Relegated Gamba Osaka have turned to Kenta Hasegawa in a bid to revive the club’s fortunes after a disastrous season ended with more disappointment Tuesday in a 1-0 defeat to Kashiwa Reysol in the Emperor’s Cup final.
After the defeat, Gamba officially announced the appointment of the 47-year-old Hasegawa, who ironically has not managed since Shimizu S-Pulse lost here in the 2010 Emperor’s Cup final against Kashima Antlers.
Hasegawa, a former Japan striker, managed Shimizu for six seasons from 2005. He led S-Pulse to fourth place finishes in 2004 and 2007, and two Emperor’s Cup finals.
Gamba, the 2005 league champions and 2008 Asian club champions, became one of the biggest relegation casualties in J-League history when they were demoted to the second division for the first time on the final day of the league campaign last month after a 2-1 defeat at Jubilo Iwata.
They had the chance to end the season on a high and grab the final Asian Champions League berth with victory here, but it was not to be as Hirofumi Watanabe’s first-half header from Jorge Wagner’s corner won it for Kashiwa.
“As much of an honor and privilege it is to play on this stage, it doesn’t mean much if you don’t win,” said outgoing Gamba manager Masanobu Matsunami, who took over after Jose Carlos Serrao was fired just five games into the season.
“This was a huge challenge for me but I agreed to take on the responsibility, so I have to face the music over our results. It certainly wasn’t easy to step in during the middle of the season but we did have plenty of time to turn things around and we couldn’t. It’s down to me.”
Gamba midfielder Yasuhito Endo, who has said he will stay at the club despite dropping into the second division, felt his side had deserved more in the final.
“Results are everything, but I thought apart from the goal we gave away from a set piece we were almost perfect,” said Endo.
“We defended well and we were in control in the first half but we had chances and couldn’t take them. That was the difference in the end.”