Gamba secured top spot in Group A in the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup to end the first half of the season in higher spirits after taking 2 wins and 1 defeat in the final three group matches. We were joined by Kansai rivals Vissel Kobe in the quarter-final draw as both teams finished on 12 points.
Gamba Osaka 2-1 Kashima Antlers
It was the クラクラ (Kura-Kura) combination that won the game for us against a strong Antlers side with Shu Kurata netting his 2nd goal of the season early doors whilst Yonekura, deputising for the banned Oh, scored the winner late on in the game after Davi had pulled the visitors level with just under 20 minutes to go. The undoubted man of the match was Masaaki Higashiguchi however, as he pulled off top save after top save to keep us in the Antlers-dominated contest, whilst the defence did well to keep the opposition to long-range efforts for most of the time. Without Usami this was a big win but unfortunately for Yosuke Ideguchi, who started his first ever professional game at Banpaku, it was a day to learn from having made numerous mistake and being dragged off with only 30 minutes gone. The win put us on 9 points but still in 2nd place.
Gamba Osaka 3-1 FC Tokyo
Takashi Usami returned to the starting eleven following a short injury and inspired us to a wonderful win over FC Tokyo just a week after they had humiliated us in the league. Takashi found the net early in the game with a rocket from outside of the box that had Shiotani in goal stranded but Tokunaga scored for the second game in a row at Banpaku with a belter of his own. Into the second half and Usami was at it again, latching onto a one-two with Abe before passing the ball into the back of the net although he was surrounded by 3 defenders. Nishino capped the win off with a terrific header from a Kurata (who played in defensive-midfield superbly for the final 30 minutes) corner to seal the win and move us into 1st place on 12 points with just a point needed to secure our own fate in our final game.
Vegalta Sendai 1-0 Gamba Osaka
It was not to be though as we looked laboured and already on our break as a 66th minute Shingo Akamine goal was the difference on the scoreline but the hosts were clearly the better side. Lins was decent but dragged off just before half-time in a baffling move whilst things almost got worse as manager Hasegawa was about to bring on Niwa to defend the lead but Akamine’s goal put a dent in those awful plans. We did not threaten an equaliser and had to depend on Kashima and Sendai to do us a favour against Shimizu and Kobe, both teams needing a 2-0 and a 5-0 or similar win to knock us out of the top 2. Shimizu lost which sent them crashing out in place of 2-1 winners Kobe over Sendai to send the Kansai teams through.
Photo taken from Gamba Osaka’s Official Site. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.