J.League Division 1: Sat, 27th September 2009
|2 - 1|
|ENDO 16', 75'||TANIGUCHI 41'|
Venue: Expo '70 Stadium
Frontale failed to revitalise their faltering title challenge on Saturday, going down 2-1 to Gamba Osaka in what was, admittedly, a thoroughly entertaining contest.
2 goals from Yasuhito Endo were enough for Gamba to wreak a belated revenge for their ACL exit. The first was a cool finish following Igawa's inability to hold the offside line.
Taniguchi made things level with a well-struck, mid-range effort just before the break. But Endo sealed the 3 points with a trademark free-kick, albeit after a dive (right under the referee's nose, I might add) that measured 9.9 on the blatant scale. I hope Renatinho was taking notes.
Speaking of the Brazilian turf tumbler, he was given a rest ahead of Wednesday's vital ACL clash in Nagoya. Chong Tese and Kikuchi (still getting back to full fitness after his injury) were also notable absentees from the starting XI, who will hopefully benefit from their time off.
Chong did make an appearance after the break, but his arrival failed to have the desired effect. Having re-established themselves in the game at the end of the first half, Frontale started much the brighter in the second. Gamba were having to withstand wave after wave of Kengo-inspired pressure and their defence was visibly creaking.
You can't really blame Sekizuka for adding Chong to Gamba's worries while the iron was hot. However, no sooner had the change been made (Yamagishi the player making way) than the tide immediately shifted in Gamba's favour, with the Korean proceeding to make little, if any, contribution for the remainder of the contest.
With the home team back in the ascendency, Frontale were fortunate to survive a couple of scares. Lucas sent a header into the side-netting after the visiting defence had gone to sleep at a quickly-taken corner. Then there was a half-decent penalty shout which was ignored due to a Gamba player standing in a potentially-offside position (although how he was taking an active role I'm not sure).
However, the defining moment of the match was Endo's dive. As he skipped past Yokoyama at the edge of the D, the Gamba playmaker left out a trailing leg before crashing to the floor. There was minimal contact and even then it was Endo making contact with Yokoyama rather than the other way round. So you can imagine the sheer amazement from all around when the referee (not 10 yards from the incident) awarded the free kick.
Now, I don't mind referees getting things wrong from time to time. Obviously it's not nice when it goes against your team, but it happens. What I hate is when referees know they've cocked up and then try to balance it out by making further bad calls.
Did the referee award the free-kick to make up for not giving the earlier penalty? Who knows? But there's no denying that after Endo had dispatched the free-kick into the back of the net, every decision went Frontale's way. Very poor!
Not really the stage of the season when you want to be chalking up your first back-to-back league defeats, but the team can take comfort from the fact that the gap at the top of the table isn't getting any bigger. And, despite the result, this was a positive and committed perfomance.
Attention now reverts to the ACL. After Nagoya's 4-1 weekend stroll in Kashima park, there's no doubt who will be feeling the fresher on Wednesday. But, if the disappointment of last weekend's Urawa result inspired Frontale's 1st leg performance at Kokuritsu, this cruel loss to Gamba should provide just the motivation needed ahead of the 2nd leg at Mizuho.