Gamba Osaka vs Shonan Bellmare
J1 2020 Round 16
Panasonic Stadium Suita
Sunday 13 September 19:00 (JST)
Last Time Out
Gamba were handed a chastening 3-0 defeat by Kashiwa Reysol on Wednesday night, their worst result of the year so far and one that will give a fair bit of ammunition to critics of Tsuneyasu Miyamoto’s 3-5-2 formation. The match marked the third time in the last 5 games that the Nerazzurri have conceded 3 goals and moves them down to 8th in the standings.
Buoyed by the 4-1 win at Sendai four days previously, Gamba named the same starting eleven and subs for the first time this year, however they got off to the worst possible start when Kenyan hitman Michael Olunga raced onto a long ball in the 2nd minute and buried a left foot shot across Masaaki Higashiguchi. The first 20 minutes were all Reysol with long balls for Olunga and Hiroto Goya to chase causing all sorts of trouble for Gamba’s backline, while Ataru Esaka and Sachiro Toshima floated between the defence and midfield lines and threatened the visitor’s goal seemingly at will.
Following the water break Kashiwa took their foot off the gas pedal and the rest of the first half was largely even with Gamba probing, but aside from a Shu Kurata effort that Kim Seung-gyu tipped onto the bar they rarely threatened. The tide shifted decisively in Reysol’s favour five minutes from half-time when the impressive Esaka rose highest to power home a header from 6 yards out, 2-0 and Gamba left with a mountain to climb in the second half.
The away side came out swinging for the second 45 and there were weak claims for a penalty when Onose tumbled in the box at the end of a flowing attacking move and later Fujiharu and Usami both tested Kim. However, Kashiwa struck back and Gamba’s defence was once again ruthlessly punished by the Reysol attack in the 62nd minute. With the visitors pushing for a goal to bring them back into things, and on the run of play it would probably have been deserved, Kashiwa broke upfield and Goya crossed in from the right, Olunga found himself unmarked at the near post, but fluffed his attempted header, he needn’t worry though as Esaka was behind him and made it 2 goals for the night and 5 for the season in addition to 5 assists. 3-0 it would finish, though things could have got worse as Higashiguchi saved well from Olunga and Toshima on the break while Goya’s lob hit the bar and came down on the goal-line. Injury ravaged Reysol will be delighted, Gamba on the other hand have a lot of work ahead of them to arrest their current slide.
Bottom of the pile Shonan raced into an early 2-0 lead at fellow strugglers Oita on Wedneday night. A 5th of the season from veteran Naoki Ishihara and a second strike in as many games from Kazuki Oiwa had them in dreamland after just 11 minutes. Trinita were stunned, but roused for a spirited second-half comeback with Toshio Shimakawa and Kohei Isa finding the back of the net inside the last 12 minutes. In the 4th and final minute of additional time, on-loan Gamba ‘keeper Kosei Tani could only watch as a cross from deep struck his left hand post and fortunately bounced to safety meaning both sides had to settle for a point.
Gamba vs Shonan The Lowdown
Gamba come into this game with just a solitary victory in their previous 5 outings, meaning they sit in 8th place albeit wins in their games in hand would take them above Kashima in 6th and Urawa in 7th while pulling them level with Wednesday’s tormentors Kashiwa in 5th, so perhaps things aren’t as bleak as I painted them in the match summary above. Shonan currently lie 18th and last in the standings with their fans surely thankful that relegation isn’t on the table this year. Truth be told their league position can’t be a surprise to many as they only maintained their top flight status as a result of a 1-1 draw at home to Tokushima Vortis in the promotion / relegation play-off at the end of last year.
As laid out in the Kashiwa Match Preview, the opening exchanges of this game will be crucial as Gamba are yet to lose in 2020 after scoring the opening goal and Kashima have been the only team to come back and draw with the Nerazzurri having been behind at half time. Conversely, the men from Suita have come from behind just once to win this year, against Oita in round 5.
Shonan have conceded 3 or more goals in 6 of their 14 J1 games this year, though surprisingly with that stat in mind, 5 teams have let in more, Shimizu, Yokohama FC, Sapporo, Yokohama F.Marinos and Vissel Kobe. Attack appears to be where the bulk of the issues lie, they’ve found the back of the net just 13 times in 14 games with only Tosu having a lower overall total, though they can point to having played 3 fewer league matches so far than Bellmare.
Bellmare have only won once in the league in 2020, 1-0 at home to Kashima back on July 22nd and actually their 2-2 draw at Oita on Wednesday was their first road point of the year. This leaves them bottom of the away league standings, though it is interesting to note that they score and concede substantially more goals outside of Hiratsuka, 9 of their 13 league goals have come away from home while 19 of their 26 goals against have been let in on road trips.
Gamba have been inconsistent at home with three victories against Oita, Hiroshima and Yokohama FC being outweighed by four home defeats (the same total as in the whole of 2019) at the hands of Cerezo, Kawasaki, Urawa and FC Tokyo. Recent opponents have had success by pressuring Gamba’s defenders into mistakes and Shonan will no doubt look to emulate this. Both sides will most likely line up in identical 3-5-2 formations, though owing to the tough schedule over the past week we will surely see some rotation take place with youngsters and fringe players given a chance to shine.
Head to Head
Gamba generally have an excellent record both home and away in this fixture. As the table below shows, the 1-0 reverse in Kanagawa in 2018 thanks to Shunsuke Kikuchi’s early strike is Shonan’s only recent victory over the Nerazzurri. In Suita, you have to go back to 1998 to find a Bellmare victory, though at that time they went by the moniker Bellmare Hiratsuka and they triumphed 2-1 at Expo 70’ Memorial Stadium thanks to an extra-time golden goal as that was the system employed by the JLeague in those days. In fact, combing through the record books, a 3-0 Bellmare Hiratsuka win in 1994 and a 4-2 triumph the following year are the only times they’ve won league games away to Gamba inside 90 minutes.
Left-sided attacking midfielder Yuji Ono is out for the season with knee ligament damage while Shinya Yajima has missed the past couple of games with an ankle knock, it’s still unclear how long he’ll be out for. Elsewhere everyone else is theoretically ready to play, though fatigue and recent poor form may see a number of changes to the line up for this match, Yasuhito Endo, Shunya Suganuma, Yuya Fukuda, Patric, Kazuma Watanabe and even young Shuhei Kawasaki could make their first starts for a while (or first ever in the case of Kawasaki). Kawasaki’s partner in crime with the U23s, Shoji Toyama could also make it back into the top team squad, his only previous league involvement being as an unused sub against Hiroshima in July.
As with all JLeague sides, information about Shonan Bellmare injuries is hard to find so as usual I’ll start with those who definitely won’t play before moving onto speculation. Goalkeeper Kosei Tani can’t play as per the terms of his loan agreement, experienced midfielder Tsukasa Umesaki is also out with a muscle problem and the unlucky Yuki Ohashi has a broken collarbone. Forwards Tarik and Hiroshi Ibusuki, ex-Urawa attacking midfielder Naoki Yamada and wing-back Kazuaki Mawatari have all missed the past 2 games but it’s unclear whether that’s been down to injury or non-selection. Young left wing-back Toichi Suzuki started the season well, but was subbed early in Shonan’s 4-2 hammering at Yokohama FC and has only made one sub appearance since while another wide player Shunya Mouri hasn’t featured in the league since joining from Zweigen Kanazawa last summer. Hiroto Nakagawa, an attacking midfielder who is the younger brother of 2019 J1 MVP Teruhito is another who is out of the picture at the moment.
Know Your Opponent – Shonan Bellmare
Kantoku: Bin Ukishima Appointed: 10 October 2019, Record: P 20 W 2 D 5 L 13 F 17 A 35 Points Per Game 0.55 Failed to Score 8 Clean Sheets 3
GK #1 Daiki Tomii – Has spent most of his career as a backup, save for a 2 year spell as Gunma first-choice in 2014 and 2015. Was called into action late last season when Ukishima dropped Yota Akimoto after one mistake too many in Shonan’s horrible end-of-season run. Started 2020 between the sticks but was quickly usurped by young Kosei Tani, with the Gamba loanee unavailable he should see off Masaaki Goto to start this one.
RCB #4 Keisuke Saka – Recruited out of Juntendo University ahead of Bellmare’s return to the top flight in 2018. At 174cm he must be one of the shortest centre-backs in J1, though that hasn’t stopped him from becoming a regular for Shonan over the past 3 years.
CB #22 Kazuki Oiwa – Hugely experienced former JEF United and Vegalta Sendai defender who is in his first year with the club. Surprisingly he’s the tallest of the three centre-backs at just 182cm. Poses a threat in the opposition area and has scored in each of Bellmare’s previous two matches, two more this season and he’ll have reached his career best total.
LCB #8 Kazunari Ohno – Another very experienced player who is now in his second stint with the club. Spent the bulk of his senior career with Albirex Niigata and started his current spell with Shonan in 2018. He’s on course to make his 200th J1 appearance if he can stay fit and in form this year.
RWB #6 Takuya Okamoto © – Club captain who spent several years with Urawa after graduating from their youth setup, however he never really made an impression on their top team. Now in his 5th campaign with Shonan, though the first three of those years were on loan from Reds before he made the deal permanent ahead of the start of last season.
RCM #18 Temma Matsuda – Diminutive central midfielder who can also play in a more offensive role. Originally from Kyushu, he came through the ranks at Higashi Fukuoka High School and then Kanoya Sports College in Kagoshima before initially moving to Kanagawa on a special designated player contract in 2017. He joined Shonan permanently the following year and has been a regular ever since.
DM #2 Daiki Kaneko – Probably the Bellmare player I’ll be keeping an eye on most in this match as he seems to fit the profile of someone who could play for a club higher up the league. The holding midfielder has been a mainstay in the side this year while the personnel around him have been rotated quite a bit. The former Funabashi Municipal High School graduate surprisingly cut short his studies at Kanagawa University in 2018 to turn pro with Shonan.
LCM #16 Mitsuki Saito – Like Kaneko, 21-year old Saito is a player that some of the teams in the upper echelons of J1 may be having a look at in the near future. A graduate of Bellmare’s youth system, he’s now in his 5th year as a pro and played a key role in Shonan’s 2018 Levain Cup run. Has played twice for Japan’s U23 and is in contention for a place in the Tokyo Olympics squad.
LWB #38 Hirokazu Ishihara – Another Bellmare Youth graduate who is back in Kanagawa after a loan spell with Avispa Fukuoka in 2019. Can play on either wing or even as a wide centre-back if necessary. 169cm tall Ishihara is most comfortable on the left flank and that’s where he’ll likely be deployed for this match.
RCF #13 Naoki Ishihara – Veteran forward who is enjoying a renaissance on the Shonan coast after a disappointing end to his career in Sendai. Comfortably Bellmare’s most dangerous goal threat this year with 5 strikes already. The wily Ishihara started his career with Shonan straight out of high school in 2003 and played 6 seasons with the men from Hiratsuka before going on to turn out for Omiya, Hiroshima, Urawa and Sendai. He’s currently just 8 matches away from making his 300th J1 appearance.
LCF #20 Yuto Iwasaki – Young forward who’s currently on-loan from Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo. Highly rated and capped at every level from U17 to U23 by Japan, Iwasaki, like team-mate Saito, is in line to play at the Tokyo Olympics, should they ever take place. Unfortunately, his professional club career has not gone as smoothly as his international exploits and to date he’s mustered a mere 3 goals in 86 J1 and J2 appearances for Shonan, Sapporo and Kyoto. Even at the tender age of 22, he’s seemingly running out of time to prove he has what it takes to become a J1 level forward.
Other Options – Experienced wing-back Shota Kobayashi, another player who’s had multiple spells with the club may find himself in the starting eleven for this clash, as could the right-sided Kazuaki Mawatari, a Kawasaki loanee. Further forward, experienced former Kashiwa and Omiya man Akimi Barada is a central midfield option while Hidetoshi Miyuki, an off-season signing from Yamaguchi has been criminally underused this year. Ex-Urawa attacking midfielder Naoki Yamada, Norwegian international forward Tarik Elyounoussi and the tall Hiroshi Ibusuki could all come in assuming they are fit. With an eye on the future Bellmare have given young talent a chance in recent weeks in the form of midfielder Satoshi Tanaka, a youth team player who’ll be promoted to the top team next year and two special designated players, Kanoya Sports College forward Ryo Nemoto and Rissho University midfielder Sho Hiramatsu, it’ll be interesting to see if they get game time on Sunday.
Predicted Line Ups
Gamba are not in great form and I expect the pack to be reshuffled a bit for this match against, on paper, the weakest side in the division. It won’t be a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but I think Gamba will have just enough in the tank to eek out a 2-1 win.