SUITA, Osaka Pref. – Gamba Osaka edged closer the knockout stage of the Asian Champions League with a 5-0 demolition of Indonesia’s Sriwijaya on Wednesday.
A double from Leandro put Gamba in the driver’s seat shortly before halftime at Expo Stadium and goals from Sriwijaya defender Ambrizal, Satoshi Yamaguchi and Michihiro Yasuda ensured Akira Nishino’s side made it three wins out of three in Group F.
On a triumphant night for Japanese clubs, Kawasaki Frontale won by an identical scoreline away to Australia’s Central Coast Mariners to stay top of Group H. Frontale have seven points and are two clear of South Korea’s Pohang Steelers, who beat China’s Tianjin Teda 1-0.
Victory, meanwhile, kept Gamba in control of Group F with a maximum nine points, three ahead of Chinese outfit Shandong Luneng, who registered a 2-0 win at home to FC Seoul.
“It was a bit of a relaxed start but after we scored we were able to take control. Overall we were in the comfort zone and never really hit top gear,” said Gamba manger Nishino. “But we got the result and that is all that really matters.”
“It won’t go as well in the return match. It will be about 35 degrees and humid (in Indonesia) and we will be under pressure. It will be a tough game and our physical condition will be the key.”
The holders were in total control from the outset but were unable to make their domination bear fruit until five minutes before halftime.
Sota Nakazawa saw a long-range effort cleared off the line by Ali Isnan before Leandro finally broke the deadlock by volleying home Hayato Sasaki’s lovely chip into the box.
The Brazilian was nicely positioned to extend Gamba’s lead on the stroke of halftime, stooping to head home after a neat one-two between Lucas and South Korean striker Cho Jae Jin.
An own goal from Ambrizal extended Gamba’s lead on 49 minutes and Satoshi Yamaguchi met Yasuhito Endo’s free kick to end the game as a contest two minutes later.
Substitute Yasuda swept home Ryuji Bando’s cross to complete the scoring on 66 minutes.
Under the competition’s revamped format, 32 teams from a broadly defined Asian region spanning the Middle East to Australia are divided into eight groups of four, with the top two from each group going through to the knock-out rounds.
The group stages wrap up on May 20, with the final to be held in Japan in early November. The winners of the continent’s premier club competition clinch a spot at the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi in December.