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Monday, Oct. 2, 2006

Kofu stuns red-hot Gamba

KOFU, Yamanashi Pef. (Kyodo) Katsuya Ishihara scored a bizarre 60th-minute winner Sunday as Ventforet Kofu pulled off a shock 3-2 home win over Gamba Osaka and sentenced the visitors to their first defeat in 10 matches in the J. League.

News photo
Ventforet Forward Kotaro Yamazaki (left) and Gamba forward Ryuji Bando compete for the ball in Sunday's game at Kose Sports Park Stadium. Kofu edged Osaka 3-2. KYODO PHOTO

Ishihara put Kofu 3-0 up on the hour after a botched clearance from Brazilian defender Sidiclei ricocheted off the midfielder's legs and despite a Gamba fight back, Takeshi Oki's men held on for a well-deserved win in torrential rain at Kose Sports Park.

Gamba's defeat saw them drop into second in the table on goal difference behind Urawa Reds, who hammered Kyoto Purple Sanga 5-1 away on Saturday. Both teams have 55 points with nine games of the season remaining.

In the day's other game, Shimizu S-Pulse sent bottom club Avispa Fukuoka closer to a return to the second division with a 4-0 win at Nihondaira Stadium. Shimizu moved into fourth on 47 points.

Unbeaten at home in the league since J. League action resumed in July after the World Cup, Kofu looked the more threatening in the early stages with top scorer Bare causing the visitors plenty of problems.

With three defenders breathing down his neck the striker stung Yosuke Fujigaya's palms after 15 minutes and then earned the free kick from which Kofu took the lead.

Alair launched a high ball into the box and Biju was perfectly positioned at the far post to guide a free header past Fujigaya.

Gamba gave a disjointed first-half display but went close to equalizing with their first real chance after half an hour but Magno Alves scuffed wide after a dangerous ball into the box.

The defending champions had keeper Fujigaya to thank for preventing the home side from going 2-0 up when he pushed away a header from Kotaro Yamazaki six minutes before the interval.

But Fujigaya could do little as Kofu doubled its advantage three minutes into the second half. Takehito Shigehara picked the ball just inside the Gamba half and stormed straight through Gamba's defense before slotting the ball home.

Sidiclei had conceded the free kick for Kofu's opener and things went from bad to worse for the defender when Ishihara's attempt to charge down his weak clearance ended up in the back of the net.

Gamba responded almost immediately as Ryuji Bando celebrated his first national team callup for Japan's friendly against Ghana on Wednesday with a stunning strike that extended his scoring run to six league matches.

Futagawa then gave Gamba hope when he further reduced the deficit in the 68th minute but Kofu stood firm and their fans celebrated like they had won the league title when referee Tsutomu Anazawa blew the final whistle after five minutes of injury time.

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