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Kurata brace keeps Gamba’s treble hopes alive

Kyodo

Shu Kurata scored twice as Gamba Osaka kept alive their hopes of repeating last year’s domestic treble success with a crucial 3-1 win away at Vegalta Sendai on Sunday.

Patric opened the scoring midway through the first half at Yurtec Stadium and Kurata scored with two well-taken finishes to put Gamba in control after Roman Lopes had headed Sendai level.

The result lifts Gamba (60 points) above FC Tokyo (59) into third place in the overall standings with two games left, keeping them in contention for a place in the postseason championship.

Gamba play fellow J. League heavyweight Kashima Antlers in next weekend’s Nabisco Cup final and Kenta Hasegawa’s side is still alive in the Emperor’s Cup with a fourth-round tie against Kawasaki Frontale next month.

“We have got two games left and we want to win them both and get to the championship on our own capabilities,” said Hasegawa, whose side faces second-stage and overall leader Sanfrecce Hiroshima in its next league game on Nov. 7.

“We have got Hiroshima at home next (in the league). They are top of the second-stage table and we want to beat them and hopefully take a step closer to a place in the championship.”

Gamba came into the game in need of a tonic after their midweek exit in the semifinals of the Asian Champions League and they took the lead in the 21st minute when Patric headed to Takashi Usami before collecting his back-heel flick to drive a low shot inside the near post.

Slack marking allowed Lopes to stoop and head in Ryang Yong-gi’s rightwing corner to level for Sendai in the 34th minute, but Gamba regained the lead just two minutes later when Kurata ran onto Hiroyuki Abe’s pass and smashed the ball past Sendai goalkeeper Yuji Rokutan.

Patric went close with a shot just over the bar before the rugged Brazilian had a hand in Gamba’s third goal on 62 minutes.

Usami took a return pass from Patric and sent the ball into the danger zone from the left flank. Sendai defender Naoki Ishikawa was only able to half-clear Usami’s cross and Kurata was on hand to take one touch and drill home the loose ball.

“We were unable to get to the final of the ACL and we wanted to bounce back from that disappointment in today’s game. The determination we showed to do that led to this win,” said Kurata.

“Both in attack and defense we were focused as usual right until the end. We are in third place now but we still have two games left and we are keeping our socks pulled up.

“We are only thinking about winning. We have got the Nabisco Cup final next, we are also in the Emperor’s Cup and we want to win all the titles that we still have a shot at winning.”