Shu Kurata ensured Gamba Osaka defeated Shonan Bellmare 1-0 in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League on Sunday as the Japanese champions slowly but surely rebuild momentum.
Patric laid on the ball into Kurata’s path for the 26-year-old to slot coolly through the legs of Bellmare goalkeeper Yota Akimoto for the ninth-minute winner.
The three points leave Kenta Hasegawa’s fifth-placed side knocking on the door into the top four of the second stage standings, and allows them to divert all their focus on the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup quarter-finals ahead.
The cup holders will be optimistic about defending their prize when they clash with Nagoya Grampus later this week, with their opponents succumbing 5-2 to Sanfrecce Hiroshima on Saturday.
Fellow quarter-finalists Kashiwa Reysol were unable to hold on to their lead against Ventforet Kofu, as custodian Takanori Sugeno’s own-goal brought an end to their three-game winning streak.
Reysol, resurgent in the second stage, had been seeking to provide a response in front of their fans for their 3-1 home loss to Guangzhou Evergrande in the AFC Champions League midweek.
And they appeared to be on course for just that as Cristiano netted the opener with a precise header in the 27th minute, before Masato Kudo doubled their lead by getting onto the end of a cross right before half time.
But Sugeno could do nothing to keep out Takuma Abe’s well-struck volley after the break, and the collapse was complete as the 31-year-old fumbled Junya Ito’s header over his own line.
They take on a familiar face in the Nabisco Cup when ex-coach and current Vissel Kobe boss Nelsinho visits Kashiwa Stadium on Wednesday.