SAITAMA – Kim Seung Yong’s first goal in the J-League proved to be invaluable for Gamba Osaka, the ex-Jeonbuk Hyundai man striking the match-winner in a 3-2 victory over Omiya Ardija on Sunday evening.
Kim came on for forward Shoki Hirai at the start of the second half as Gamba won for the fourth time in five games, moving within five points of J1 leaders Kashiwa Reysol with two matches in hand.
Lee Keun Ho and Sota Nakazawa also netted for Gamba. Naoki Ishihara scored on either side for Omiya, his first two goals for Jun Suzuki’s side.
“We have to pick our spots when we attack because we’re not in very good physical condition at the moment,” Gamba manager Akira Nishino said.
“I could have said this and that about concentrating, but the boys were so groggy I think only a few of them even heard what I said at halftime.
“Tough games like this, one play can make or break you. But the most important thing is that we won today.”
Gamba wasted no time moving in front in the fifth minute through Lee, the South Korean striker bagging his third goal of the campaign thanks to the creativity of Takashi Usami who made his penultimate appearance in Japan before joining Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich.
Running on to Usami’s delicately crossed ball from the right, Lee redirected into the bottom corner to quickly quiet the NACK5 crowd.
Perhaps due to the heat and hugging humidity on this night, neither side were industrious by any stretch of the imagination as Omiya struggled to break down the Gamba defense.
The hosts tried to equalize by peppering shots from well outside the box that were harmless, until Ishihara took matters into his own hands during first-half injury time.
As Gamba were a step slow in closing out space, Ishihara pulled the trigger from 25 meters out, letting it rip past the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Yosuke Fujigaya to restore parity going into halftime.
Ishihara still had the touch in the second half, putting Omiya up in the 59th minute with a header, diving into a cross from Kota Ueda by the right post.
Ardija thought they had an upset on their hands, but Gamba dug deep to make it a 2-2 game with a quarter-hour left to play when Nakazawa nodded in the rebound of an Usami header.
“Great effort by Sota,” said Usami, who faces Vissel Kobe at home in his farewell show on Wednesday. “He did well to overlap all the way from the back.”
The visitors reestablished their lead in the 77th minute, Kim applying the cool finish on a fastbreak keyed by Hayato Sasaki’s brilliant early cross for the three points.
Elsewhere in J1, Albirex Niigata came back from a goal down to send Antlers to their first defeat in five games, Cho Young Cheol netting the winner two minutes to time in a 2-1 victory at Kashima Stadium.
Cerezo scored another win for Osaka, following up their five-goal thrashing of Kashiwa Reysol last weekend with a 3-1 away win to Sanfrecce Hiroshima.