Vegalta Sendai 1-4 Gamba Osaka 5 September 2020 and weekly round up

Once again a shout out to @vegalta_blog who helped me write the preview for this match. Please check out his site for the Sendai take on things.

The Match

Gamba got back to winning ways with a comfortable road win at struggling Vegalta Sendai on Saturday night. The 4-1 triumph takes their away record to 14 points from 6 matches and moves them back up to 6th in J1 with games in hand over most of the teams ahead. The 3 goal margin of victory was the Nerazzurri’s biggest this year and also marked the first time they had scored more than twice in a league match in 2020.

Kantoku Tsuneyasu Miyamoto made a couple of changes to the side that went down to FC Tokyo the previous weekend. There was a first J1 start for Yuki Yamamoto at the base of the midfield while Shu Kurata came in for Ryu Takao. There was also a positional switch with Kosuke Onose moving back into Takao’s spot at right wing-back, the now peroxide-blonde Yosuke Ideguchi moved from left to right central midfield to accommodate Kurata. Shinya Yajima dropped out of the matchday squad altogether, hopefully to get some much needed rest while there was bad news regarding Yuji Ono. The off-season recruit from Tosu damaged the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in training and will require surgery that will surely rule him out of the rest of the 2020 campaign.

This game got off to a flier with 3 goals in the opening 15 minutes. Sendai, with left-winger Takuma Nishimura prominent, started stronger and forced a couple of corners in the opening passages of play. The second of the two saw them take the lead. Takuma Hamasaki swung it in and Alexandre Guedes rose unmarked to head past Higashiguchi, a rare goal conceded from a corner by Gamba and there will surely be a post-mortem at training on Monday. The away side were quickly back in control and Yuki Yamamoto made sure his first J1 start was a memorable one just four minutes after Guedes’ opener. Good play down the right involving Onose and Ideguchi saw the ball fed to Usami in the box, Gamba’s talisman was outnumbered and the ball broke off a Sendai player to the edge of the area. Kurata challenged for it and again the ball fell Gamba’s way, this time for Yamamoto who coolly turned onto his right-foot past Sendai’s stand-in skipper Kyohei Yoshino and rifled home a shot low to Jakub Slowik’s right-hand side. Game on!

Next, Ademilson struck his fourth J1 goal of the year to give Gamba the lead after just a quarter of an hour. Usami had his shot blocked and from the resulting corner he found the head of captain Genta Miura, the centre-back flicked on and Ade found himself totally unmarked to loop an awkward looking header over and across Slowik into the net. Koji Hachisuka and Keiya Shiihashi looked at each other with confusion about what had gone wrong and Vegalta, like Gamba, will need to work on defending corners a bit better going forward.

Back in front, Gamba began to sit back more and soak up some Sendai pressure, Guedes forced Higashiguchi into an excellent save low to his right in the 17th minute, but in truth the home side, while looking spritely in patches, never presented a consistent threat. They would, however, be handed a golden opportunity to level things up before half time from the penalty spot (I’ll go into the rights and wrongs of the award in the analysis section below). Again a Hamasaki corner caused problems, Onose jumped with Guedes, both players had their arms up for leverage but the ball appeared to miss both and cannoned into the helpless Ademilson behind and the referee had no hesitation but to point to the spot for handball. Nishimura stepped up and just like Leandro the previous week aimed low to Higashiguchi’s right, unfortunately for the men from Miyagi, he didn’t get it far enough into the corner and Gamba’s number 1 ensured justice was served. 2-1 Gamba half time.

The second half followed the same pattern as the end of the first with Sendai controlling possession and having the bulk of the chances, but save for Nishimura’s header over after a terrific bustling run from right-back Takahiro Yanagi, they didn’t look like getting back on level terms. After making a few changes midway through the half, Vegalta looked like they were gearing up for a late push, but instead they found themselves stunned by Gamba’s riposte. 17 minutes from time Yamamoto’s innocuous looking cross-field header was allowed to bounce by two Sendai defenders, Kurata won it, cut inside and unleashed a fine strike past Slowik from just outside the box, check-mate to Gamba. Twelve minutes later they would finish things off decisively. Ideguchi started the move and played in substitute Kazuma Watanabe in the inside left channel, the veteran forward squared for fellow replacement Patric. The Brazilian tussled with Vegalta’s returning captain Simao Mate, those of a Sendai persuasion may have a case for a foul here, but the ball broke off the falling Simao into the path of Ideguchi who made no mistake from 5 yards out.

Young Shuhei Kawasaki got the final few minutes of action and managed a couple of nice touches, an ambitious shot and a bit of pushing and shoving with ex-Gamba forward Shun Nagasawa (who stands a solid 24cm taller than him) and Kyohei Yoshino. Full-time, job done, 4-1 and on to another injury ravaged side, Kashiwa Reysol, on Wednesday.


* Following on from my non-deliberate handball rant after the FC Tokyo game, more of the same tonight. It’s something that’s been a bug bear of mine for a long time and I’d enjoy hearing others in the JLeague English community’s views on this….should non-deliberate handballs in the box where the ball is not travelling towards goal result in a penalty? My view is no, a direct or indirect free-kick would be a more fitting punishment, what do you think?
* Yuki Yamamoto got a first start at the base of Gamba’s midfield in this game and he has definitely gone some way to addressing my concerns over a lack of depth in central midfield. Ideguchi is clearly a class above and essentially undroppable, but, in Yamamoto, it looks like we have someone who can give Yajima a break every so often, especially against, with the greatest respect to Sendai, bottom half opposition. Despite his well-taken goal, his performance was by no means perfect. I liked his range of passing, but his positioning and combination play with his fellow midfielders will understandably take time to develop.
* Continuing with the positive noises about young midfielders, it was great to see young Shuhei Kawasaki get a few minutes at the end of the game. He played with the verve and swagger of someone who didn’t have a care in the world and with Yuji Ono out for the rest of the year he is surely likely to become a regular on the bench, coming on to give the likes of Kurata and Onose a breather in the latter parts of games.
* Although the scoreline looks great on paper and energy levels were definitely higher than in previous games, I’m going to hold off on declaring Gamba being back to their best. Sendai were a step slower than most of out recent opponents and as a result we found it much easier to get the ball into dangerous areas and take advantage of sloppy play. As I’ll cover in my upcoming preview, Kashiwa, like Vegalta, don’t have their injury troubles to seek, and next Sunday we play basement dwellers Shonan at home (without their excellent on-loan ‘keeper), ask me after those games if the Nerazzurri are a force to be reckoned with.
* The final part of this analysis I promise, Masaaki Higashiguchi’s fine early block from Guedes and his later penalty save from Nishimura got me thinking….is there a more on-form ‘keeper in J1 2020 than Gamba’s stopper. FC Tokyo’s fans may point to Akihiro Hayashi, though he did lose his place for a few games, Kawasaki’s Jung Sung-ryong ‘suffers’ from the fact his team is so good and he doesn’t have much to do, I could accept an argument that overall Cerezo’s Kim Jin-hyeon is better than Higashiguchi, but he’s made a few uncharacteristic errors this year. Nagoya’s Australian Mitch Langerak has looked great when I’ve seen him and is the only rival to Masaaki for this title in my opinion, so…please tell me, what do you think?

Gamba MVP

Yosuke Ideguchi again. He was omnipresent once again, his engine and work rate are incredible. I really hope he can keep going and doesn’t break down with an injury, otherwise we’ll really struggle. I was delighted for him when he capped off a superb performance with a goal. Hamasaki and Shiihashi will be happy they don’t have to face him every week and while he’s not quite back to the form he showed before his move to Europe, he must be in Hajime Moriyasu’s thoughts for Japan’s next squad, whenever that is named.

U23 Round Up

An experienced Under 23 side featuring 4 overage players, GK Jun Ichimori, centre-backs Shunya Suganuma and Ryo Shinzato, as well as attacker Daisuke Takagi, went down to a disappointing 3-1 defeat to Fujieda MYFC. Despite taking an early lead when Kohei Okuno headed home Ren Shibamoto’s corner, the Shizuoka side were level at the break following Tsubasa Yoshihara’s 3rd goal of the season. The same player then put Fujieda in front just before the hour mark and Tsugutoshi Oishi made sure of things in additional time after young Ko Ise was dispossessed in midfield.


Vegalta Sendai vs Gamba Osaka Match Preview 5 September 2020

Vegalta Sendai vs Gamba Osaka
J1 2020 Round 14
Yurtec Stadium Sendai
Saturday 5 September 18:30 (JST)

Round 14 of J1 2020 sees me collaborate with another fan as @vegalta_blog – author of the excellent gives us a deep insight into Vegalta Sendai, our next opponents. As always comments and feedback are welcomed, I’ve not been to Panasonic Stadium since February so I’ve really enjoyed interacting with fellow JLeague fans online recently.

The Lowdown

Neither side comes into this clash in great form, both having only won once in their previous five J1 games. Sendai, who made the Yurtec such a fortress in 2019 have failed to win in six home ties this time round, while Gamba, who only took 20 points on the road last year have four wins and a draw from their five away games thus far in 2020.

Vegalta are under new leadership this year with former Montedio Yamagata coach Takashi Kiyama taking over from the long-serving Susumu Watanabe and he’s endured a tough baptism. Long-term injuries to key players such as captain Simao Mate and left-winger Isaac Cuenca have definitely hindered the pace of the side’s development under their new coach. Additionally Kiyama has tried to move away from the rigid 4-4-2 employed by his predecessor and instead is currently operating a 4-2-1-2-1 or 4-3-3, depending on your preference. From the outside I think I can see what he’s trying to do, but similarly to Ange Postecoglou’s first year in Yokohama, as of yet he doesn’t have the right balance in the squad to play the kind of football he wants. It will surely take at least one more off-season before he can mould the team into his image.

Despite not boasting a great record away against Sendai in the past couple of years Gamba will come into this game as favourites. Vegalta’s record of 11 points from the first 12 games which has included only 2 victories (1-0 at bottom club Shonan in round 2 and a surprise 2-1 win at Jekyll and Hyde Kobe last month) means they are on paper the weakest side we’ve faced for some time. With this being the start of a three game week and fixtures away to Kashiwa (Wednesday) and home to Shonan (next Sunday) following quickly there may be a temptation to rotate the squad, but I feel in a bid to regain some momentum, Miyamoto will field a pretty strong starting eleven for this one.

Tactically, Urawa and Tokyo have shown other J1 sides the blueprint of how to play against Gamba in Suita. However, as the Nerazzurri are set up to play on the counter attack, so far it’s proven harder for teams to get the upper hand in their home clashes with the men in blue and black. In our previous away tie at Kashima, Patric was used effectively as a long ball option which meant we could clear our lines quicker, it’s possible a similar tactic could be used here. I’d also expect Kosuke Onose to move back to the right wing to provide a more attacking threat than Ryu Takao could offer last week, while it’s likely that Yuya Fukuda could come in for Hiroki Fujiharu, who has looked decent going forward, but has been plagued by uncharacteristic errors at the back in recent weeks.

Head to Head

Gamba have come out second best in their last two trips to Sendai, both by a scoreline of 2-1. Kim Young-gwon netted his only Gamba goal to date to give the Nerazzurri an early lead in round 9 last year, but Katsuya Nagato’s deflected strike in first half injury time, followed by Shun Nagasawa’s winner against his former charges in the 91st minute swung things in the home side’s favour. This was a case of déjà vu for both teams as in the same fixture in 2018 Kazuma Watanabe fired Gamba into a first half lead only for two Sendai goals in the space of four second half minutes to turn the tables. Prior to that Gamba had won three in a row at the Yurtec Stadium, scoring three times in each game. Vegalta, on the other hand, have never won a league match in Suita.

Team News

Gamba Osaka

No new injury concerns to report, Ryo Shinzato is still believed to be out, but elsewhere only fatigue seems to be an issue amongst the squad with captain Genta Miura, midfielders Shinya Yajima and Yosuke Ideguchi as well as star forward Takashi Usami surely due a rest soon. Should they be given a breather, excellent U23 attacking duo Shuhei Kawasaki and Shoji Toyama could be options to come into the squad, as could Ren Shibamoto whose return to the U23 ranks has co-incided with an upshoot in their form. At the back Riku Matsuda will be looking to come back into the top team set up and left-sided defenders Tatsuya Yamaguchi and Keisuke Kurokawa will surely be thirsty for J1 game time.

Vegalta Sendai

Vegalta certainly don’t have their injury troubles to seek coming into this one with no fewer than six first-teamers on the treatment table. Club legend Shingo Tomita is out for the year with knee trouble while captain and inspiration Simao Mate hasn’t featured since the league’s re-start in June. Further forward, off-season recruit from Tosu, Isaac Cuenca has missed the entire campaign to date with an ankle problem. Attackers Ryo Germain and Shuhei Akasaki as well as sitting midfielder Yoshiki Matsushita have all picked up knocks in recent weeks which have put them out of contention. I can’t find any confirmation on the status of special designated player Hisashi Appiah Tawiah who seemed to be struggling with a slight injury at the end of the defeat by Yokohama F.Marinos at the beginning of August or right-sided midfielder Ryohei Michibuchi, but my feeling is they are probably unavailable for selection at the moment.

Know Your Opponent – Vegalta Sendai

Kantoku: Takashi Kiyama, Appointed: 1 February 2020, Record: P 12 W 2 D 5 L 5 F 13 A 19 Points Per Game 0.92 Failed to Score 2 Clean Sheets 2

Thanks again to @vegalta_blog for his brilliant rundown on the Vegalta squad which you can read below. Please check out his blog for recent Sendai match previews and reports.

#24 Jakub SLOWIK – The Polish goalkeeper joined Vegalta Sendai after the departure of Daniel Schmidt to Belgium. He has provided trustworthy and reliable goalkeeping performances for Sendai. Unarguably, Vegalta Sendai would have gotten 4-5 points less without him between the sticks. His commanding presence is outstanding. You could hear him shouting at his teammates throughout the game.

#36 YANAGI Takahiro – 23-year-old loanee from FC Tokyo. Yanagi played under Kiyama at Montedio Yamagata last season. Kiyama brought him in as an emergency replacement for Masato Tokida, who was uncomfortable at the left full-back position. He said that Kiyama taught him the philosophy of aggressive football. He can play on both flanks, but Kiyama mostly uses him on the right and deploys Hachisuka on his opposite side. Gamba Osaka will definitely need to watch out for Yanagi’s contribution and link up play with Mase Takumi down the right.

#16 YOSHINO Kyohei – New signing from Sanfrecce Hiroshima last winter, Yoshino Kyohei is one of only two players who have started every single league game since the restart. He can play either as a center-back or holding midfielder. His interception rate is exceptional, but his weakness is one-on-one defending. A strong striker like Patric could win a duel against him often.

#13 HIRAOKA Yasuhiro – Hiraoka is a veteran center-back who retook his place after losing it early last year. His partnership with Simao Mate was arguably the most critical element that helped us avoid relegation. His aerial presence was outstanding last season, but Vegalta Sendai have struggled to score from set-pieces in 2020. If Simao came back in time for this game, the partnership would give Gamba’s defence a hard time.

#4 HACHISUKA Koji – “Always good” is how our manager Kiyama Takashi referred to Hachisuka. He has been with the club for ten years, playing as a right full-back. After the restart, Kiyama improvised and deployed him on the left instead. He looked uncomfortable at first but adjusted nicely after that. He has scored one goal, provided a few assists, and was selected as one of the best players by DAZN twice. His dedication will be necessary if Sendai are going to beat Gamba.

#26 HAMASAKI Takuma – Former FC Osaka right-back who was signed from Mito Hollyhock last winter. Most people expected him to be behind Iio and Hachisuka in the pecking-order. Still, Hamasaki defied everyone’s doubts in him and has established himself as a crucial holding-midfielder in Kiyama’s team. With an average of 12 kilometers covered per 90 minutes, it seems like Hamasaki is everywhere on the pitch. He also contributes to the attack a lot. Is it possible he will score his first goal in J1 against Gamba Osaka?

#5 SHIIHASHI Keiya – Shiihashi lost his place in the team to veteran Tomita Shingo last summer. At the start of the season, I thought he would have a hard time breaking into the first team, but the arrival of Kiyama transformed him. His partnership with Hamasaki is vital to the team. He can intercept and break down the opposition’s play effectively. Even though Shiihashi is more defensive-minded when compared to Hamasaki, his contribution should not be underestimated.

#7 SEKIGUCHI Kunimitsu – You are the heart of Sendai is the chant that we gave to Sekiguchi last autumn. Having spent 12 years in the northeast, his love for the team is less than no one. He will turn 35 this year, but is still running more than 12 kilometers per 90 minutes on average. Vegalta Sendai’s pressing usually starts from his initiation. This year, Kiyama has mostly deployed him as an attacking midfielder, but with the re-emergence of Hyodo, Sekiguchi may be used in the wide position more often.

#45 MASE Takumi – JFA Special designated player from Hannan University. Mase will officially join Vegalta Sendai from the 2021 campaign, but he has already established himself as a first-team member after four consecutive starts. He was a full-back in his university days, but Kiyama has deployed him as a right wide-forward since Germain Ryo’s injury. His combination with Yanagi is aggressive and furious. He assisted the equalizer that secured us a point against Hiroshima. His header was amazingly saved by Osako earlier in the game. Hopefully, he will score his first J1 goal against Gamba Osaka.

#15 NISHIMURA Takuma – Nishimura returned to Vegalta Sendai after 2 difficult years with CSKA Moscow. His goal scoring in 2018 was prolific, but he has not been able to replicate that level of performance in 2020. He is continually given chances by Kiyama, so I think he will start against Gamba after Ishihara Takayoshi’s sub-par performance in Hiroshima.

#20 NAGASAWA Shun – Honestly, I would like to write about Alexandre Guedes, but it seems like he took a knock during the last game. Thus, it is very likely that Nagasawa will start in place of him. The ex-Gamba striker is going through a goal drought right now; he has only scored one goal this season. Arguably, our deliveries into him have not been good enough. Nevertheless, his goal-scoring instinct has made him one of the best players we have. Facing a former club should encourage him to prove himself.

Predicted Line Ups

Match Prediction

This match could really define the direction Gamba’s season takes, a tame draw or defeat would point to another year of mid-table mediocrity while a comfortable victory would suggest that the home defeats to Urawa and Tokyo were a mere blip. I’m going for a positive outcome, Gamba haven’t scored more than twice this year and neither have Sendai, so goals may be at a premium, I’ll say 2-1 Gamba with Usami and Patric netting the decisive strikes.