[Match Report] Sanfrecce Hiroshima vs. Gamba Osaka

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Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0 – 1 Gamba Osaka

Pre-Match

Gamba Osaka is coming off a loss against the Urawa Reds last week Saturday.  Today, they are coming up against another top table team in Sanfrecce Hiroshima.  Sanfrecce Hiroshima is also going to be looking to recover from a loss against a top table team. With lead leaders Urawa drawing against Vegalta Sendai 4-4 in a cracker of a match and FC Tokyo slipping up against up-and-down Kashima Antlers.  Hiroshima will go top of the league with a win, and Gamba Osaka will overtake Hiroshima to go to 3rd place.

With a lot at stake in this match, it will be interesting to see how each team come out of the gates.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima:

Starting Formation: 3-4-2-1
Player I focused on: CM Toshihiro Aoyama – Aoyama’s simple passing game has an influence on Hiroshima’s possession game.  He is able to circulate the ball from the center of the pitch to anywhere in just a blink of an eye.

Gamba Osaka:

Starting Formation: 4-4-2
Player I focused on: CM Yasuhito Endo – So far this season, Gamba’s veteran midfielder has not imposed his presence like in the past.  Age? He is 35 years old, but his stamina and technique are all he needs in order to boss a match.

1st Half:

1st minute: Sanfrecce Hiroshima – LF Kashiwa sent an early cross to the near post where MF Shibasaki was waiting.  Sato sent a glancing header toward goal, but his shot hit the crossbar.

First 10 minutes: Hiroshima is looking more dangerous.  Their attacks are decisive and quick, so Gamba has little time to recover.

11th minute: Gamba Osaka – Usami picks up the ball just outside of Hiroshima’s penalty area and takes a shot, but his shot is deflected wide.

17th minute: Sanfrecce Hiroshima – MF Notsuda takes a vicious shot from 20 meters out, but a Gamba GK Higashiguchi gets a fingertip on the shot and it goes over the crossbar.  After the ensuing corner kick, MF Shimizu picks up the ball inside of Gamba’s penalty area and takes a shot at the near post, but GM Higachiguchi makes a kick save.

30th minute: Hiroshima launches a counter attack.  Hiroshima’s LM Kashiwa picks up the ball with speed and Gamba’s Endo tackles him.  Endo’s underside of his boot catches Kashiwa on the shin and Endo receives a yellow.

35th minute: Sanfrecce Hiroshima – LM Kashiwa uses his acceleration to get past Gamba’s defender and he then sends a cross into the near post, but it is cleared.

44th minute: Sanfrecce HIroshima – Hiroshima uses LM Kashiwa again on the left flank and he then sends a lofted ball back into the center of the pitch.  CM Aoyama makes a late run to meed the ball just outside of the penalty area and hits a volley.  GK Higashiguchi is forced to make a one-handed save and the ball goes out for a corner kick.

1st Half Observations:

1. Sanfrecce Hiroshima – LM Kashiwa is creating chances with his accurate crosses.

2. Sanfrecce HIroshima – Often hit long balls over the top into space for on coming attackers.

3. Gamba Osaka – ST Usami is dropping deeper into the midfield to receive the ball at his feet. This means Usami is further from goal and is less dangerous.

4. Gamba Osaka – Attacking-minded LB Fujiharu has not made any dangerous runs up the left side of the pitch.  Gamba’s midfield has not been able to keep possession long enough and well enough for their wide players to make any impact on the match.

Keys for Success in the 2nd Half:

For Sanfrecce Hiroshima:

1. So far, Hiroshima has been very organized on defense.  Wide midfielders drop back into the defensive line and the two attacking midfielders drop into the midfield, leaving ST Sato up top to put low-high pressure.  This is proving very difficult for Gamba to breakdown.

2. Suck Gamba in and launch quick counters. Gamba’s 2 CM’s Endo and Konno are not the quickest players on the pitch and a vulnerable to making professional fouls if caught out of position.

3. Attack from the left flank.  LM Kashiwa is proving to be a handful for Gamba’s defenders. Gamba is double teaming him, but he is still able to find an open player of get past defenders.

For Gamba Osaka:

1. Be more dynamic on offense.  As I mentioned in #1 for Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Gamba cannot break down Hiroshima’s tight defense.  Gamba is just passing the ball along their back line while Sanfrecce sits in their block.  When Gamba is passing the ball deep in their own midfield, Endo is also far from goal, so he cannot combine with Usami to create chances. Taking Hiroshima defenders on 1-v-1 on either flank has less risk of being countered and also will open up space.

2. More movement on offense.  All of Gamba’s players are standing waiting for the ball.  This is making it easier for Hiroshima to defend them and then launch counter attacks.  For Osaka to create chances, they need to have much more off the ball movement.  LB Fujiharu is making runs up the left flank, but other players are not thinking of the next play, so they are unable to quickly move the ball around and through Hiroshima’s defense.

2nd Half:

47th minute: Gamba Osaka – Usami receives the ball from the left side of the pitch.  Usami then finds MF Omori making a run into the penalty area and takes a shot, but his shot goes flying over the goal. Nice off the ball movement from Gamba’s attackers led to this chance.

50th minute: Interview with Gamba Osaka Manager Kenta Hasegawa.  He mentioned that because Hiroshima is creating a tight block in defense, Gamba needs to find space in dangerous areas and get the ball to the player in that space.  Then, they can hit space behind Hiroshima’s defense if Hiroshima’s defensive line pushes up to close down Gamba’s players.

55th minute: Gamba Osaka DF Iwashita looks to have hit Hiroshima MF Shimizu after a set piece off the ball.  Iwashita did not get a yellow card and a foul was not even called.  Ludicrous.

58th minute Substitution: Gamba Osaka – ST Takuma Asano on for ST Hisato Sato
Asano has speed to burn and will look to find space behind of Gamba’s defensive line.

60th minute: Gamba Osaka – GOAL – Endo hits a lofted free kick to MF Iwashita on the far side of the penalty area.  Hiroshima’s defenders collide as they both try to clear the ball and the ball finds its way back to Iwashita.  Iwashita hits the ball back into the penalty area where ST Lins is and he makes no mistake with his head.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0 – 1 Gamba Osaka

66th minute Substitution: Sanfrecce Hiroshima – MF Mikic on for MF Kohei Shimizu

69th minute: Hiroshima – Asano finds himself on the end of an early cross, but his flashing header is deflected wide and goes out for a corner kick.

70th minute Substitution: Gamba Osaka – MF Shu Kurata on for ST Lins
MF Kurata will slot in below Usami and will be a hook between the midfield and Usami.

73rd minute: Gamba MF Konno mistimes his slide tackle and takes out Hiroshima’s Mizumoto.  Konno gets a yellow and Hiroshima has a free kick from a dangerous area.  Shiotani and Notsuda stood over the ball.  The right footed Shiotani hits a curling free kick, but it goes wide.

75th minute Substitution: Sanfrecce Hiroshima – ST Douglas on for MF Notsuda
Hiroshima going more offensive looking to tie the match.

77th minute: Gamba Osaka – LB Fujiharu makes an overlapping run and Konno threads the needle to him. Fujiharu takes the ball into the penalty area and hits a shot at the near post, but it hits the post and bounces out.

81st minute: Sanfrecce Hiroshima – Off a corner kick, Mizumoto gets above his marker and gets a header off toward goal, but it goes over.

83rd minute Substitution: Gamba Osaka – DF Shohei Ogura on for MF Hiroyuki Abe
Versatile player Ogura goes in as a CM, MF Kurata switches to a RM.

86th minute Substitution: Gamba Osaka – ST Patric on for ST Takashi Usami

92nd minute: Sanfrecce Hiroshima – Kashiwa hits a ball into Gamba’s penalty area.  The ball evades Asani but finds it’s way to Douglas who tries an overhead kick inside of the 6 yard box, but it lacks power and GK Higashiguchi clutches the ball.

2nd Half Observations:

1. Gamba Osaka – Endo is playing higher up the pitch and this is helping connect the midfield with their attackers.  This is creating space on the flanks for wide players to find space, which is in turn creating space in Hiroshima’s defensive block.

2. Sanfrecce Hiroshima – Have less possession in the second half because Gamba is playing with more speed on both sides of the ball.

3. Sanfrecce Hiroshima – Having trouble dealing with Gamba’s attackers who receive the ball at their feet in-between their defenders.  On defender will put pressure on the man with the ball, but the Gamba players make quick decisions to pass the ball to a player making a run.

4. Gamba Osaka – Players are more active when on offense and this is creating problems for Hiroshima (see #3 above).  Usami is also playing a more roaming role.  He will float out to the flank to receive passes then dart through the center of the pitch to make a run.

Overall Observations:

1. A tale of two halves.  In the first half, Sanfrecce Hiroshima looked more threatening.  They had more possession and were very organized on defense. However, Gamba came out in the second half with a plan and it worked.  Gamba had Hiroshima on their back foot from the opening second half whistle and Hiroshima looked to have lost their venom.

2. Gamba Osaka leapfrogs Sanfrecce Hiroshima and finds themselves in 3rd place.  This shows how competitive the J.League is this year.  Urawa Reds, FC Tokyo, Gamba Osaka, Sanfrecce Hiroshima are all looking to win the 1st stage of the season.

Player of the Match: Gamba Osaka GK Masaaki Higashiguchi – He made several key saves to keep Gamba in the match.  Exactly what a quality keeper does.

Next fixtures (May 16th):

Sanfrecce Hiroshima:

vs. Kashima Antlers away.  Kashima beat the red hot FC Tokyo away. Interestingly, the so far impotent Kashima offense outshot FC Tokyo in today’s match.  Perhaps CM Mitsuo Ogasawara in the starting line up helped? Although Ogasawara is not the most spectacular player on the pitch, he contributes with his passing skill and great positioning.

Gamba Osaka:

vs Kawasaki Frontale at home.  This will mark Gamba Osaka’s third match in a row against a top running team in the league.  With Kawasaki grinding out a win against struggling Nagoya Grampus Eight, it will be interesting to see how these attacking-minded teams play.

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