KOBE – A spectacular Andres Iniesta penalty goal and a late Asahi Masuyama header earned a point for Vissel Kobe in a 2-2 home draw with Gamba Osaka on Friday night.
Trailing by two, Iniesta was the picture of calm as he scored in the 79th minute off a blocked penalty shot, while Masuyama equalized five minutes later at Noevir Stadium.
Shu Kurata put the visitors in front in the eighth minute, scoring off a ball that midfielder Shinya Yajima launched from his own half and over Kobe’s backline. Kurata controlled the ball with his first touch and side-footed it with his second, past Hiroki Iikura, when the Vissel ‘keeper came out to challenge him.
Although Vissel took more first-half shots, Gamba’s were more dangerous, forcing a pair of saves from Iikura.
Gamba exposed the Vissel backline again in the 53rd minute on a counter. Two defenders went to deal with Kurata and ignored Patric advancing on his right. Kurata laid off for his teammate, who dodged a challenge from Iikura and shot into an open goal.
A frustrated Iniesta sprinted back to lend a hand but did not arrive in time to salvage the situation.
Vissel got back in the game when Iniesta picked out Kyogo Furuhashi in the penalty area with a pass. When challenged from behind by Gamba’s Yuya Fukuda, the forward stepped on the defender’s boot, stumbled and was awarded a penalty.
Gamba ‘keeper Masaaki Higashiguchi blocked Iniesta’s right-footed kick in the 79th minute. But the rebound came back to the former Spain international, who controlled it with his right foot before driving it past Higashiguchi with his left.
Daigo Nishi then set up the equalizer on a cross from the right when Gamba had insufficient numbers defending. With two attackers at the far post and only one defender, Masuyama was able to head Nishi’s cross home and salvage a draw.