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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Gamba end dry spell with win over Bunyodkor


SUITA, Osaka Pref. — Gamba Osaka continued their revival under Masanobu Matsunami by beating Uzbekistan's Bunyodkor 3-1 at home in the Asian Champions League on Tuesday night to claim their first competitive win of the season.

Captain Yasuhito Endo put the 2008 ACL champions on their way with a first-half wonder strike, and Rafinha converted a brace of penalties before Soliev Anvarjon replied for the visitors with a late consolation in the Group E match at Expo Stadium.

"We made a good start but dropped off after we scored and might have scored more in the first half if we had pushed a bit more. But this is our first win and I am delighted," said Matsunami.

"The players have had to adapt to change and were under pressure but they tried to play Gamba's style until the end. It was not just the players on the pitch, though, all the club staff deserves credit."

On a good night all around for Japanese clubs, Nagoya Grampus also picked up their first win and stayed unbeaten in Group G, goals from Jungo Fujimoto, Keiji Tamada and Kensuke Nagai securing a 3-0 win at China's Tianjin Teda to improve to five points.

The win moved Grampus two points clear after Australia's Central Coast Mariners and South Korea's Seongnam Ilhwa played out a 1-1 draw. Tianjin are bottom of the group with two points.

Amid driving rain and swirling winds, Endo warmed the Gamba diehards braving the elements when he fired in the opener with 14 minutes gone, the Japan international taking a return pass from Rafinha and beating Ignatiy Nesterov with a bullet into the far corner from 25 meters.

But the Uzbeks enjoyed long spells of pressure after going behind and nearly hit back on 25 minutes, Yosuke Fujigaya producing a fine reaction save to push Jan Kozak's close-range shot over the cross bar.

Fujigaya was called on again nine minutes before the break to smother Shavkat Salomov's effort from just outside the penalty area, and Kozak then went close with a shot that fizzed past Fujigaya's right-hand post.

After soaking up all the pressure, Gamba nearly doubled their lead in a rare foray into Bunyodkor's half.

Rafinha let fly with a shot that came back off the post with Nesterov beaten, but the Brazilian stroked home from the spot in the 58th minute and repeated the feat with a twice-taken penalty 13 minutes from time. Anvarjon completed the scoring with an 88th-minute header.

Gamba lost their first five matches of this season in all competitions, prompting the club to fire new Brazilian coach Jose Carlos Serrao.

Matsunami, who made 280 appearances for Gamba in a 13-year career before retiring in 2005, took over the hot seat and the team turned a corner with a point in his first match in charge in a 1-1 draw away at Albirex Niigata in the J.League on Saturday.

In Wednesday's games involving Japanese clubs, FC Tokyo travel to Beijing Guoan in Group F, while J.League champions Kashiwa Reysol host China's Guangzhou Evergrande.

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