Gamba Osaka 2-1 Shonan Bellmare
Gamba Osaka - resplendent in their 2023 EXPO shirts - welcomed Shonan Bellmare, managed by former hometown hero Satoshi Yamaguchi - to this game and came out a worthy winner, by a score of 2-1, on goals from Juan Alano and Takashi Usami, who had led the team out as captain today.
The home team began the game with some nerves in defence and Masaaki Higashiguchi in the Gamba goal was forced into an early save, though nothing he couldn't handle with ease, as Satoshi Tanaka drilled a low shot form outside the area in the 5th minute.
Gamba slowly took control and, in the 15th minute Yuki Yamamoto was denied by a fine near-post save by Song Bum-keun in the away goal, the 'keeper managing to deflect the ball onto his post and then away. Next came Jebali being denied a goal as the 'keeper dived low to his right to push out a shot, and then Song had to drop to his left to keep out a rocket from Usami, as Gamba looked more and more likely to score as the clock ticked past the half hour mark.
The goal finally came from a beautiful move through the middle, as Juan Alano brought the ball forward then slipped it out left to Keisuke Kurokawa. The overlapping left back slipped the ball onto Issam Jebali's feet, and the Tunisian striker simply touched it into the path of Juan Alano to finish off the move he had started. 1-0 at the break, but really could have been a bigger scoreline.
The 2nd half began very much in control of Gamba and 11 minutes into the period the referee - via VAR - adjudged that Kim Min-tae had handled the ball and a PK was given. Juan Alano and Bebali were discussing who was to take it when Yamamoto stepped in and suggested that long-time Gamba servant Usami should be offered the chance to score Gamba's 900th home J1 goal, and he stepped up and dispatched with ease. 2-0.
Keisuke Kurokawa came close to adding a third goal for Gamba when he raced through the channel and onto a through pass from Jebali, but he appeared to be impeded from behind just as he took the shot, though no decision was forthcoming from the referee.
The game was not quite over, though, as the away team managed to pull a goal back through Yuki Ohashi as he got on the head of a mis-directed header to volley home from point blank range in the sixth of seven added minutes, but it was too little, too late for Shonan Bellmare and Gamba took their 5th successive home win.
Team - Higashiguchi, Takao, Fukuoka (Sato, 78'), Kwon, Kurokawa, Lavi, Dawhan, Yamamoto (Ishige, 78'), Juan Alano (Fukuda, 90+2'), Usami (Meshino, 81'), Jebali
Juan ALANO 37'
Takashi USAMI 61'
Attendance - 32,567