Soccer / J. League

Treble-chasing Gamba reach Emperor's Cup final

by Gus Fielding


Brazilian forward Patric and strike partner Takashi Usami both scored twice as Gamba Osaka kept alive their hopes of a league and cup treble on Wednesday with a 5-2 win over relegation-haunted Shimizu S-Pulse in the semifinals of the Emperor’s Cup.

Gamba squandered a two-goal lead at a rain-lashed Ajinomoto Stadium but Patric’s second header of the night made it 3-2 and Usami completed his brace with a superb chip before a late fifth from substitute Lins completed the victory and set up a meeting with second-division Montedio Yamagata in the final at Nissan Stadium on Dec. 13.

Takumi Yamada scored the winner as Yamagata beat fellow promotion hopefuls JEF United 3-2 in the other semifinal at Osaka’s Yanmar Stadium.

“We got two goals early on, and if we had got a third after that I think it would have been all over. I’m glad we got the win in 90 minutes,” said Gamba manager and former S-Pulse boss Kenta Hasegawa.

“We stayed focused in the second half and although there were a few scares the players did well. We have somehow got to the final.

“We only have two days off before our next league match (at home against Vissel Kobe) and I am sure that there will be a bit of tiredness physically, but it is our last home game and I hope we can pull together and get a good result.”

Gamba came into the match buoyed by a 2-0 win at Urawa Reds that moved them within two points of the league leaders with two games left, and they needed just nine minutes to take the lead courtesy of goalkeeping blunder by Masatoshi Kushibiki.

Patric laid a pass off to Usami and the former Bayern Munich man’s shot from 20 meters appeared to pose little danger, but Kushibiki inexplicably allowed the ball to squirm through his hands to give Gamba the advantage.

The two-goal hero in Gamba’s 3-2 Nabsico Cup final win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima earlier this month, Patric doubled the lead just five minutes later, escaping marker Dejan Jakovic to head home Yasuhito Endo’s corner.

But Shimizu erased the deficit as Sho Kagami’s shot on the turn took a deflection on the way past Gamba keeper Masaaki Higashiguchi, and Yoshiaki Takagi scored with shades of offside in the 24th minute after being put through by a clever pass from Kazuya Murata.

With their tails up, Shimizu enjoyed a spell of good pressure only for Patric to put Gamba back in front in the 37th minute, when he rose above Kushibiki and defender Genta Miura to head in Shu Kurata’s cross.

Gamba were indebted to Higashiguchi for keeping them in front at halftime as the Japan reserve keeper denied Kagami with a crucial save just before the break.

S-Pulse poured forward in the second half but there was no end product, and with Kushibiki in no-man’s land, Usami put the game out of reach with a sumptuous strike, with Patric once more the provider. Lins swept home the fifth in the 85th minute.

“I thought I would score sooner or later and I am happy to score two goals,” said Usami, who had not scored in his previous seven matches in all competitions.

“I have kept being reminded (by the coach) that I hadn’t scored for a while so I think I have responded.”

Shimizu manager Katsumi Oenoki said his team had only themselves to blame.

“The players did well to come from two goals down but three of the goals we conceded were down to our own mistakes. Mistakes happen in soccer but you don’t win games if you don’t cut down on errors,” said Oenoki.

“It’s obviously a disappointing result and now we just have to turn our attention back to the league.”