(Yasuhito Endo’s 23rd minute cross flew over Hitoshi Sogahata and into the Kashima Antlers’ net, but the fortuitous nature of the strike shouldn’t undermine a performance in which his Gamba Osaka side came closest to adding to the number of goals scored, and reached the 92nd Emperor’s Cup final. Endo struck the bar later in the first period, while Akihiro Ienaga also went close with a flying volley as Sogahata’s handling deserted him. Yuya Osako found the woodwork with a thumping header for Antlers, but it is Gamba who will have the opportunity to qualify for the 2013 AFC Champions League, and provide the best possible case for Endo and fellow Samurai Blue Yasuyuki Konno to remain with the Suita side as they seek immediate promotion to J.League Division 1)
Matches played 29 December. Gamba Osaka and Kashiwa Reysol will meet in the 92nd Emperor’s Cup Final, to be played on 1 January 2013 at the National Olympic Stadium, kick-off 14:00 JST.