I get the feeling Gamba must be really starting to hate us. First we put them out the Nabisco Cup in the semis at their home and end their hopes of defending their crown. Then we ensure the thundering momentum which helped sweep them past Urawa in the semi of the ACL came to a shuddering halt by turning them over 3-1 today at Nihondaira. At the same time we all but ended what hopes they had of a title challenge. Taking that into consideration and I wouldn't begrudge them a little ill will towards the oranges of Shimizu!
Despite the incentive Gamba had, and, when you look at it realistically, the lack of any real goal to aim for S-Pa (Title - no chance. ACL qualification - very unlikely. Finishing above Jubilo - already secured. J1 football next year - already secured), despite all this, the game never felt in doubt, as a team off the back of five wins in six marched on to six wins in seven.
Edamura has been in form recently, and not least of all against Gamba! After doing them in in the league cup, he was there to put us one up on 38m in a goal not entirely unlike his second against Gamba in the league cup second leg. He was also there to score one of the easiest of his career moments into the second half. A surging run down the right from Hara saw him put a perfect ball into the six yard box which beat both the keeper and defender and left Edamura with the simplest of jobs to put it in the net.
Our third just minutes later and was the result of a mid-range Okazaki effort getting a wicked deflection off a defender. It totally wrong-footing the keeper, and as the ball rolled almost in slow motion into the bottom corner the beleaguered goalie tried in vain to get back across goal. For the faithful behind the goal it was party time! Gamba threw everything they had at us, but the best they could do was grab a 75th minute consolation from a corner. Kaito was a wall between the sticks, at one point making a double-stop from point-blank range. Having total confidence in your keeper is an awesome feeling!
The after-game celebrations had the added spark that every second word from people's mouths seemed to be "Kokuritsu!" or "Nabisco!" The buzz was palpable! We're surging into the final in red-hot form. Oita, with just one goal from their last 360 minutes of football and three points from twelve, have been stuttering severely of late. The desire for a win next week is achingly apparent around Nihondaira. Oita surely won't be too pleased to see us in such pulsating form, and that coupled with the sheer will power of our supporters, we're going to bring that trophy home. Next week - bring it!!!
Here's all the action:
And to end, a pic taken from just outside the stadium. Gorgeous.