Oita Trinita vs Gamba Osaka
2021 J1 Season Round 35
Showa Denko Dome Oita
Sunday 7 November 2021
Kick Off: 14:00 (JST)
Sunday sees the final round of J1 fixtures prior to the upcoming international break and Gamba, fresh from a 1-0 triumph at Yokohama F. Marinos on Culture Day face their second road trip of the week, a journey west to Kyushu to do battle with Oita Trinita. A hot reception surely awaits in a region known for it’s onsen, but buyer beware, Trinita are the league’s lowest goalscorers and Gamba, the joint second lowest. However, it is the J.League, so maybe the recent rumours surrounding Tomohiro Katanosaka will bring both sides out of their respective shells…3-3 anyone?
I was present at the Nissan Stadium on Wednesday to see Gamba take three valuable points thanks to Shu Kurata’s 55th minute winner (I was wearing his uniform that day, coincidence?). I’ll get into some of the key takeaways from that game later on in the ‘Gamba Osaka’ section, but for now let me point out that a win against Oita will make the Nerazzurri mathematically safe and the 10 point gap currently in place between them and the drop zone means that it would take a miracle for either Tokushima or Oita to overhaul their total of 40 points even if they lose this weekend (Sendai and Yokohama FC are already too far back to overtake Gamba).
Oita’s Kyushu neighbours Avispa Fukuoka did them no favours on Wednesday, triumphing 1-0 thanks to a goal from Cameroon international John Mary. Trinita had entered that tussle with 11 points from their previous 6 outings, during which time they only conceded twice. Former Gamba player and assistant coach Tomohiro Katanosaka’s side currently sit 4 points behind Shonan and Shimizu (15th and 16th), but have a significantly worse goal difference. After facing Gamba they still have to go head-to-head with Kashima (a), Yokohama FC (h) and Kashiwa (a) meaning that their need for points is now beyond urgent and they simply must see off the Nerazzurri on Sunday.
I’d just like to take a moment to congratulate 2021 champions Kawasaki Frontale, another phenomenal performance from Toru Oniki’s side who continue to set a pace that others can’t live with. Hopefully your party will continue for the next few weeks and Gamba can take full advantage of some lethargy when we visit Todoroki on November 27th. But, more seriously, well done to all involved!
Tale of the Tape
It’s funny how things have a way of balancing themselves out in football and Gamba’s backs-to-the-wall triumph at Marinos is a case in point. The Nerazzurri recorded season lows for shots on goal, passes completed and possession as well as equalling the 24 shots against that also occurred in their previous away tie at Urawa, yet they ran out 1-0 victors. However, cast your minds back to early August when Gamba put up an xG For number of 3.38 and had 20 shots on goal with 14 on target yet lost 3-2. Throw in the two 50/50 red cards Marinos got away with versus the Wellington Silva nonsense on Wednesday and yadayadayada…I think you can see where I’m going with this…well hopefully!
Oita’s strong suit is most definitely their home form with 23 of their 28 points to date (82%, a league high) coming at the Showa Denko Dome. Gamba, by contrast have picked up 55% of their 40 points outside of Suita, though recent matches with Urawa and Marinos probably give little indication as to what lies in store in this game. Takashi Kiyama has Gamba’s backline better drilled than Matsunami and ever did and even with backup members starting regularly in recent weeks, they’ve been able to hold their shape and clear their lines effectively in the face heavy bombardments. Despite a recent upsurge in attacking numbers, especially in their trio of fixtures with Cerezo, Sendai and Tokushima, Emperor’s Cup semi finalists Trinita lack an out-and-out goal threat and their inability to even create chances, let alone take them has been one of their biggest hinderances all year.
Head to Head
Gamba came from behind to grab a priceless three points against Oita at Panasonic Stadium in July. The home side dominated, but found themselves a goal down courtesy of Henrique Trevisan’s scrappy effort on the hour mark, however, a fine Leandro Pereira shot from the edge of the area restored parity before Takashi Usami won the game with essentially the last kick of the match. Usami broke down in tears in his ‘Hero Interview’ after the match, likely due to a combination of the 2 week quarantine period all the players underwent following their return from the ACL group stage in Uzbekistan as well as reflecting on the magnitude of his goal which took Gamba out of the drop zone. That result was followed by road wins at Sapporo and Sendai, a run which forms the backbone of the Nerazzurri’s points collection to date.
Gamba did the double over Oita in 2020 (they also achieved this against Sapporo, Hiroshima, Kobe and Yokohama FC) thanks to a 2-1 win in Suita and a nervy 1-0 at the Showa Denko Dome. Daiki Watari headed Trinita into a surprise early lead at Panasonic Stadium, but Gamba were level almost immediately thanks to Takashi Usami’s spot kick, Ademilson then produced a fine strike early in the second period to wrap up the points. Tatsuya Tanaka had something to prove against his old club in the return fixture, but somehow didn’t find himself on the scoresheet despite having a couple of glorious opportunities to break the deadlock. A Masaaki Higashiguchi save and a last ditch Ryu Takao clearance off the line after Tanaka had rounded Higashiguchi kept Gamba in it, and they went on to deliver a brutal sucker punch as Patric nodded home Usami’s corner late on to seal the deal.
Wednesday’s win took Gamba to 10 points from their last 5 outings, a run which included 3 fixtures against teams currently in the top 7 as well as that infamous 5-1 whipping at the hands of Sapporo. Should they continue in similar form, say by taking somewhere between 7 and 9 points from their remaining fixtures (Nagoya (h), Frontale (a) and Shonan (h) follow the international break), then a quiet optimism could start to form as we enter an important off season for a side that haven’t lifted a trophy since the 2015 Emperor’s Cup.
Next, I’ve laid out in bullet point form below a few key takeaways (good, bad and ugly) from the Marinos game,
* Stalwart / living legend Masaaki Higashiguchi celebrated his 350th J1 appearance by recording the 100th clean sheet of his career. I’ve ran out of superlatives for him, so won’t attempt any more here, I’ll just leave you to marvel at the stat above (he’s the 6th J.League goalkeeper to achieve the feat).
* Yota Sato has started to show the form that saw him rated as the best centre-back in Japanese varsity football last year. I only caught highlights of the Emperor’s Cup defeat at home to Urawa and he looked a little dicey, but he’s been assured in the last 2 away league outings at Reds and Marinos. It seems that playing centre-back (his natural position) and being given clear and coherent instructions by Kiyama has brought out an improvement in him…who’d have thunk it, right?
* Yosuke Ideguchi, so often a shadow of his former self this season, rolled back the years with a monstrous effort to put the breaks on Marinos on Wednesday. It was great to see and hopefully he can maintain that form through to the end of the year.
* Not something I really wanted to write, but come on Wellington Silva, what you did at the end of the game on Wednesday isn’t what being a Gamba player is about. You clearly have a load of talent which you showed when you were on the ball against Marinos and especially when you ripped through Sapporo in our away game in Hokkaido, you also seem like a pretty fun off the field, like how you warmly applauded the travelling supporters during and after the game at Nissan Stadium. But, please, please, cut the negative stuff out of your game and focus on dribbling past defenders and combining with Usami, Yamami and Patric next year to get us back into the ACL!!
Hiroki Fujiharu left the field clutching his ribs and back during the first half of the Marinos game, he could just have been badly winded, but I’d bank on him missing out here and possibly Yuya Fukuda, but more likely Keisuke Kurokawa will fill his spot. Fukuda seemed to take a kick to his problematic ankle just prior to being subbed off on Wednesday, but I think he should be ok to play here. Elsewhere, Kim Young-gwon was left out of the South Korea squad for the upcoming internationals after being stretchered off in Gamba’s 1-0 win over Sagan Tosu. No timeframe has been given for his return, but he won’t play here. Fellow centre-backs Genta Miura and Gen Shoji are back in full training and it remains to be seen whether they are fit enough to play against Oita or whether Matsunami/Kiyama will keep faith with the Suganuma/Sato partnership. I believe Leandro Pereira and Yuji Ono should be nearing full fitness and both could conceivably be options for this match, Pereira, in particular, would come in handy with Patric putting in a full 90 minute shift on Wednesday. Other than that, backup goalie Jun Ichimori (hamstring) is the only other confirmed absentee, though I’m also led to believe that Shinya Yajima is unavailable due to an, as of yet, undisclosed problem.
Predicted Lineups and Stats
2021 may come to be seen as then end of an era at Oita with longstanding boss Katanosaka set to depart for either Gamba or Hiroshima and Trinita apparently destined to drop down to J2 for the first time since 2018. Katanosaka has been dealt a tough hand this year with club captain and Mr. Oita Yoshinori Suzuki moving to Shimizu and bright young talent Tomoki Iwata heading for Yokohama F. Marinos. Brazilian loanee Henrique Trevisan has done a decent job of filling the enormous gap left behind by Suzuki’s departure, but in Iwata’s place there has basically been a revolving cast of about 4 or 5 different players trying and failing to fill his enormous boots. Throw in Tatsuya Tanaka’s goals and creativity heading to Urawa to compound the losses in previous years of Noriaki Fujimoto and Ado Onaiwu and even the surprising tally of Yamato Machida can’t make up for the lack of goalscoring contributions from Isa, Nagasawa and Goya. Last season, they could cover their weak attack, to an extent, with a solid defence, but this time round there’s been nowhere to hide. Naoki Nomura’s injury troubles haven’t helped either, neither did poor winter recruitment, with wing-backs Kenta Fukumori (Kitakyushu) and Hayato Kurosaki (Tochigi) loaned back to their previous clubs mere months after making the step up from J2. Additionally, Oita may be a beautiful part of Japan, but it’s far from the bright lights of Kanto and Kansai and therefore difficult to attract foreign talent. They’ve struck gold with Henrique, but it seems that his fellow Brazilian, Matheus Sousa Pereira was signed more as a companion for him rather than a genuine starting option. Despite not knowing which division they’ll be playing in next year, Oita have announced a couple of additions already. Two forwards, Shinya Utsemoto from Miyazaki Sangyo Keiei University (alma mater of both Yoshinori Suzuki and Yushi Hasegawa) and youth team product Yusei Yashiki, who has already made 3 J1 appearances in 2021 while on a type-2 amateur contract, will come in with the goal of bolstering their flailing attack.
Star turn Yamato Machida was missing from the side that went down 1-0 to Fukuoka and I haven’t seen any confirmation why. Long-serving wing-back Rei Matsumoto was taken off injured against Sendai on October 17th and must be a doubt for this clash. Tidy midfielder Yushi Hasegawa and ex-Kyoto centre-back Katsunori Ueebisu haven’t been seen for the last 8 matchdays and summer recruit from Vissel Kobe, Asahi Masuyama has sat out the previous 3 games, I don’t have any further information on that trio.
Predicted Lineups and Stats
Thanks again for reading and enjoy the game whoever you’re supporting.