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Monday, April 23, 2012

Impressive form carries Gamba past S-Pulse


OSAKA — Former Asian champion Gamba Osaka climbed out of the drop zone with a 3-1 victory over in-form Shimizu S-Pulse in the J.League on Sunday.

Goals from Takuya Takei, Rafinha and Akihiro Sato sent Masanobu Matsunami's men to their second straight win as Gamba improved to seven points, two points clear of 16th place.

Shimizu's win streak came to an end at three games. Afshin Ghotbi's side is on 12 points, seven points off the pace of league-leading Vegalta Sendai.

"It would've been better if we had more possession so we could break down our opponents," Takei said. "But we'll take it. I hope we can keep winning so we can make it back to the top."

In stark contrast to Gamba, who only won their first game last weekend, Shimizu has had a great start to the campaign with four wins from six matches.

The two games S-Pulse lost were narrow defeats to defending champion Kashiwa Reysol and title favorite Nagoya Grampus. Shimizu also has a perfect six points from two games in the Nabisco Cup.

S-Pulse's evening, however, quickly turned sour in a space of seven first-half minutes, starting with Takei's goal for the hosts in the 20th minute.

Racing onto a long ball down the inside right channel from Japan midfielder Yasuhito Endo, Takei fired with all his might from outside the box.

Defender Calvin Jong-a-Pin was in position to make the stop, but Sato's shot deflected off the Dutchman, swooping into the net to give Gamba the lead.

Shimizu was on the end of more misfortune seven minutes later, when goalkeeper Akihiro Hayashi took out Sato in his own area, forcing the referee to point to the spot.

Rafinha tried to convert, but Hayashi did well to deny the Brazilian by diving to his right. The rebound, however, shot straight back to Rafinha, who didn't miss that time around, hitting past Hayashi to make it 2-0.

S-Pulse came out for the second half determine to bridge the gap, putting Gamba on the backfoot.

Ghotbi turned to the midfield wizardry of three-time World Cup star Shinji Ono and 17-year-old phenom Hideki Ishige as the visitors saw more time on the ball, but it was Gamba who found the net for a third time.

Nine minutes to time, Sato headed home from an Endo left-wing corner and score for his third consecutive game. Shimizu pulled one back in the 93rd minute through Alex Brosque, but it hardly served as consolation for the Shizuoka club, which left Expo Stadium empty-handed.

"I thought we played a beautiful football game, and what was missing was the goal," Ghotbi said. "We had more chances and we controlled most of the game.

"Sometimes in football, like in life, the ball doesn't bounce your way. I think we can learn a lot from this game."

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