Nagoya Grampus 1 - 1 FC Gifu (ht 1-0)
FC Gifu rewrote the record books when they scored their first goal and managed their first draw against MeiGi derby rivals Nagoya Grampus on sunday. The game was played under clear skies at Mizuho with about 1000 Gifu fans making up the small crowd of 6800. Expectations amongst Gifu fans was not for a win, but for restricting Nagoya to a respectable score while possibly pinching a goal for themselves. This was a battle between rags and riches afterall.
Grampus played the first half as expected. Tight defence smothered Gifu who were barely allowed a look in. All over the park Nagoya dominated possession and set the tone for the pace of the game. In the 30th minute Tamada dribbled his way through to a nicely worked goal. It looked like the floodgates would then open but...
In the second half Gifu came out fired up and started to pressure the Grampus defenders while upping their ball retention. Grampus still looked like anyone of their players could fire in another goal, but brave defense by keeper Noda (and later Murao) and some indecision upfront by the midfield and forwards, kept the score at one.
It was three minutes into overtime that Nishikawa latched on to a pass by Shimada and shot in a beautiful goal to send the Gifu fans into raptures.
How Gifu managed to draw this game against a star-studded Nagoya is still a bit of a mystery, but alot could be read into how both fans and players seemed to treat the game.
Grampus fans didn't sing or chant and just watched the game as if it were a training match. The players too, after scoring the first goal seemed to relax a bit too much.
Gifu players though probably had alot more motivation and kept going til the very end, while the fans kept cheering and chanting til the last minute. Add this to the fact that Gifu are young and fit and are strong finishers in the second half, and you can probably see why they got the result that they did.
Still, the MeiGi Derby is over for another year and Gifu finally have something to show for their efforts. Hopefully this year the teams won't have to meet in the Emperor's Cup again! Unless of course, it's in the final. (Hey we can dream can't we!)