The previous episode of Giant Killing left us with possibly the cruellest anime cliff-hanger of all time, with Natsuki's shot cannoning off the underside of the bar and the loose ball falling to Akasaki, before cutting to the end credits just as he lets his shot loose.
Thankfully, we leap straight back into where we left off as episode twenty-four begins... just in time to see Akasaki tuck a neat low shot into the net to make it 2-1. After all the tension of recent weeks, we get a fair amount of time to savour this goal and enjoy it to its fullest thankfully, as do all of the ETU players... all that is apart from Gino, who looks as displeased as ever, while Natsuki is still fretting about his own responsibilities to the team despite seemingly coming to something of a conclusion about it in his head.
Anyhow, with that goal pulled back, the rest of this instalment allows us to luxuriate somewhat in seeing various areas of Tatsumi's tactical master-plan come to fruition. For starters, immediately after ETU's goal we see Osaka's Kubota substituted; a necessary change as he's clearly exhausted from the greater than normal exertions Sugi has forced him into during the game - Kubota may be a great player, but he still lacks the stamina and experience when it really counts.
That said, Kubota isn't the only one looking leggy at this juncture - Osaka Gunners' captain Hiraga is also virtually dead on his feet, as it finally dawns on him that Gino hasn't been misplacing his passes; rather, he's been playing balls into space to force him to constantly compete for balls with the pacy Tsubaki, wearing him down throughout the game. With Hiraga flagging, but his team with no natural or trusted substitute in that position, Osaka's attacking player down the left-hand side thus has to withdraw into a more defensive role to help out - a move which Tatsumi further exploits by bringing in a new left-back of his own to overload this new weak spot in their opposition, and a change which looks to pay big dividends almost instantly before Tsubaki is blocked illegally on his route to goal; a frustration we can empathise with as it also brings the end of another episode for us poor viewers.
The other aspect of Tatsumi's plan which finally pays dividends here regards Kubota's marking of Hauer - the former's physical and verbal style of play has been riling his opponent throughout but at last he snaps, resulting in an off the ball shove on Kubota that would earn him a straight red card in any game that I can think of, but inexplicably only results in a yellow here, with ETU's players not even complaining about what is an incredibly lax piece of refereeing.
Aside from my complaint that more should have been made of this incident during this episode (it would be a big deal and hugely controversial in a real game), this was a fantastic instalment which finally paid back our patience of watching this game develop for over a month in our viewing time. We got a goal, we got the turn-around in ETU's on-field fortunes that we've been waiting for, and the entire thing was pulled off with a sense of realism that can only be commended. It's clear now that this game is going to be the final one of Giant Killing's reign on the airwaves for now - Hopefully the show can make a comeback much like the one East Tokyo United are on the brink of here.