Monday, December 15, 2008

Guess who? Yes Sir, hero Endo

ANOTHER of those sublime team goals that we've grown accustomed to seeing from the Yasuhito Endo-inspired Gamba Osaka in last night's CWC quarter-final win over Adelaide in Nagoya.

It came midway through the first half, and as in this wonderful passage against Melbourne earlier this year, it started at the back and was illuminated by the gifted touches of Gamba's smooth number 7, who set the tempo for the move with his touch, movement and assured finish.

Finding space on the left hand side, Endo brought down a long diagonal switch on the chest and rolled it down the line for the flying Yasuda. Running into a cul-de-sac, Yasuda turned back to his ever reliable playmaker, who was waiting where he'd passed it from.

In a blink he'd received it and shifted it square. Static up until now, he suddenly sensed an opportunity and exploded forward from his position on the half-way line. Moving through the gears, leaving a lazy Travis Dodd behind, he sprinted diagonally, getting on the end of a wonderful one and two touch move, killed with an outrageous no-look header from substitute Bando, sealed by Endo's nutmeg of Galekovic.

Eleven touches from start to finish, three of them from the right foot of the player of the ACL.

Yes, it was a poor piece of defending from both Dodd and young Mullen, but Endo's tempo-setting moment of quality (not his only one of the game mind you!), was enough to book a night out with the other Reds, where his wonderful gifts might attract even more attention.

Up until the goal Endo and Co. had been kept relatively quiet as Adelaide dominated the opening 20 minutes, but the injury to Sasaki around that time forced Gamba's hand, and Nishino gambled.

By bringing on striker Bando for right winger Sasaki, Nishino wrestled the ascendancy, and the extra attention required to deal with a front two gave Endo the space he hitherto hadn't had. Ever the footballer, his ability to drift left and right, and find the space, was ultimately the vehicle to Gamba's control, and, really, they may have had a few more.

Playing without the pressure, the Reds were far better than the stressed Adelaide we saw fumble their way through Waitakere on Wednesday, and the power and aerial presence of Dodd almost made a difference in the first half. Ultimately though, with Endo pulling the strings, and shifting the tempo at will, Gamba looked in control.


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