OSAKA – Gamba Osaka manager Kenta Hasegawa is counting on his top scorer Takashi Usami to end a personal dry spell and key a fight-back in the J. League Championship Final against Sanfrecce Hiroshima on Saturday.
Going into the away leg at Edion Stadium, the champions are staring at a 3-2 deficit after Hiroshima struck twice in injury time on Wednesday at Expo ’70 Stadium as Sanfrecce closed in on their third league title in four years.
Usami has failed to find the net in 10 successive competitive games, but Gamba will need the Japan international to rise to the occasion as they must win by at least two to have any chance of retaining the championship.
“He’s picking it up,” Hasegawa said of Usami after training on Friday. “I’m convinced he’ll score for us.
“Gamba Osaka are a club who climb out of situations like this. We’ve got to find a way to win the Gamba way.”
“We need a result here no matter what,” said Usami, who led the team with 19 goals over two stages this season. “I want to hold up my end of the bargain and help the team win.”
Sanfrecce were somewhat fortunate to have left Osaka with a victory as Gamba defender Oh Jae-suk was questionably sent off in the 86th minute, an expulsion that set the table for their dramatic win.
Hajime Moriyasu’s men are aware they may have caught a break, and are not about to get ahead of themselves.
“We managed to win away but we weren’t satisfied with our performance,” Hiroshima midfielder Kazuyuki Morisaki said. “Preparations have been good and we want to win but by playing better.”