SUITA, Osaka Pref. – Ryuji Bando struck twice and Japan midfielder Yasuhito Endo added a second-half goal as Gamba Osaka remained in first place in the J. League standings after a 3-1 home win over rival Cerezo Osaka on Saturday.
Bando scored a 40th-minute opener and put Gamba 2-1 in front in the 78th minute with his 11th goal of the season before Endo settled the issue six minutes later at Expo Stadium.
The result gave defending league champions Gamba 49 points from 22 matches, two clear of Kawasaki Frontale, who were 2-1 winners at Yokohama F Marinos. Shimizu S-Pulse moved into third with 44 points after a 3-1 win away to JEF United Chiba, while the Urawa Reds are in fourth on 43 with a game in hand.
Gamba controlled the match from the outset and went in front when in-form Bando outwitted two defenders just outside the box and beat Cerezo keeper Motohiro Yoshida with a clinical finish.
Endo, brought on early in the second half after playing in Japan’s two Asian Cup qualifiers in the Middle East the past week, then slotted home on a counterattack to complete the scoring.
At Nissan Stadium, Marcao put Kawasaki ahead in the 52nd minute with an angled header from a Magnum corner.
Juninho doubled the lead for the visitors seven minutes later by finishing off a three-man move involving Yusuke Mori and Kazuki Ganaha, who scored an injury-time winner in Japan’s 1-0 win at Yemen.
Ryuji Kawai pulled a goal back for the home side in the 85th minute, but the Kawasaki defense held out in the final minutes to condemn F Marinos to their first defeat in three matches under new manager Takashi Mizunuma.
Elsewhere, Shimizu downed Chiba thanks to second-half strikes from Marquinhos and Jungo Fujimoto, while World Cup midfielder Takashi Fukunishi and Ryoichi Maeda were on target twice each in the Jubilo Iwata’s 7-0 demolition of Albirex Niigata at home.