopt when faced with a bigger, more powerful country, try to score early and then defend, defend, defend like our lives depend on it. Almost every other J1 club seems able to play at a higher tempo and press harder for longer than Gamba, so what is going on? Kashima have a big reputation and although they have performed poorly in 2020, they have many dangerous players who deserve respect, Doi, Leo Silva, Everaldo to name but three. However, in a similar manner to our friends over in Saitama who complained vigorously about the nature of their 1-0 win over Hiroshima last week, do Gamba fans have a right to feel aggrieved about the style of football being served up this term? What do you think? Please let me know in the comments.
A tough one as we basically abandoned any form of attacking strategy after 20 minutes but I’ll go for Yosuke Ideguchi for getting through a power of work in the middle of the park and covering so much ground.
Gamba U23 Round Up
Just a quick shout out to our Under-23 side in J3 who recorded an impressive 1-1 draw away to leaders Blaublitz Akita on Saturday night. After falling behind early, Gamba bounced back well and grabbed a deserved equaliser through Shuhei Kawasaki who beautifully curled the ball past Yudai Tanaka in the home goal for his 4th strike in the last 3 games (incredibly he now has 7 goals and 14 assists in 36 J3 games – surely if Gamba fall off the pace in J1 then he’ll get his chance this year). A stronger referee may have given Gamba an injury time penalty for a trip on Shoji Toyama, but it was not to be and the visitors had to be content with a point which keeps them 16th ahead of Sanuki and Cerezo U23.