SUITA, OSAKA PREF. – In-form striker Takashi Usami capped a memorable week with a brace as Japanese treble winners Gamba Osaka defeated visiting Nagoya Grampus 3-1 in the J. League on Friday night.
Usami, who opened his Japan account on Tuesday in a 5-1 friendly win over Uzbekistan in Tokyo, broke the deadlock with a deflected effort in first-half stoppage time and then steered home the second with national team coach Vahid Halilhodzic watching from the stands at a rain-soaked Expo Stadium.
Kensuke Nagai pulled one back for Grampus midway through the second half but Yasuyuki Konno added the third for Gamba to complete victory 10 minutes from time.
Gamba’s first home win of the season temporarily puts them top of the table ahead of Saturday’s matches on seven points from four games, while winless Nagoya is second from the bottom with two points.
“We have talked about (the importance of) winning at home so I am glad we could achieve that today,” said Usami.
Both sides had chances early on and Nagoya’s former Japan goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki fumbled a shot from Usami before saving Patric’s follow-up.
Usami thought he had opened the scoring in the 37th minute but was flagged for offside.
But Gamba took the lead with the last play of the first period, with Usami once again in the thick of the action.
The former Bayern Munich man whipped in a cross-cum-shot and the ball bounced and skimmed the head of Grampus defender Yusuke Muta to sail past Narazaki and into the right-hand corner of the net.
Usami then made it 2-0 from a well-worked move involving Yasuhito Endo and Hiroyuki Abe four minutes into the second half, applying the finishing touch after a cut back from defender Koki Yonekura for his fourth goal of the campaign.
“It was a good team move and Yone (Yonekura) set me up nicely so the goal is more than half his. I was just lucky. I had chances to score more so that is what I will try and do,” said Usami.
Usami’s Japan teammate Nagai turned home in heavy traffic in the box to reduce the arrears midway through the second half.
The fleet-footed striker nearly leveled with a shot that Masaaki Higashiguchi pushed away in the 77th minute but Konno wrapped up the win with a deflected effort.
In Friday’s other fixture, Mu Kanazaki, Gaku Shibasaki and Yasushi Endo were on target as seven-time champion Kashima Antlers came from behind to beat Sagan Tosu 3-1 at home to pick up their first win of the season.