SUITA, OSAKA PREF. – Gamba Osaka missed out on a place in the final of the Asian Champions League on Wednesday night after the domestic treble winners were held to a 0-0 draw by China’s Guangzhou Evergrande in the second leg of their semifinal.
Guangzhou, the 2013 ACL champion, advanced to the final 2-1 on aggregate after winning the first leg in China on Sept. 30.
Guangzhou will face Al Ahli of the United Arab Emirates in the two-leg final in November. The first leg will be held on Nov. 7 at Dubai’s Rashid Stadium with the return leg in China on Nov. 21.
Al Ahli earned a dramatic 3-2 win over Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal on Tuesday to advance to the final 4-3 on aggregate.
Gamba were hoping to become the first Japanese team to reach the ACL final since winning it in 2008.
“I’m really disappointed. The players tried so hard,” said Gamba manager Kenta Hasegawa.
“The further we progressed in the tournament the more we enjoyed ourselves. Hopefully we will be able to win this tournament (again) someday.”
Kashiwa Reysol were eliminated by Guangzhou in the quarterfinals.
“I hope all the Japanese teams are more serious about winning the ACL. I think we gave a good account of the J. League this season,” Hasegawa said.
Neither Gamba nor Guangzhou were able to carve out many clear openings in a cagey first half at Expo Stadium.
Hiroyuki Abe had a shot deflected behind, after good work on the left flank by Hiroki Fujiharu, before Paulinho’s free kick sailed harmlessly over the bar at the other end.
Ricardo Goulart set the alarm bells ringing in the Gamba defense with a header that flashed wide on 36 minutes, and goalkeeper Masaaki Higashiguchi did well to push away a shot from Elkeson, arguably the best chance of the half, just before the interval.
Gamba were let off the hook seven minutes into the second half, Goulart setting up Elkeson, who shot just over the bar after Abe had given the ball away cheaply.
Shu Kurata forced a crucial save out of Zeng Cheng and Hasegawa threw on star striker Takashi Usami in hopes of finding an all-important goal.
Usami went close twice but despite increasing the pressure in the late stages, Gamba were unable to find a way through.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.