Shizuoka – Late substitute Kazuma Watanabe struck in the 89th minute to earn Gamba Osaka a 2-1 win over Shimizu S-Pulse in the J. League’s first division on Sunday.
Watanabe broke the deadlock five minutes after Yugo Tatsuta appeared to secure a share of the points for S-Pulse by equalizing with a flying header.
Gamba defender Kosuke Onose had opened the scoring for Tsuneyasu Miyamoto’s men against the run of play in the first half at IAI Stadium Nihondaira.
“From our perspective, we wanted to get forward rather than playing in our own half,” said Watanabe, who entered alongside Brazilian Patric as part of a substitute forward pairing in the 74th minute. “It went to plan. We got right into the flow of things after coming on.”
With the loss, S-Pulse remains without a point under new manager Peter Cklamovski, who took the reins after helping guide Yokohama F Marinos to the 2019 championship as an assistant.
The hosts missed an early chance when a sliding Yusuke Goto was unable to connect with a cross from Makoto Okazaki directly in front of goal. They were then denied an opener by Gamba goalkeeper Masaaki Higashiguchi when he stopped Yuito Suzuki one on one.
Brazilian forward Ademilson nearly gave Gamba the lead with a dipping strike from inside the box, but S-Pulse keeper Togo Umeda produced an impressive diving save.
S-Pulse applied pressure with a high defensive line, but the tactic left them exposed to counterattacks, including the one that led to Gamba’s opener in the 40th minute.
After receiving a quick ball from Takashi Usami, Hiroki Fujiharu made a run down the left and crossed to Ademilson, whose first-touch pass set up Onose to tap in from the middle of the area.
Shota Kaneko missed a big chance to equalize in the 60th minute, heading wide from directly in front after Higashiguchi deflected the ball across the goal while blocking a shot from Carlinhos Junior.
The winning goal came off another quick surge forward by Gamba, with Fujiharu pulling the ball back inside the area to Watanabe, who dribbled to his right before blasting a low shot past Umeda.
In other J1 results, Yokohama FC and Vegalta Sendai drew 1-1, while Sagan Tosu and Sanfrecce Hiroshima played a scoreless draw. Shonan Bellmare and Consadole Sapporo also ended 0-0 at BMW Stadium.
Urawa Reds earned a 1-0 win over rival Kashima Antlers, while Cerezo Osaka suffered a 2-0 defeat to Nagoya Grampus.
In the lone 7:30 p.m. kickoff, Yokohama F. Marinos got off to an early lead through Keita Endo but lost 3-1 to FC Tokyo, with Leandro scoring a minute before and after halftime.
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