TOYOTA – Asian champions Gamba Osaka beat familiar foes Adelaide United 1-0 on Sunday to set up a dream semifinal date with European champions Manchester United at the Club World Cup.
Yasuhito Endo wrecked Adelaide’s hopes of avenging their 5-0 aggregate loss in last month’s Asian Champions League final with the only goal of the game to send the Japanese side into Thursday’s semi in Yokohama.
“It was a winner-take-all game and we looked for a bit of variation in the way we attacked and we were able to control the game well,” said Gamba manager Akira Nishino.
“We have taken a fair bit of damage from tonight’s game and hopefully we will be able to recover from that and prepare well (for the semi),” he added.
Sasa Ognenovski and Cassio came back to the Adelaide lineup after both recovered from a mystery virus while Diego also returned to the fold having missed Thursday’s opening 2-1 win against Waitakere United with an abductor strain.
The Australians made a lively start and should have taken the lead when Travis Dodd beat two defenders to fire inches past the post after 14 minutes.
But it was Gamba that broke the deadlock with their first real raid on goal. Ryuji Bando made an immediate impact after coming on for injured Hayato Sasaki, knocking down a Takahiro Futagawa pass for Endo to prod between the legs of Eugene Galekovic in the 23rd minute.
Dodd nearly sent Adelaide in all square at the interval but his header from Scott Jamieson’s cross came down off the crossbar with Yosuke Fujigaya beaten.
Adelaide continued to press after the break and came desperately close to forcing extra time when Robert Younis and Dodd both flashed wide deep into stoppage time.
“The big problem at this level is that if you slip up they punish you but I thought we were fantastic tonight and deserved a lot more than we got,” said Adelaide manager Aurelio Vidmar.
“That’s the game unfortunately and it really is that little bit of extra sharpness and just your thought process that needs to be a bit sharper at this level but they should really be happy and proud tonight.”
Mexico’s Pachuca staged a stirring comeback to beat African champions Al Ahly 4-2 in extra time on Saturday and meet Libertadores Cup winners Liga de Quito of Ecuador in the first semifinal at Tokyo’s National Stadium on Wednesday.
The final will be played at International Stadium Yokohama, venue for the 2002 World Cup final, on Dec. 21.
Manchester United are the hot favorites to retain the title for Europe. Italian giants AC Milan beat Argentina’s Boca Juniors 4-2 last year to become the first European team to triumph at the revamped FIFA tournament after Brazilian teams won the first two editions.
Sao Paulo beat Liverpool 1-0 in 2005 and Internacional stunned Barcelona by the same scoreline the following year.
Seven teams from FIFA’s six confederations are competing in the event that replaced the Toyota Cup, a one-off match that had been played in Japan between the champions of South America and Europe until 2004.
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