SUITA, OSAKA PREF. – Struggling Gamba Osaka squandered the chance to move within two points of safety after collapsing 3-2 at home to promoted Sagan Tosu in the J.League first division on Friday night.
Goals from Takahiro Futagawa and Akihiro Sato put Gamba in control at Expo Stadium, but Yohei Toyoda pulled one back on 68 minutes and Naoki Fujita leveled in the 86th before netting the winner in the fourth minute of injury time.
Tosu improved to 20 points from 13 games after their first away win of the season, seven behind leaders Vegalta Sendai, while Gamba remain third from bottom on 9 from 12, four back of Kashiwa Reysol, who play Albirex Niigata on Saturday.
“We knew it would be a difficult game and we conceded two goals but the players refused to throw in the towel and showed a lot of heart,” said Tosu manager Yoon Jong Hwan.
“That was probably the worst we have played this season in the first half but it turned out to be a great game for us,” he said.
Gamba made a dream start and took the lead after just three minutes. Paulinho capitalized on sloppy defending by Ryuhei Niwa and crossed for Futagawa to steer home after he had appeared to control the ball with his hand, sparking protests from Sagan’s back line.
The home side went on to dominate the first half but was unable to cash in on a slew of chances.
Yasuyuki Konno headed against the post, and Sagan goalkeeper Taku Akahoshi saved bravely at the feet of Paulinho on 32 minutes, taking a knee in the face in the process, before Sato shot just wide on the stroke of halftime.
Sato doubled Gamba’s lead midway through the second half when he prodded in Yasuhito Endo’s cross, but Tosu struck immediately after the restart through Toyoda, the Beijing Olympian heading Fujita’s throw-in in off the post.
Toyoda returned the favor by setting up Fujita to drive in the equalizer from the edge of the box and Fujita then kept his head to win it with the last kick of the game.
“I’m totally spent,” a smiling Fujita said. “That was a dreadful first half but we were determined to put it behind us at halftime and turn things around.”
“I don’t really remember how I put the winner away but I am glad it went in.”
In the evening’s other game, Cerezo Osaka dented Nagoya Grampus’ preparations for next week’s Asian Champions League round of 16 game away to Adelaide United with a 1-0 win at Toyota Stadium, Kempes sealing victory four minutes into the second half.