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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Gamba win marred by unruly behavior


Staff writer

SAITAMA — Ugly scenes on the pitch and in the stands marred Gamba Osaka's 3-2 win over Urawa Reds on Saturday.

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Wild match: Unruly Reds fans rip through fencing at Saitama Stadium after Urawa's controversy-marred 3-2 loss to visiting Gamba Osaka on Saturday. What's more, Reds goalkeeper Ryota Tsuzuki was involved in an on-field scuffle with Osaka players after the match. KYODO PHOTO

A number of Urawa fans ripped through fencing separating them from the visiting supporters after the final whistle, and Reds goalkeeper Ryota Tsuzuki was involved in a confrontation with the Gamba players as they celebrated on the Saitama Stadium pitch.

The Gamba fans stayed in their seats for more than two hours after the final whistle for fear of further trouble, bringing a nasty end to a barnstorming match itself not free of controversy.

Already 1-0 up thanks to Sota Nakazawa's 18th-minute header, Gamba doubled its lead in first-half injury time when referee Masayoshi Okada gave the visitors a throw-in, despite Osaka's Bare apparently touching the ball last.

Masato Yamazaki took advantage of the confusion to fire the ball into the net, sparking an angry reaction from the Urawa players and fans.

Tsukasa Umesaki kept his cool to pull one back for Reds with a free-kick early in the second half, but Gamba substitute Yasuhito Endo caught Urawa's defense napping to widen the gap in the 69th minute.

A late header from Edmilson set up a tense finish, but Gamba held on to claim three points on the final weekend of play before the J. League summer shutdown begins.

News photo
One-on-one: Kashima Antlers defender Atsuto Uchida battles Kashiwa Reysol forward Popo (left) during their J. League match on Saturday at Kashima Stadium. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. KYODO PHOTO

Reds manager Gert Engels declined to comment on the postmatch trouble, and refused to blame the referee for his side's defeat.

"The second goal was our throw-in," he said. "But if you make mistakes you won't win.

'We played well but we didn't play well in the last 20 or 30 minutes. The players were missing some quality (shots) but also the courage to go for it and score a goal.

"We had three or four misses before their goal, and that is a key point. You can't look for the referee."

Gamba ditched their usual swashbuckling style for a more pragmatic approach to the game, and Engels was not surprised at the cautious approach.

"I said to the players before the game that they would play defensively, and that showed up," he said.

"I think they wanted us to play a little bit, so we had to score in the first 10 or 15 minutes to make them change their tactics. If you score, then everything changes, but if you are behind it is very difficult."

Nakazawa sent Urawa's defense an early warning as he headed just wide from a corner in the 14th minute, but made no mistake four minutes later when he again rose unmarked to give Gamba the lead.

Edmilson missed two chances as halftime approached, but there was still time for controversy before the whistle could sound as referee Okada awarded Bare the disputed throw-in.

Bare took the throw himself, finding Takahiro Futagawa, who played the ball on to Yamazaki to double Gamba's lead.

With the Reds players apopletic with rage, Hajime Hosogai clattered into Bare for a yellow card as soon as play resumed.

The halftime interval did nothing to take the sting out of a frantic match, and less than 10 minutes after the restart, Umesaki pulled one back for Reds.

The 21-year-old was tripped as he zeroed in on goal, before dusting himself off and converting the free-kick with an angled shot that took a deflection off the defensive wall.

Endo restored Osaka's advantage in the 69th minute, rifling home a shot from the edge of the area after receiving a cute pass from Lucas, and despite a headed goal from Edmilson with 10 minutes left to play, Urawa failed to make the final breakthrough to salvage something from an eventful game.



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