After completing a domestic treble last year, Gamba Osaka started the new domestic season in the best-possible manner on Saturday by lifting the Fuji Xerox Super Cup trophy with a 2-0 win over 2014 J-League runners-up Urawa Reds at Nissan Stadium.
The match looked as though it would play out aas a tussle between the two sides early on, as collisions in the first five minutes at either ends of the pitch left both Oh Jae-suk and Tomoaki Makino requiring treatment.
The game became a much slower affair as Urawa struggled to get into the swing of proceedings, with Gamb’s movement and medium block in defence disrupting the Saitama-based team’s attempts to play direct along the wings.
Masaaki Higashiguchi caught the ire of the opposition supporters after falling to the ground and clutching the back of his neck after collecting the ball at the far post. Replays showed nothing in the incident, as the goalkeeper stepped into Makino’s path for the slightest bump to his side.
Shusaku Nishikawa made an important and equally impressive save early in the second half after Tomokazu Myojin found the ball land at his feet just outside the penalty area. Lashing a half-volley towards the net, the second-choice Japan international made a reflex save to his left to push the powered drive wide of the post.
Gamba Osaka finally broke the deadlock in the 68th minute when Gamba fan-favourite Takashi Usami had space at the far post to strike the ball into the roof of the net, after Patric headed on Yasuhito Endo’s corner from the centre of the penalty area. The Gamba winger had another chance moments after to put double his side’s lead, but made a meal of his attempt and shot wide of the post.
It took until additional time for Gamba to double their lead, with substitute Patric charging his way towards the middle of the penalty area to fire at Nishikawa, with the save rebounding back to the Brazilian forward to make no mistake on his second attempt as the Urawa defence scrambled to match his pace.
The win gives Gamba Osaka a large boost after their disappointing opening match day loss to Guangzhou R&F in the AFC Champions League. The reigning J-League champions begin the new two-stage format with an opening day at home, hosting FC Tokyo on March 7.