Gamba Osaka takes home Emperor’s Cup

Kyodo News

Yasuhito Endo scored a late double as Gamba Osaka beat Nagoya Grampus 4-1 to retain the Emperor’s Cup on Friday.

Naoshi Nakamura canceled out Lucas’ sixth-minute opener for the holders but Endo conjured up a superb second out of nothing and created the third for Takahiro Futagawa before wrapping up the win in injury time at National Stadium.

“We were able to play first-class soccer, Gamba-style soccer, in the semifinals and right to the end of the final so getting the result on top of that is extremely satisfying,” said Gamba manager Akira Nishino.

“We challenged for other titles in 2009 but missed out so we had our hearts set on winning the Emperor’s Cup.”

Nagoya made a bright start with Keiji Tamada shooting just off target but Lucas, two-goal hero in Tuesday’s 2-1 semifinal win over Vegalta Sendai, opened the scoring when the Brazilian steered home to finish off a neatly worked move.

Nagoya had plenty of chances to equalize, Tamada heading Shohei Abe’s cross straight at Naoki Matsuyo before Keiji Yoshimura saw his shot come off the outside of Matsuyo’s near post just after the half-hour mark.

Grampus’ pressure finally paid dividends five minutes before halftime when Nakamura headed in after Josh Kennedy got on the end of Tamada’s cross.

Nagoya continued to dominate proceedings after the break and Kennedy twice went close to putting Nagoya in front before Endo scored against the run of play 13 minutes from time.

The Asian Player of the Year showed excellent balance to glide past two defenders and bury a sumptuous left-footed drive beyond the despairing dive of Seigo Narazaki.

Nagoya’s hopes of a comeback were extinguished when Endo squared for Futagawa to slot home after good work from Tomokazu Myojin on the left wing. Endo swiveled to lash the fourth into the roof of the net deep into time added on.

Gamba’s victory means Sanfrecce Hiroshima qualify for the Asian Champions League after finishing in fourth place in the J-League.

Gamba had already qualified for the ACL having finished third in the table behind champions Kashima Antlers and Kawasaki Frontale.

Nagoya manager Dragan Stojkovic said he was proud of his players and felt the result flattered Gamba.

“Unfortunately we lost the game but I am very proud of our players and I was proud of how we played today,” said Stojkovic.

“I think the result doesn’t really reflect the game. People can look at the 4-1 scoreline and think Gamba dominated but I think that we controlled the game. We had our chances and didn’t score and this is the final result.”