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Monday, June 29, 2009

Gamba, Antlers bounce back from ACL heartbreak

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) Hideo Hashimoto helped chase away Gamba Osaka's Asian Champions League blues by scoring the winner in a 2-1 defeat of Yokohama F. Marinos in the J. League on Sunday.

News photo
High tackle: Oita's Teppei Nishiyama and Kashima's Mitsuo Ogasawara clash during Antlers' 2-1 win on Sunday. KYODO PHOTO

Hashimoto capitalized on a blunder by Yokohama goalkeeper Hiroki Iikura to give Gamba its first league win in four matches while champions Kashima Antlers also rebounded from their ACL exit to beat bottom club Oita Trinita 2-1 and restore their seven-point lead at the top of the table.

Gamba came into the match in need of a tonic after its defense of the ACL title came to a shuddering halt following a shock 3-2 defeat to Kawasaki Frontale in the round of 16 on Wednesday.

But veteran defender Naoki Matsuda smashed Marinos into the lead on 21 minutes, shortly after Cho Jae Jin had spurned a great chance to open the scoring at the other end in pouring rain at Nissan Stadium.

But Gamba came out with renewed purpose in the second half, and Yasuhito Endo equalized with a cool finish before the visitors took the lead thanks to a gaffe that Iikura will want to forget in a hurry.

Leandro's deflected shot sent Iikura backpedaling to prevent the ball from going out for a corner but he made a hash of his attempted catch and the ball dropped for Hashimoto to calmly slot home.

"We got into a good rhythm midway through the first half and I thought if we could get hold of the ball in midfield we would be able to create chances," said Gamba manager Akira Nishino.

"We weren't able to take our chances in the first half but put them away nicely in the second. It has been tough and this is a massive three points for us," he said.

At Kyushu Oil Dome, Hiroshi Kiyotake atoned for a dreadful miss when he pounced on a loose ball to give Oita a shock lead 10 minutes into the second half.

Antlers bared their teeth and hit back through Mitsuo Ogasawara's volley shortly after the hour mark, before defender Daiki Iwamasa snatched victory 17 minutes from time.

"We were so frustrated at getting knocked out of the Asian Champions League so I am glad we could win today," said Ogasawara.

On a day of contrasting fortunes for the two Japanese clubs that reached the ACL quarterfinals, Kawasaki won 1-0 at Montedio Yamagata courtesy of Chong Tese's 88th-minute strike, but 10-men Nagoya Grampus was brought back to earth with a bang after a 2-1 loss away to Albirex Niigata, Toshihiro Matsushita scoring both goals for Albirex.

Kashima improved to 35 points, seven clear of Niigata and third-placed Urawa Reds with a game in hand.

Saito takes pay cut

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) Yokohama F. Marinos club president Masaharu Saito will take a 50 percent pay cut for seven months from July for failing to lure Japan international midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura back to the J. League club, Yokohama officials said Sunday.

Saito has taken responsibility for Nakamura's decision to snub the club in favor of a move to Spanish first-division side Espanyol from Celtic.

"I am deeply sorry for not being able to respond to everyone's high hopes," said Saito. "As club representative I take full responsibility."

The 31-year-old Nakamura had initially rejected an offer from Espanyol and was on the brink of rejoining Yokohama, the club he left seven years ago to pursue a career in Europe.

But talks with Nakamura's side stalled due to what Saito described as "unforeseen problems."

Nakamura had spoken in the past of his willingness to return to Yokohama, citing the rigors of traveling back and forth for international duty and saying he wanted to raise his children in Japan.

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