SAITAMA – Leandro grabbed a brace as Gamba Osaka picked up three crucial points in their bid to escape the drop and put a dent in Urawa Reds’ title hopes in the process with a stunning 5-0 win in the J.League on Saturday.
A peach of a strike from Hiroyuki Abe gave Gamba a 19th-minute lead, and Leandro added two fine efforts of his own before substitute Paulinho also hit a double late on to move the former league and Asian club champions within two points of safety.
Gamba remains third from bottom with 28 points, two behind Omiya Ardija, who won by the same scoreline away to rock bottom Consadole Sapporo. Gamba’s local rivals Cerezo Osaka won 3-2 at home to Shimizu S-Pulse and improved to 32 points.
“We linked up well in both attack and defense against a great team like Urawa and the players all carried out their roles,” said Gamba manager Masanobu Matsunami. “We knew the first goal would be crucial. This was a game between two attacking teams and it was a case of us being more aggressive than Reds.”
“We lost at home to Sagan Tosu and then drew with Niigata so we knew this would be a good chance to put things right. This result will put us in good stead and we just have to take each game as it comes.”
Urawa stayed third, while Sanfrecce Hiroshima remained top as Ryota Moriwaki sealed a 2-1 win at Nagoya Grampus. Jiro Kamata’s late goal gave second-placed Vegalta Sendai a come-from-behind 2-1 win at home to Vissel Kobe.
With Yasuhito Endo pulling the strings in midfield, Gamba produced some pretty buildup play and went in front when Abe collected the ball on the edge of the box and rifled past Nobuhiro Kato and into the left-hand corner.
Gamba looked more than comfortable in the first half, and Abe missed a golden chance to double the visitors’ lead on 21 minutes before Leandro fizzed a shot over the bar.
Urawa failed to heed those warnings though and Leandro made it 2-0 on 36 minutes, the Brazilian striker meeting Hiroki Fujiharu’s cross to steer his header beyond Kato.
Reds never really got going, despite being booed off by their own fans at half time, and Leandro bagged his ninth goal in seven games since returning to Gamba on loan from Qatari outfit Al Rayyan with a delightful flick, before Paulinho’s brace completed the rout.
“I wouldn’t say I am Gamba’s savior,” said Leandro. “Of course, I am delighted that I am scoring goals and making a contribution, but there is still a long way to go. I still have to keep performing and do my bit to keep us from dropping into the second division.”
Fourth-placed Jubilo Iwata were held 0-0 at home to Niigata.
Elsewhere, Marquinhos was dismissed against his old club, but a 55th-minute goal from Shunsuke Nakamura earned Yokohama F. Marinos a 2-1 win at Kashima Antlers.
Kashiwa Reysol’s title hopes faded with a 3-1 defeat away to Tosu, while FC Tokyo was beaten 2-1 at home to Kawasaki Frontale.