Gamba Osaka 1-1 Sagan Tosu
Gamba Osaka went into their first home game of the 2023 season looking to improve on an away draw at Kashiwa Reysol in their season opener - a game that could have easily been won, but having seen two points lost due to a late penalty kick given against our heroes.
Unfortunately, Dani Poyatos and his men had to settle for another draw here, too, in a game that really should have been won. Hopefully a pattern is not emerging, and the new players continue to settle in and improve the squad as the season progresses. Racking up 16 recorded goal attempts - more than twice as many as their visitors - the game ended level, after Musashi Suzuki's goal was canceled out and despite all the possession and pressure, a draw it was.
Kosei Tani again started in goal, while the back four remained unchanged, also. Neta Lavi started his first game for Gamba as the defensive anchor of midfield, a psoition that he will soon call his own, and Juan Alano returned to the starting line-up after missing the first game of 2023.
The home defence weathered some early pressure as two successive corners saw some defending needed, but then Gamba took control of the game. Hiroto Yamami forced a fine save in the 12th minute, after cutting inside to finish off a swift passing move with a curling shot that was heading for the top corner. Minutes later Gamba thought they were ahead when Musashi Suzuki poked home a loose ball after a corner, but a long delay ensued before the dreaded VAR decided there was a very tight offside offence. Suzuki wanted his goal, however and in the 25th minute forced another save out of the busy away 'keeper, after latching onto a through ball from Takashi Usami, but the game remained level at the break.
Shortly after the restart Suzuki did indeed get the goal he so richly deserved, again snapping up a loose ball on a corner and slotting home from close range. Gamba were finally ahead, and it had been coming. 12 minutes later, though, against the run of play, Sagan Tosu were level, Ryonosuke Kabayama riding his luck and multiple challenges to eventually end up in space to blast home from close range. The away team rode the wave of emotion that their equaliser created and minutes later thought they were ahead, but Cayman Togashi was adjudged to have been offside and Gamba fans breathed a collective sigh of relief.
The game continued from end to end but without that deciding goal, although Gamba substitute Issam Jebali came close in the final moments, a desperate tackle halting him as he shot, and then Usami picked up the clearance and bore down on goal only to see his attempt headed away for a corner. A corner that could not be taken, as the referee blew the full time whistle and Gamba had to settle for another draw.
Team - Tani, Handa (Takao, 90'), Miura, Kwon, Kurokawa (Egawa, 90'), Lavi, Dawhan (Y.Yamamoto, 72'), Usami, Alano, Yamami (Meshino, 78'), Suzuki (Jebali, 72')
Scorer: Musashi SUZUKI, 51'