Gamba Osaka has qualified for the 2016 Asian Champions League and resuscitated their J-League title hopes with a 4-0 drubbing of relegated Montedio Yamagata.
Gamba will now meet Urawa Reds next Saturday to decide who will challenge Sanfrecce Hiroshima over two legs to decide the J-League Champions.
On the final day of the regular season FC Tokyo were in position to qualify for the finals series but a draw with Sagan Tosu meant Gamba swept into 3rd place via a 4-0 win, and superior goal difference. The ‘Gas Men’ had set the league ablaze in the first stage with the assistance of striker Yoshinori Muto, but his departure to Germany left a void that could not be filled.
FC Tokyo dominated all the stats on the final day but couldn’t find that precious goal. Once again Socceroo Nathan Burns was a spectator as the red and blue racked up eleven shots to five and ten corners to three.
On the other hand Gamba Osaka simply got the job done. Their first goal didn’t come easy, but once the goal was breached, the floodgates crashed open. Kotaro Omori picked up his brace in the 61st and 63rd minute. A minute later Shun Nagasawa secured victory with a header, in only his third appearance for the club. Finally, defender Koki Yonekura drove a nail into the relegated Yamagata coffin with a fourth goal in the 66th minute.
KASHIWA v NIIGATA
Meanwhile, in one of the many dead rubbers on final day, Kashiwa and Niigata played out a 1-1 draw. The northerners had come in large numbers to the nation’s capital and Ibusuki’s 81st minute equaliser was just reward for the fans and players alike.
Kashiwa had gone into cruise mode after an own goal had them ahead in the 24th minute. It was not until Ibusuki was shoved in the back and awarded a penalty that the ‘Sun Kings’ awoke from their slumber. They rallied late but there would be no winner. A result that summed up both teams’ seasons.
Despite the draw and 15th placed finish, Niigata manager Masaaki Yanigishita left the club on good terms. Fans shouted his name and cheered as he returned from the dressing rooms for a solo cheerio to the loyal Albirex Niigata fans. Few will forget his arrival and saviour of the club in 2012, when he steered the club clear of relegation on the final day.
The J-League will say goodbye to Shimizu S-Pulse this season. The J-League foundation club will be relegated to J2 for the first time in their history. After sacking Afshin Ghotbi last season, the team continued to use managers as scapegoats this year. Katsuki Oenoki was axed in August but there was no saving the Shizuokans.
Along with Shimzu S-Pulse, Matsumoto Yamaga and Montedio Yamagata will return to J2. The pair failed to cope with the standard of the Japanese top flight after promotion just this season. Though they struggled to keep pace with the playing standard, Matsumoto’s fans were a definite highlight and it their green army will no doubt be back in J1 soon.
At this moment in time it’s only Omiya Ardija who are assured of promotion from J2. Battling it out for the other automatic promotion place are Jubilo Iwata and Avispa Fukuoka. Scout out a live stream or online betting account to watch tomorrow’s action unfold.