(Pohang Steelers’ Kim Jin-Yong scores in first half stoppage time to give his side a 1-0 lead in their AFC Champions League Group E Matchday Five tie against Gamba Osaka. The Steelers would go on to win 2-0, a result which dumped Gamba out of the tournament)
Gamba Osaka crashed out of the AFC Champions League as they were defeated 2-0 at the Pohang Steel Yard, in a tie they needed to win if they were to maintain any hope of qualifying for the latter stages of this year’s competition. Three points in five matches for Masanobu Matsunami’s men is a sorry return for the 2008 champions, and they now face a dead rubber on 16 May against group leaders Adelaide United in which to salvage some pride.
Regular Gamba Osaka goalkeeper Yusuke Fujigawa was named only to the bench following his abject performance in the heavy defeat to Kashima Antlers at the weekend, and Atsushi Kimura proved a more than capable replacement, producing two outstanding saves to keep this fixture scoreless until first half stoppage time. Superb reactions prevented Derek Asamoah from finding the net after he had struck a fierce volley destined for the left corner from twelve yards, and when the official had awarded the home side a penalty in judging Yasuyuki Konno to have felled Asamoah in the 18-yard box, he repelled Zoran Rendulic’s spot-kick. It was Kimura’s misfortune that another fine stop didn’t prevent the Steelers taking a 1-0 lead into the interval. A lovely piece of improvisation from Lee Myung-Joo saw him flick the ball over Tomokazu Myojin, before striking a left-footed volley which the reserve Gamba goalkeeper stopped smartly. However, his parry only took the ball to the edge of the six yard area, and Kim Jin-Ryong reacted first to slot home from close range.
Things could have been so different for the Suita side had Akihiro Sato’s chip not found the wrong side of the upright, the forward holding his head in his hands having beaten Steelers’ goalkeeper Shin Hwa-Yong from 20 yards but seeing the ball bounce off the post for a goal kick. A thunderous 78th strike from Asamoah, who had seen a long-distance effort well-saved by Kimura earlier in the second period, ended the tie and Gamba’s involvement in the competition, and in languishing in sixteenth place in the J.League, their main hope of qualification for the 2013 tournament would appear to rest in clinching the Emperor’s Cup.
Kim Jin-Yong 45’+1