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Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007
Gamba trounces Reds in Xerox Cup
By GUS FIELDING
Brazilian striker Magno Alves masterminded Urawa Reds' downfall with a hat trick as Gamba Osaka thrashed the J. League champions 4-0 in the Xerox Super Cup on Saturday.
Takahiro Futagawa also got his name on the scoresheet with a first-half blockbuster to help Gamba avenge defeats that robbed them of three trophies last year in the new season's curtain-raiser at National Stadium.
Akira Nishino's men came into the match looking for payback after Urawa beat them 3-1 in last year's Super Cup, denied them a second successive J. League title on the final day of the 2006 campaign and also won an Emperor's Cup final that Gamba dominated on New Year's Day.
Gamba started brightly and Michihiro Yasuda scooped over from a tight angle before Hideo Hashimoto tried his luck with a long-range drive that whistled over Norihiro Yamagishi's crossbar in the 24th minute.
Missing influential defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka and Makoto Hasebe, a rusty-looking Urawa rarely threatened in the final third and Gamba deservedly went in front on 32 minutes.
Futagawa collected a deep pass from Yasuhito Endo and saw his shot blocked by Yamagishi but Magno Alves was perfectly positioned to rifle home the rebound.
Magno Alves' one-time Brazil strike partner Washington should have leveled after being put through by Nene, but the burly forward spurned Urawa's only real chance of the first half when he blasted over with only Gamba keeper Naoki Matsuyo to beat.
It was a miss that proved costly as Futagawa put Gamba firmly in the driving seat two minutes before the interval with a 20-meter screamer that gave Yamagishi no chance.
Ryuji Bando twice went close to extending Gamba's lead after the break and Magno Alves hit the woodwork before he killed the game off with the third from a tight angle in the 68th minute.
Last season's J. League joint top scorer then put the icing on the cake by completing his hat trick and a sweet victory for Gamba four minutes from time.
"We prepared well for this game but I never expected us to play as well as we did today," said Nishino.
"In the Emperor's Cup final we created loads of chances but couldn't take any of them so I am pleased that wasn't the case today."
He added, "It was a great way to gear up for the season and I want the players to work hard and try to deliver the same kind of performance as they did today."
Magno Alves, whose hat-trick was the first in Super Cup history, said, "We lost three times to Urawa last year so it was nice to win this one and make a little bit of history for myself."
"The result reflects how fired up all the players were today. Now we have to work hard ahead of our league opener (at home to Omiya Ardija) on March 3."
The defeat for Urawa was its first in a competitive game since Holger Osieck returned for a second stint as manager and the German was naturally disappointed with the manner in which his players caved in.
"We started fairly solidly but then everything started to collapse. After around 25 minutes we started to go downhill and I am obviously very disappointed with the result."
Urawa begins the defense of its league crown at home to promoted Yokohama FC next Saturday.