SUITA, OSAKA PREF. – Gamba Osaka cruised past Johor Darul Ta’zim 3-0 in an Asian Champions League playoff to qualify for the group phase on Tuesday.
Kenta Hasegawa’s men got their season underway with a comfortable win at Suita Stadium, where Admilson and Shun Nagasawa struck in a space of three first-half minutes.
Genta Miura nodded in a corner with 20 minutes left to put the game to bed as Gamba reached Asia’s flagship club competition for the third straight year.
Gamba are in Group H with Adelaide United, Jiangsu FC and Jeju United, and will be joined in the ACL by J. League champion Kashima Antlers in Group E, Urawa Reds in Group F and Kawasaki Frontale in Group G. Gamba’s first game is Feb. 22 away to Adelaide.
“It’s a nice way to start,” Gamba captain Yasuhito Endo said. “We had to win this one no matter what and we were able to do just that.
“We’ve been training very well in the preseason, and hopefully we can play the kind of attacking football we played today throughout the whole year.”
“We want to become Asian champions. We want to prove ourselves again in the ACL as well as the J. League after coming up short last season.”
Gamba, who finished fourth in the J. League in 2016, were too much for the visitors, not giving the Malaysian side a chance during the whole 90 minutes.
Admilson’s free header in the 26th minute opened the scoring, and Nagasawa swept home the hosts’ second three minutes later on the break.
Miura went unchallenged for another header after 70 minutes, allowing Gamba, who launch their J. League campaign on Feb. 26 at home to Ventforet Kofu, to take their foot off the pedal.
A moment of silence was observed before kickoff for former Japan Football Association President Shunichiro Okano, who died on Thursday.