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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Gamba pulls one out


Staff writer

YOKOHAMA -- Super sub Masafumi Maeda punished a shocking defensive mix-up to fire in the winner as Gamba Osaka edged Yokohama F. Marinos in a seven-goal thriller on Saturday night.

News photo
Yokohama Defender Naoki Matsuda is congratulated by teammates after scoring in the 40th minute Saturday against Gamba Osaka in Yokohama.

Maeda made it 4-3 on 82 minutes when Marinos 'keeper Tatsuya Enomoto raced out of his area, panicking defender Yuji Nakazawa into making a hash of his clearance, and the 70th-minute replacement for Fernandinho cracked the ball home from 25 meters.

In a see-saw match at Nissan Stadium, two Magno Alves goals for Gamba either side of Hideo Oshima and Naoki Matsuda strikes made it 2-2 at halftime.

Maeda made an immediate impact after coming on by teeing up Takahiro Futagawa for a simple header on 71 minutes, but Marinos substitute Kenta Kano leveled matters three minutes later before Maeda made sure Gamba had the last laugh in front of the crowd of 28,885 fans.

"I've been disappointed with my shooting recently, and I wanted to test the 'keeper today," the 23-year-old Maeda said. "I was glad I was able to help us get the win."

Gamba coach Akira Nishino wasn't expecting such drama in Yokohama.

"Recently our defense has become much more stable, and Marinos always are strong at the back, so I was surprised with so many goals," Nishino said.

"We've had a series of hard games, and our team has got a lot stronger. This is the period of greatest growth for us, and the players have become more bold and confident."

Missing a host of players to injury, Marinos coach Takeshi Okada wasn't surprised his team ended up second best.

"With the injury situation as it is, we will continue to have hard games," Okada said.

Okada isn't hitting the panic button, though.

"I'm not going to change things around. This is a good team, and if we can get through this period, we should be OK," he said.

Earlier on Saturday, league-leading Urawa Reds downed Kyoto Purple Sanga 3-0 at Saitama Stadium, with two goals for Washington and one for Makoto Hasebe.

Gamba's win meant it moved to 19 points from eight games, one behind leader Urawa. Marinos dropped one position to fifth.

After a quiet opening 10 minutes for both teams, Gamba's Yasuhito Endo brought the game to life with a delightful piece of skill, bring the ball under control with his chest and teeing the ball in one movement before unleashing a rising shot that missed by inches.

Endo set up Alves for Gamba's opening goal eight minutes later, threading the ball through to the lurking Brazilian, who crashed the ball into the roof of the net.

Gamba was enjoying the lion's share of possession, but Marinos managed to draw level on 27 minutes with a beautifully crafted goal. Tatsuhiko Kubo gracefully laid the ball off for Dutra, who floated in a cross from the left and Oshima's header crept past 'keeper Yosuke Fujigaya.

Yokohama began too enjoy a little more of the ball, and Oshima nearly doubled his tally with a volley but couldn't keep the ball down.

Matsuda did put Marinos ahead, though, on 41 minutes, the Gamba defense clearing the ball only to see it returned with interest by the defender, his shot from 25 meters fizzing past Fujigaya.

The Gamba 'keeper did well to keep out Kubo's blockbuster two minutes later before Alves drew Gamba level with the last kick of the half, threading the ball home from a tight angle after Enomoto could only parry Endo's shot.

Alves is the top scorer in the J. League with 9 goals already this season.

The entertainment didn't subside in the second half, both teams pushing for the win so as not to lose touch with Urawa Reds. Alves had a glorious chance for his hat trick on 58 minutes, but his weak shot was easily saved by Enomoto. Seconds later Kubo was denied at the other end by Fujigaya.

Maeda made a dramatic entrance into the game, creating Gamba's third goal. He nearly stabbed the ball home with his first touch before collecting the ball seconds later and floating in a peach of a cross for Futagawa to nod in.

The visiting fans were still celebrating when Marinos drew level in what was turning into a ding dong of a match.

Takayukio Yoshida floated in a cross from the left which the dithering Gamba defense failed to clear, and after Oshima's point-blank shot was parried by Fujigaya, substitute Kano rolled the ball into an empty net.

Marinos thought they had salvaged a draw. But Maeda hadn't quite finished.

In earlier games Saturday, Seiichiro Maki did his World Cup chances no harm with a brace in JEF United Chiba's 3-2 victory away to FC Tokyo.

Kashima Antlers leapfrogged Marinos and Kawasaki Frontale to move into third place on 16 points after beating Shimizu S-Pulse 3-1, Oita Trinita beat Ventforet Kofu 3-2, Cerezo Osaka and Avispa Fukuoka played out a 0-0 draw and Albirex Niigata edged Nagoya Grampus Eight 2-1.



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