OSAKA – Shu Kurata’s stoppage-time equalizer earned Gamba a 2-2 draw with Cerezo on Sunday in their first Osaka derby in three seasons in the J. League.
Kurata’s late heroics spoiled the day for Cerezo striker Kenyu Sugimoto, who hit a brace for the hosts at Nagai Stadium.
Kurata, who scored his first J1 goal while on loan at Cerezo in a 2011 derby, provided the assist for Hiroki Fujiharu’s 57th-minute opener before striking in the 93rd minute when a corner was half-cleared to his path near the six-yard box.
“There wasn’t much time left and I just wanted to bundle it over the line, that was all I had in my mind,” said the 28-year-old midfielder. “I’m glad with that, but it’s a derby and we have to win.
“We’d been overwhelmed (by Cerezo) and we wanted to give a better showing. But we have a game at (their home) Suita Stadium to look forward to and we’ll prepare well for that. It’s important we didn’t lose.”
Cerezo’s former Basel striker Yoichiro Kakitani was a constant menace, threatening from the first minute. The technically gifted forward controlled the ball in the air before smashing a left-footed volley just past the far right-hand post.
He curled his effort wide from a similar angle past the half-hour mark, this time with his right foot, before his strike partner Sugimoto spurned the best chance of the half, sending his glancing header wide in the 40th minute.
Gamba took the surprise lead through left-back Fujiharu. From a throw-in, the ball was chested down by Shun Nagasawa and Kurata played a bouncing pass to split open the Cerezo backline for Fujiharu, who coolly slotted between the legs of keeper Kim Jin-hyeon inside the box.
But Cerezo kept knocking and leveled in the 71st minute as Sugimoto — who had never scored in the Osaka derby before — turned well on the left-hand corner of the box before cutting inside and rifling past Masaaki Higashiguchi.
His thumping header two minutes later went straight to the keeper, but Sugimoto wasn’t denied the next time as he headed a left-hand cross from Souza just inside the far post for what looked like the winner.
But there was one more late twist, as Kurata came up with a well-taken volley, struck first-time to the left-hand corner.
“We’d have won it had I scored,” said Kakitani, after his side outshot Gamba 14 to six. “We were above them in terms of performance. We have to make sure we don’t let the other team score when we are leading.”
League leaders Vissel Kobe allowed Kashiwa Reysol to come from behind in a 2-1 defeat at home, former VVV Venlo forward Yuki Otsu scoring the 92nd-minute winner.
Urawa Reds are now top with 16 points, one ahead of Kobe, after winning 1-0 away to FC Tokyo thanks to a goal from Shinzo Koroki. Kashima Antlers are level on points with Vissel but moved above them on goal difference after the defending champions won 4-1 at Vegalta Sendai.
Veteran defender Yuji Nakazawa scored the only goal as Yokohama F. Marinos won 1-0 at Sanfrecce Hiroshima to place fourth on 13 points. Kawasaki Frontale were held to a 1-1 draw at Consadole Sapporo, and are level on 12 points with Gamba and Cerezo.
Jubilo Iwata allowed Sagan Tosu the opener in the 88th minute, but Shunsuke Nakamura provided Adailton’s equalizer a minute later before Uzbekistan’s Fozil Musaev netted in the 94th in a dramatic 2-1 home win.
Albirex Niigata grabbed their first win of the season with a 2-0 away victory at Ventforet Kofu. Omiya Ardija, who had lost their first six games, were denied a win after conceding late in a 1-1 draw at Shimizu S-Pulse.
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