I think everyone knew this was going to be a sloppy game. We came in off the high of a huge win over Frontale in the League Cup and changes were expected for this on plus it had been raining in the Greater Tokyo area all through the day since Wednesday with Saturday being the worst of it. For whatever reason, Ajinomoto Stadium doesn’t have proper drainage for these type of games and once again the pitch resembled a pool in many parts of it as it’s likely just a carpet pitch laid overtop solid ground. Unfortunately, I don’t see an easy way to fix this problem outside upgrading the ground with a solid investment which I’m sure won’t happen. Be sure to check out BlogGamba’s recap as well for a full picture of the game
The game itself played out almost exactly as expected; chances at a premium, and plenty of mistakes but the game will be mostly remembered for the very chippy tackles and foul play on both sides and likely the first J League call under the new penalty laws of the game.
Leandro certainly didn’t earn himself any fans yesterday while Oumari will be searching out for a very good tooth implant dentist to fix his lost tooth(teeth?) but the moment of the game came just before the half finished when a very unlucky Mita was judged to have handled the ball in the box.
Under the new laws of handball, it’s a penalty, but Mita didn’t know much about it with his back to the ball on his way down from missing the header. He got tagged for the positioning of his raised arm which is where the new rule has been making defenders pull their hair out. If the ball went off his arm were it parallel with his body, there wouldn’t be a penalty and the game would continue but no matter what way the player is facing, if the arm is in an “unnatural position”, it’s a penalty nowadays. Ademilson tucked away the resulting penalty and we then needed to chase the game but with the pitch the way it was, it made for comical scenes like Diego tackling himself because the water stopped the ball in place causing him to slide a further 5-6 yards untouched along the ground – the pitch was that bad. To compound our misery in the half, Oumari would lose 1-2 teeth on a contested challenge off a corner. No foul was given which likely set the tone for Leandro’s second half exploits but am sure Oumari’s teeth have other views on it. 0-1 at HT and the rain wouldn’t relent in the second half.
The second half more resembled a mixed arts bout. Leandro may get a call from the league office for an elbow to the head of Kim Young-Gwon (who got his payback with a foot to Leandro’s face later in the game) or perhaps his punch to Yuki Yamamoto’s face.
We have seen retroactive punishment handed out in the past when Jang Hyun-soo was given a 3 match ban for an elbow to the head in our League Cup Group match in Tosu so it will be interesting to see what the league does here with Leandro.
Beyond the handbags, we never really looked like getting back in this one. Tagawa had his shot cleared off the line while Leandro had a few close chances from his free kicks but like Frontale on Wednesday, we just knew it wasn’t meant to be as every chance came close but wasn’t enough and Gamba won their first game at Ajista since 2001.
Thoughts on the Game:
Not a lot to say about this one. On top of a water logged pitch, we were sloppy, offered very little going forward, lost some teeth and our heads with some of the tackles out there, and lost a huge game to a team with 3 games in hand on us and now only 3 points back. A lost opportunity for sure but we still very much have a lot to look forward to not the least of which is a Cup Final in one months time.
Back at it again on Wednesday night at Ajista when we welcome Shimizu who we played on opening day way back in February. Whether we play that with or without Leandro will be a question but we should be able to manage. 2-1 win if the weather permits.