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Hirai’s first goal lifts Gamba in first-leg triumph

Kyodo

Substitute striker Shoki Hirai pounced to score the first goal of his professional career and gave holders Gamba Osaka a 1-0 win over Yokohama F. Marinos in the first leg of their Nabisco Cup quarterfinal on Wednesday.

Hirai hit the decider eight minutes after coming on for Masato Yamazaki to give Gamba the slenderest of advantages, while Nagoya Grampus and Oita Trinita hold the edge ahead of next month’s second-leg ties after victories on the road.

Norwegian striker Frode Johnsen headed the only goal of the game at Fukuda Denshi Arena as Nagoya inflicted a first defeat on JEF United Chiba since Scottish manager Alex Miller took charge of the J. League strugglers.

Oita edged FC Tokyo 2-1 in a match between the two best second-place records from the group phase, Edmilson snatching a late winner at Ajinomoto Stadium, but Kashima Antlers were held to a goalless draw at home to Shimizu S-Pulse.

Gamba and Kashima were both given a bye through the quarterfinals because of their involvement in the Asian Champions League.

The return legs are scheduled for Aug. 6.