SUITA, OSAKA PREF. – Gamba Osaka squandered a two-goal lead, missed a penalty and conceded a last-gasp equalizer as their slim hopes of reaching the knockout phase of the Asian Champions League suffered a major blow with a 3-3 draw at home to Australia’s Adelaide United on Tuesday.
But it was not all bad news for Japanese clubs in the continent’s elite competition, as Kawasaki Frontale scored their first win of the group phase, edging South Korea’s Suwon Bluewings 1-0 away to stay in the hunt for a place in the last 16 in Group G.
In the Group H match at Suita Stadium, Gamba looked to be cruising after two goals early in the first half from Shun Nagasawa and Ritsu Doan, but Sergio Cirio struck for Adelaide in the 43rd minute and Jordan O’Doherty made it 2-2 nine minutes into the second period.
Gamba captain Yasuhito Endo missed a penalty, but Nagasawa looked to have done enough to win it for Gamba with his second of the night with 13 minutes left.
But Papa Diawara headed the equalizer after setting up both of Adelaide’s other goals to earn his side a share of the spoils.
The result with one game left leaves Gamba with four points, one behind Adelaide. South Korea’s Jeju United (four points) was to play China’s Jiangsu (12) later Tuesday. Jiangsu has already qualified for the round of 16.
Buoyed by a 6-0 demolition of Omiya Ardija in the J. League on Friday, Gamba got off to a dream start as Nagasawa opened the scoring after six minutes, the towering striker peeling away from his marker to head in Endo’s corner at the near post.
Doan, twice on target against Omiya, then hammered in the second from long range in the 12th, before Adelaide pulled one back just before the break.
Diawara capitalized on a slip on by defender Kim Jung-ya to send the ball into the box from the right flank and Cirio steered home past Masaaki Higashiguchi and into the bottom left-hand corner.
Diawara went dangerously close to leveling for Adelaide six minutes into the second period but Higashiguchi came to Gamba’s rescue with a smart save to deny the Senegalese forward.
But Higashiguchi could do little to prevent Adelaide from moving on to level terms, Diawara teeing up O’Doherty to let fly with a screamer into the top corner.
Moments later, Endo blazed his penalty high and wide after Ben Garuccio had brought down Oh Jae-suk.
Nagasawa looked like he had the last word when he bundled home a shot that took a deflection off Michael Marrone, but Diawara capped a fine display when he headed home Garuccio’s free kick in the 91st minute.
In South Korea, Kawasaki secured their first three points thanks to Tatsuki Nara’s 48th-minute header and Frontale will qualify if they beat Hong Kong’s Eastern SC in their final game on May 9.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5