Soccer / J. League

Gamba sack Serrao after five defeats


Jose Carlos Serrao lasted all of five games as Gamba Osaka manager as the former Asian champions on Monday sacked the Brazilian and replaced him with the club’s former midfielder Masanobu Matsunami.

A night after Gamba suffered a 2-1 home defeat to Jubilo Iwata, their fifth straight to start the season, the club axed the 61-year-old Serrao, as well as his chief assistant Wagner Lopes and physio Wellington.

Hiroyasu Yamamoto, Gamba’s head of development, also resigned, with Gamba having dropped three J. League games and two matches in the Asian Champions League.

“We felt coach Serrao and his staff were the right people to lead Gamba in 2012, and we still believe we made the right choice even today,” team president Kikuo Kanamori said in a statement.

“However, we were unable to adapt to his style of football, which has led to five straight defeats as well as performances that have not been inspiring. We would like to express our gratitude to the manager, who has been a true gentleman through this ordeal. He has been nothing but respectful to us.”

The 37-year-old Matsunami, who played 13 seasons for Gamba before retiring in 2005 and has been an assistant with the first team since 2010, will have his first game in charge Saturday at Albirex Niigata.

Before Serrao, Akira Nishino had been in charge for a decade, during which time the former Kashiwa Reysol coach delivered the ACL title and the three major domestic trophies — the J. League, the Emperor’s Cup and the Nabisco Cup.

Serrao was signed to a one-year contract after Gamba discovered former Japanese World Cup striker Lopes, the club’s initial choice to succeed Nishino, did not have the necessary license to coach in the J. League.

“We have asked Masanobu Matsunami, who has been with Gamba Osaka throughout his entire career, to be the new manager,” Kanamori said. “We believe he has learned what it takes as an assistant to Mr. Serrao and his predecessor Mr. Nishino.”

Said Matsunami, “We need to understand why we have the record we have now. I take the responsibility as coach of Gamba Osaka seriously, and I will do everything I can to help us get back on track.”

Kanamori and Yamamoto had held an emergency meeting after the Jubilo game. Before they met, Kanamori had expressed confidence in Serrao to take Gamba out of the gutter.

However after the meeting, Yamamoto’s tone was far grimmer when asked if Serrao would still be in charge for the Niigata game.

“I can’t say with certainty,” he said. “Ultimately, it will be the president’s decision.”

Newcastle beats Baggies


Papiss Demba Cisse scored twice as Newcastle delivered a first-half masterclass in a 3-1 win over West Bromwich Albion on Sunday that maintained its unlikely push for a finish in the Champions League places.

The Senegal striker finished off well-worked moves either side of a solo effort by French playmaker Hatem Ben Arfa, virtually securing victory for Newcastle by the 34th minute at The Hawthorns.

West Brom improved after the break, with substitute Shane Long reducing the deficit in the 52nd after a defensive mixup, but Newcastle held on to move level on points with fifth-place Chelsea.