SAITAMA – Substitute Hiroto Goya snatched a last-gasp equalizer to earn a point for Gamba Osaka in a pulsating 3-3 draw away to Asian Champions League finalists Urawa Reds in the J. League on Sunday.
Riding high after beating big-spending Shanghai SIPG in midweek to reach the ACL final, Reds looked to be on the way to three points after Shinzo Koroki added to Rafael Silva’s brace in the 73rd minute, giving them the lead for a third time at a rain-soaked Saitama Stadium.
But Goya popped up to head home his first goal of the season in the 92nd minute and earn Gamba a share of the spoils.
“It was a typical blow-for-blow Gamba performance and I am happy with it,” said Gamba manager Kenta Hasegawa. “If you don’t get a result (after changing the system during the second half) the manager gets the blame, but the players dug in hard and came back to draw level.
“The players that started the game played well, too, and I am satisfied we could get a 3-3 draw away to a strong Reds side.”
Reds had the better of the first half, but Gamba goalkeeper Masaaki Higashiguchi raced off his line to thwart Koroki. Silva, whose goal on Wednesday sent Takafumi Hori’s side into the ACL final, then missed a great chance in the 21st minute, lobbing over the bar after being put clean through by Wataru Endo’s long ball.
Higashiguchi produced another key stop in the 33rd, gathering Kazuki Nagasawa’s shot at the second attempt, but Silva atoned for his earlier miss when he opened the scoring five minutes into the second half.
Higashiguchi got down to block Takuya Aoki’s shot with his leg, but the loose ball ran into the path of Silva, who swept it into the bottom left-hand corner.
Reds’ joy proved short-lived though, as Gamba hit back four minutes later, Yasuhito Endo hooking Ryo Hatsuse’s kick across the face of goal for Hwang Ui-jo to head in at the far post.
Silva restored Reds’ lead with a curling effort from the edge of the box in the 64th minute, but they were again pegged back moments later when Shuhei Akasaki connected with Shu Kurata’s cross to open his account for the season with a fabulous volley.
Koroki raced onto Yosuke Kashiwagi’s pass to grab a league-leading 20th goal of the season, but Reds could not hang on and Goya, who came on for Akasaki with 15 minutes left, leveled when he headed in Hatsuse’s corner.