Gamba Osaka 2-2 Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo
Gamba Osaka came into this home match looking for a strong performance in front of their home fans and, with the experience of Masaaki Higashiguchi in goal for this one, it was hoped that the absence of centre back Kwon Kyung-won would be overcome in defence.
In midfield, there were changes, too, as Rihito Yamamoto and Yuya Fukuda were preferred over other options, while Issem Jebali was not fit enough to start up front.
The game began in unfortunate fashion for the home team when an in-swinging corner came off the head of one opponent and into the path of Yuki Kobayashi who blasted his shot hopefully, but saw the ball hit the back of the net, after making it through a crowded goal area, 1-0 down after six minutes.
The day - and the scoreline - got worse just after the half-hour mark when a pass back from the opposing half by Yuya Fukuda was left for the other by both centre backs, and the blue/black sea parted for Tsuyoshi Ogashiwa to run onto the the ball and bear down on goal for a finish that left Higashiguchi helpless. 0-2, and that's how the half ended, though Neta Lavi's blast from distance gave hope for the 2nd half, just before the break.
Gamba came out for the second period with a lot more purpose and looked dangerous from the off, although it took two substitutions to help change the game, Hideki Ishige pulling a goal back for the home team within two minutes of entering the fray! Some crisp one-touch passing opened up the defence with ease, Lavi's through pass into the sprint of Riku Handa down the right was perfect, and the right back's low cross was converted gratefully by the substitute! 1-2.
Then Gamba were level a moment later as Juan Alano finished off another slick passing move, once again started by a superb ball by Lavi, the Brazilian flicking home a clever pass back across the goal from Naohiro Sugiyma, as the defence looked for the shot. Alano finished with aplomb and the game was level, 2-2, with half an hour to go. Gamba looked a new team from the one that we had seen enter the break 2-0 down, and went looking for the win.
An 80th minute Ishige corner caused problems with the away 'keeper scooping the ball off the line from Dawhan's header, as it looked to be heading for the back of the net, and then the follow-up shot was blocked by a desperate defence, as Consadole tried to hold on for a point. Missed - as well as well-saved - chances by Musashi Suzuki and more last-ditch defending from the team in white meant that Consadole did indeed hold on - just - for the away point as Gamba failed to find a winner, and even had to rely on Higashiguchi again when, well against the run of play, Taika Nakashima found space in front of goal as seconds ticked away in added time.
Team - Higashiguchi, Handa, Miura, Egawa, Kurokawa (Fukuoka, 86'), Lavi, R.Yamamoto (Dawhan, 57'), Juan Alano (Meshino, 70'), Sugiyama (Yamami, 86'), Fukuda (Ishige, 57'), Suzuki
Hideki ISHIGE 59'
Juan ALANO 61'