YOKOHAMA — Wayne Rooney came off the bench to ignite a second-half goal rush as Manchester United beat Gamba Osaka 5-3 Thursday to reach the final of the Club World Cup.
Nemanja Vidic and Cristiano Ronaldo both scored headers direct from corners to give United a comfortable half-time lead, and the European champion looked to be on cruise control as the game moved toward full-time.
But Masato Yamazaki pulled a goal back seconds after Rooney replaced Carlos Tevez in the 74th minute, before the England striker and fellow substitute Darren Fletcher pushed United further in front in quickfire succession.
Rooney added another before Yasuhito Endo converted a penalty awarded for a Gary Neville handball. And although Hideo Hashimoto fired in a late third for Gamba, it was not enough to stop United from heading into Sunday’s final against Ecuador’s LDU Quito.
The attacking spectacle drew gasps of admiration from the 67,618 crowd at International Stadium Yokohama, but Gamba manager Akira Nishino was less than impressed.
“Yes, when we have high scores it seems entertaining to the crowd, but not for us,” he said.
“Overall, I’m not satisfied because we didn’t win. If you ask me if I’m happy right now, I can’t say I am. As Gamba Osaka we always want to win.”
Nishino let his guard down slightly, however, admitting he was pleased with the way his players battled until the end.
“We scored three goals, so to some extent we were able to play our game,” he said. “When they got serious it was a shame we couldn’t match them, but even when Manchester United were in front our players never gave up.”
United manager Alex Ferguson also had words of praise for his opponent.
“I think it is an indication of the improvement of Japanese football,” he said. “They have energy, enthusiasm and no shortage of ability and skill.
“It was an amazing game and I don’t know what the score could have been. For me the star man was (goalkeeper) Edwin van der Sar because his saves today secured the victory for us.
“We are in the final and I am pleased at that, and I think we deserved it.”
Michihiro Yasuda signaled Gamba’s intent when he turned Neville to lash a shot over the bar as early as the fifth minute, and Ryuji Bando almost grabbed the opener when Endo put him through on goal with a fantastic pass soon after.
United had an even closer shave minutes later when Neville appeared to handle in the box, but as Gamba appealed in vain, the tide began to turn in United’s favor.
Ronaldo, along with Nani, began to have more influence, and after the European player of the year won a corner, Vidic took advantage of static goalkeeping from Yosuke Fujigaya to head United into the lead.
On the stroke of half-time, Gamba’s failure to deal with corners again took its toll. Ryan Giggs swung the ball in from the right and Ronaldo rose unchallenged to head past Fujigaya for United’s second.
Endo forced a diving save from van der Sar with a free-kick early in the second half, but it wasn’t until Rooney emerged that the goals started to flow.
First Yamazaki swept in a Hashimoto pass to claw one back for Gamba, only to see Rooney evade Sota Nakazawa and slam in a Fletcher pass immediately after.
Fletcher added another minutes later, heading Evra’s cross past Fujigaya to make it 4-1, before Rooney grabbed his second from a clever Giggs through-ball.
But just as United looked like blowing Gamba out the water, Neville’s first-half handball came back to haunt him as the referee pointed to the spot in the 85th minute.
Endo’s languid penalty crept inside van der Sar’s right-hand post, but despite Hashimoto’s blast in injury time, it was not enough to stop United’s march to the final.
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