Last surge sends Gamba Osaka to championship final

Last surge sends Gamba Osaka to championship final

Gamba Osaka are through to the finals of the MEIJI YASUDA J.League championship after they defeated Urawa Reds 3-1 in the semis thanks to goals from Hiroki Fujiharu and Patric in the last minutes of extra-time.

The Japanese champions rode their luck against the first-stage winners, and now are two matches away from defending their title against overall MEIJI YASUDA J1 League winners Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Gamba came close to taking the lead in the first half - especially when Hiroyuki Abe’s shot hit the post - and eventually broke through in the second half when Kotaro Omori capitalised on the Reds’ slack play out of the back.

The 23-year-old intercepted a pass meant for Ryota Moriwaki in the 47th minute and burst down the left flank before finding Yasuyuki Konno lurking alone in the box, with the veteran making no mistake with his finish.

But the Reds equalised midway through the half when Moriwaki crashed a corner from Yosuke Kashiwagi against the bar, Zlatan Ljubijankic then beating Patric to the loose ball to head past Masaaki Higashiguchi. 

The Gamba goalkeeper had to be typically excellent to prevent Mihailo Petrovic’s side from taking the lead with regular time finishing 1-1, the eventual Man of the Match providing the basis for his team’s success in extra time.

Gamba dug in until the second interval of the extra half hour, when they suddenly burst forward for Fujiharu to volley substitute Koki Yonekura’s cross home.

A similarly direct move led to Patric making the result safe, the burly Brazilian latching onto Yasuhito Endo’s free-kick to deliver the killer blow past Shusaku Nishikawa.

Kenta Hasegawa’s men will now face off directly with Sanfrecce in a direct battle of superiority over the championship finals two legs, on next Wednesday and Saturday.