Sunday, January 3, 2010

Gamba Osaka make it two in a row

Gamba Osaka make it two in a row.
Cometh the hour, cometh Yasuhito Endo as one of Asian football's genuine stars took control of the 89th Emperor's Cup final at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

The recently crowned Asian footballer of the year scored twice and laid on another as Gamba Osaka overpowered Nagoya Grampus 4-1 in front of 42,140 fans, who turned out in bright sunshine in the Japanese capital.

The scoreline somewhat flattered the Osakans, who found themselves locked in a battle of attrition during a tense first half.

In-form Brazilian striker Lucas Severino opened the scoring for Gamba as early as the sixth minute, however Nagoya hit back through Naoshi Nakamura as the two sides went into the interval locked at 1-1.

The second half continued in much the same vein, with Australian striker Josh Kennedy going agonisingly close to handing Nagoya the lead, only to miss Magnum's cut-back by a matter of inches.

In the end it was Endo who conjured the headlines, as he beat two defenders before slamming an accurate strike past Japan team-mate Seigo Narazaki to restore Gamba's advantage with just thirteen minutes remaining.

Gaps opened up at the back as Nagoya poured forward in search of another equaliser, and the Osakans exploited them to the fullest as Endo laid on a chance for veteran midfielder Takahiro Futugawa to sidefoot home.

Endo himself added Gamba's fourth with a stunning half-volley late on, as the defending champions sent off retiring goalkeeper Naoki Matsuyo on a high.

Gamba's win means that fourth placed J. League finisher Sanfrecce Hiroshima claim Japan's final place in the 2010 AFC Champions League, with Gamba having already qualified via a third place finish in the league.

For Nagoya it was a case of what might have been, as Dutch Eredivisie-bound Maya Yoshida ended his stint with the Aichi outfit on the losing side.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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