(Japan national team star Shinji Kagawa scores a spectacular volley to give Borussia Dortmund a 2-1 advantage away to FC Köln in the Bundesliga. Kagawa would net twice and create another in an eventual 6-1 win on 25 March, ensuring BVB maintained their five point advantage over closest rivals Bayern Munich with seven games to go)
The Asahi Shimbun confirms that Gamba Osaka have sacked manager Jose Carlos Serrao and assistant Wagner Lopes after the Suite-based club endured their worst ever start to a season, suffering five consecutive defeats across all competitions. Fitness coach Wellington was also fired, with general manager Hiroyasu Yamamoto choosing to resign.
In a statement posted on Gamba’s official website, club President Kikuo Kanamori said:
The team did not adapt to Mr Serrao’s footballing style, and began the season with five losses. Additionally, we came to this conclusion after the lack of ‘dynamic football’ [that should represent our club].
“However, Mr. Serrao conducted himself as a gentleman until the very end and is worthy of our thanks and respect.
Heading into the 2012 campaign, Gamba were widely predicted as favourites for both the domestic league and AFC Champions League, but a sequence of results which included a 2-1 loss to cross-city rivals Cerezo and two defeats in their AFC Champions League group in which they failed to score, has left them facing an early exit from Asia’s premier club competition and nine points from the top of the J.League table.
Masanobu Matsunami, who is commonly known as “Mr Gamba” having spent his entire senior career at the club, and who scored 45 goals in 280 appearances before moving into a coaching role under Yukio Nishino, has been appointed manager. He is joined by head coach Noritada Saneyoshi, the former defender who remained at Gamba for the duration of his career, while Koichiro Yoshimichi takes on strength and conditioning duties, with Katsushi Kajii assuming general manager responsibilities.
The Mainichi Shimbun reports on a remarkable performance from Samurai Blue Shinji Kagawa. The Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder scored twice, including a spectacular volley two minutes into the second-half to give his side a 2-1 lead, and helped create another with a clever backheel as the league leaders thumped FC Köln 6-1, maintaining their five point advantage over second-placed Bayern Munich with just seven games of the Bundesliga season remaining. The two goals for the Kobe native takes his total for the 2011-12 season to 11 in only 24 league games, together with 9 assists, and makes him the joint record leading scorer for a Japanese player overseas, matching Naohiro Takahara’s 11 for Eintracht Frankfurt in the 2006-07 season.
And finally, the Yomiuri Shimbun notes that Venezuela will feature in the 2012 Kirin Challenge Cup, replacing Iran in the round-robin competition. The 2011 Copa América semi-finalists will face Japan on 15 August, the Samurai Blue subsequently meeting Spain on 7 September before taking on Iraq in their 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualification – AFC 4th Round match four days later.