Brazilian striker Patric scored twice as Gamba Osaka retained the Emperor’s Cup with a 2-1 win over Urawa Reds in the final in Tokyo on Friday, the last day of the Japanese soccer season.
Patric, who was also on target in Gamba’s 3-1 extra-time win over Reds in the J. League Championship playoff semifinal in late November, opened the scoring with a tasty strike after 32 minutes, only for Shinzo Koroki to equalize soon after.
A year after winning a domestic treble, Gamba finished second in the J-League Championship final and the Nabisco Cup, as well as reaching the semis of the Asian Champions League. Patric made sure they didn’t finish the season empty-handed, hitting the winner eight minutes into the second half.
“I am glad that I could make a contribution to the team as we welcome in the New Year,” said Patric. “Everyone on the team did well and I want to congratulate all of them.”
A surging run by Gamba’s man of the moment, Takashi Usami, on target twice in both of the previous two rounds after a 15-match goal drought, had the alarm bells ringing in the Urawa defense after just four minutes, his pass setting up Patric, whose shot was turned onto the crossbar by Reds goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa.
Reds defender Tomoaki Makino then went close shortly after undergoing treatment for a hand injury on the sidelines, but Gamba keeper Masaaki Higashiguchi was equal to his downward shot.
Usami was again involved as Gamba threatened to break the deadlock on 25 minutes, feeding Hiroki Fujiharu, whose cross was flicked just wide of the right-hand post by Patric.
“I just wanted the game to hurry up and finish,” said Usami, who watched the last 11 minutes from the bench after being substituted.
“I didn’t score today and I am grateful to Patric (for his goals) and the defense dug in until the end. I didn’t play that well and I am grateful to the team for winning the title.”
Patric made it third time lucky and gave Gamba the lead, taking a pass from Shu Kurata and leaving Ryota Moriwaki for dead with a storming run down the right flank before smashing past Nishikawa at his near post.
But Gamba’s joy was short lived as Reds equalized four minutes later.
Tadanari Lee headed Tsukasa Umesaki’s cross from the right against the post, but Koroki snapped up the loose ball to beat Higashiguchi with a shot in off the underside of the crossbar.
Koroki nearly put Urawa in front in time added on at the end of the first half but his close-range header lacked enough purchase to beat Higashiguchi.
Patric swung the game back in Gamba’s favor when he buried a first-time effort in the 53rd minute, driving home an outswinging corner from Gamba captain Yasuhito Endo.
Higashiguchi had to dive full stretch to turn a deflected shot from Yuki Abe around the post and Lee headed narrowly wide as Reds looked to hit back once again.
Makino did have the ball in the back of the net eight minutes from time but referee Nobutsugu Murakami had already blown for a foul.