Gamba Osaka 1-2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
After a 4-0 away defeat to high-flying Vissel Kobe the previous week, Gamba Osaka welcome Sanfrecce Hiroshima with something to prove, but perhaps all that was proved was that, so far, they can not close-up a game. Chances were there for the taking but a game that could have been won easily, turned into a defeat caused by a late defensive lapse, coupled with a highly-debatable penalty kick decision that gave the away team the win.
It didn't help their cause that Gamba were down a goal within two minutes of kick-off, as a Masaaki Higashiguchi save low-down, fell directly to Nassim Ben Khalifa to convert from close range to give the away team a very early lead.
After conceding Gamba got more into the game, holding decent possession and creating space, with the best chance falling to Musashi Suzuki just after the half-hour mark, volleying a near-post cross just past the post with the goalkeeper looking on gratefully as it went wide but the score remained 0-1 at the break.
The 2nd half saw Gamba run the game at their pace and create multiple chances - enough to have taken the lead with ease on any other day - but it was not to be and it took a deflected Takashi Usami shot in the 70th minute to level the game. It was well-deserved on the run of play and what came next should have seen Gamba ahead. Musashi Suzuki mis-directed a flick from a low cross, then Usami was denied his second as Gamba racked up possession and pressure.
But Gamba didn't get that second goal and then, in added time, handed the points to Sanfrecce after a weak pass from Masaaki Higashiguchi to Neta Lavi was intercepted, the ball fell to Khalifa who appeared to raise his studs into the shin of Lavi as the ball was fought over, but the referee gave a penalty kick. VAR decided that there was not enough to overturn the decision, despite video clearly showing Lavi's shin being raked, and the PK was converted, the game and the points lost.
Team - Higashiguchi, Handa (Takao, 83), Miura, Egawa, Kurokawa, Lavi, Dawhan (R.Yamamoto, 71), Usami (Y.Yamamoto, 85'), Alano (Yamami, 83'), Suzuki, Fukuda (Meshino, 71)
Scorer: Takashi USAMI, 70'