17
Dec
14

Gamba net championship hat-trick

I was at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama at the weekend to see Gamba Osaka beat Montedio Yamagata in the Emperor’s Cup final. Here’s my match report for The Japan News…

The Japan News, Sunday 14th December, 2014

YOKOHAMA — Three proved to be the magic number for Gamba Osaka on Saturday as a trio of strikes enabled it to complete the final leg of its domestic treble at Nissan Stadium, defeating Montedio Yamagata 3-1 to win the Emperor’s Cup.

As has been the case for most of this season, Takashi Usami and Patric were the heroes for Kenta Hasegawa’s side, with the former opening and closing the scoring and his Brazilian teammate finding the net in between.

“There was an element of luck about the third goal, but it’s always been a dream of mine to win titles with this team, and I’m delighted I’ve been able to do that,” Usami said of Gamba’s fourth Emperor’s Cup success.

“The fact that the whole team continued to play the same style of football is what enabled us to win the triple crown,” Gamba coach Hasegawa said. “Of course [Patric and Usami] did really well, but it was the effort of the team as a whole that made the victory possible.”

Gamba won the Nabisco Cup on Nov. 8 — coming from 2-0 down to beat Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3-2 — then last weekend it wrapped up the J1 title, finishing a point ahead of Urawa Reds despite having at one stage been 14 adrift of the Saitama side. It was the biggest comeback in J.League history.

Yamagata was also celebrating last weekend as it downed JEF United 1-0 in the playoff final to secure a return to J1 for the 2015 season. That victory meant it came into this game in fine form having won six of its last seven games in all competitions.

The Tohoku side was thus full of confidence and tore out of the traps in front of 47,829 fans in Yokohama, where the final was being played instead of National Stadium in Tokyo, which is being renovated ahead of the Olympics in 2020.

Gamba Osaka and Montedio Yamagata line up ahead of the 2014 Emperor's Cup final at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, Saturday 13th December, 2014

Montedio could have taken the lead in the opening minute, but Ryosuke Matsuoka put his effort just wide of Masaaki Higashiguchi’s goal.

That scare zapped some life into Gamba, and just three minutes later, it was ahead.

Patric flicked on a long ball and Takashi Usami controlled on his chest before volleying toward the goal. Norihiro Yamagishi managed to keep out the initial effort, but Usami was quickest to react to the loose ball and swept home.

Romero Frank had a chance to equalize for Yamagata one minute later, but Higashiguchi was equal to his effort from a tight angle and diverted it behind for a corner.

The Peruvian would soon rue that failed attempt as Gamba doubled their lead after 22 minutes. This time the roles were reversed as Usami turned provider, winning the ball in his own half and breaking forward to feed Patric, who had found space just inside the Montedio penalty area. The Brazilian stayed calm, cut inside and curled a gorgeous effort into the top corner.

Things got a little nervy for Gamba just past the hour mark when Romero Frank made up for his earlier miss by poking home when unmarked five meters from goal. But Usami settled things in the 85th minute when his strike from 25 meters took a wicked deflection off Takefumi Toma and soared into the back of the net.

“The J.League has been in existence for a little over 20 years, and until now nobody but Kashima has been able to do it,” captain and 2014 J.League MVP Yasuhito Endo said of the triple crown. “It’s an incredibly difficult thing to achieve and I’m honored that we’ve been able to do it.”

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