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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gamba reach ACL knockout round

SUITA, Osaka Pref. (Kyodo) Gamba Osaka joined J. League rivals Kashima Antlers in the knockout phase of the Asian Champions League on Tuesday after a 2-1 win at home to South Korea's Suwon Bluewings.

Needing only a point to advance, Gamba fell behind to Jose Mota's header near the hour mark at Expo Stadium, but a superb strike from Takahiro Futagawa made it all square before Takashi Usami snatched the winner deep into injury time.

Gamba top Group G with 11 points, one ahead of Suwon, who had already qualified for the next round. China's Henan Jianye were away to Armed Forces of Singapore in a later match.

"Getting through was our main objective and the players showed a lot of heart tonight," said Gamba manager Akira Nishino. "We have had a crammed schedule and had to chop and change the formation around so with that in mind, I am very satisfied with my players' efforts."

Gamba were missing Hideo Hashimoto and in-form striker Shoki Hirai after both picked up injuries at the weekend to join Yasuhito Endo on the casualty list, and the home side lacked a cutting edge in front of goal in the first half despite some patient approach play.

Usami shot straight at Lee Woon Jae early on before blazing over a half chance on 21 minutes, while Suwon's best opportunity arrived 10 minutes before halftime.

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