KASHIWA, CHIBA PREF. – Gamba Osaka cut Kashiwa Reysol’s cushion at the top of the J. League to one point with a breathless 4-2 win over the league leaders on Wednesday night.
Junya Tanaka gave Kashiwa a 10th-minute lead with his sixth goal of the season at Hitachi Stadium, but Yasuhito Endo leveled the score three minutes later before Shoki Hirai put the visitors in front with a poacher’s goal six minutes into the second half.
Lee Keun Ho then pounced in the 62nd minute to put Gamba further in front, and although Leandro Domingues pulled one back for Reysol five minutes later, Takumi Shimohira made the result safe 10 minutes from time to keep the Kansai side poised behind the leading pack with two games in hand still to play.
“It’s not easy to beat a well-balanced team like Reysol,” said Gamba manager Akira Nishino. “Endo’s goal settled us down a little, but it was a very difficult game. We had to take risks going forward, and there was always the chance that they could have scored more because of that. What we have to do now in the games we have to come is continue to give 100 percent.”
Vegalta Sendai cut Reysol’s lead at the top to one point with a 4-0 win over Ventforet Kofu earlier in the day, and Kashiwa manager Nelsinho admitted his players only had themselves to blame.
“In training the thing I stressed was that Gamba have the kind of players who will punish you if you make mistakes, and that’s how the game turned out,” he said. “The game hinged on who could take their chances, and Gamba took theirs much better than we were able to.”
Tanaka was lurking on the edge of the box when the ball came to him from an early corner, and the 23-year-old made it count when he fired through a crowded penalty area for the opening goal.
Gamba’s reply came just three minutes later, with Takashi Usami slaloming through the Reysol defense before laying the ball off for Endo, who made space for himself to plant a sweet right-footed shot past Takanori Sugeno.
Akimi Barada, Endo and Lee all went close as the first half maintained a hectic tempo, and Hirai made sure the second 45 minutes got off to a flying start as well. Akira Kaji let fly with a shot on goal, and the striker was on hand to nudge the ball home when it got stuck in traffic in the six-yard box.
Leandro spurned a tremendous opportunity to draw the home side level soon after, and it was a miss that would prove costly as Lee extended Gamba’s lead two minutes later when he cut in on goal and beat Sugeno at his near post.
Leandro pulled one back five minutes later with a shot from outside the box, but Shimohira restored the visitors’ two-goal lead as the match moved into the final 10 minutes with another long-range strike.
“You can’t let Gamba get into their passing rhythm,” said Nelsinho. “You can’t allow Endo to get free and dictate the tempo. How Gamba play depends on how Endo is playing. If you let him control the game then it’s very difficult.”
Elsewhere in the J. League, struggling Urawa Reds picked up only their second win of the season with a 3-0 victory over whipping boys Avispa Fukuoka, while Kashima Antlers continued their recovery with a 1-0 win away to Vissel Kobe.
Kawasaki Frontale maintained their good form with a 3-2 win over Shimizu S-Pulse, Nagoya Grampus beat Cerezo Osaka 3-2, and Omiya Ardija earned a 2-1 win over Jubilo Iwata.
In the day’s other games, Sanfrecce Hiroshima beat Montedio Yamagata 3-2 and Yokohama F. Marinos beat Albirex Niigata 1-0.