Sanfrecce Hiroshima 5-2 Gamba Osaka
Hiroshi Matsuda took over the responsibility of managing Gamba Osaka in their fight against relegation, just days after being installed as an assistant to outgoing manager Tomohiro Katanosaka, and he chose to restore Brazilian duo Patric and Leandro Pereira up front, as well as starting new arrival Juan Alano. This selection appeared to pay dividends right from the first whistle and Patric and Pereira combined to have the latter score against his former club before two minutes was up, his left foot strike of a loose ball from the penalty spot making it 1-0 to Gamba.
Within 10 minutes, though, the home team were level, Ben Khalifa heading on an in-swinging cross off the bar, 1-1. Gamba were looking a much more coherent side than we had seen in previous games and they were soon ahead again, Mitsuki Saito blasting home from the edge of the area, the ball sneaking in low at the post, 2-1 to Gamba with 36 minutes gone, and that score remained at the break.
Musashi Suzuki was introduced for the 2nd half, replacing the scorer Pereira and Gamba went looking for more goals. They almost had one in the 69th minute as a desperate goalkeeper clawed away a Genta Miura header off the line, Suzuki's follow-up was blocked by a defender and then Shu Kurata blasted over with the third attempt.
With less than 20 minutes to go, Gamba were 2-1 up and looking for the double against high-flying Sanfrecce, and then it all fell apart. Firstly came Khalifa's second goal of the game, a cushioned volley from the edge of the area that, if it had been hit better might have been easier to save, but the looping shot was enough to sneak in at the post and the game was level. Minutes later and the player had his hat trick, his right-foot, first-time shot sneaking in at the other post between the goalkeeper and a defender. and Gamba were 3-2 down.
And so, Gamba went looking for a point, and it almost came to them when substitute Yuki Yamamoto - back after a long injury absence - saw his shot beat the 'keeper but cleared off the line. It just was not Gamba's day, which was emphasised by them conceding two more goals as the game headed to its conclusion!
Team - Higashiguchi, Takao, Miura, Shoji, Fujiharu, Juan Alano (Kurata, 62), Okuno, Saito (Dawhan, 89) (Kwon, 89), Meshino (Yamamoto, 63), Patric, Leandro Pereira (Suzuki, 46)
Leandro PEREIRA 2'
Mitsuki SAITO 37'