Slender win gives Gamba third
© Foto-net

A 29th minute goal from Masato Yamaguchi gave Gamba Osaka third place at the FIFA Club World Cup at the expense of CONCACAF champions Pachuca.

Rather than the match for third place being a game that both sides wanted to win, the early stages set the tone for a match which neither team wanted to lose. Backed by supporters who did not stop singing throughout the entire 90 minutes, Gamba enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges and won two free kicks in dangerous positions inside the opening 15 minutes.

The first came after 12 minutes when Yamazaki was brought down by Marco Perez on the edge of the box in a central position. Yasuhito Endo curled the ball around the wall but safely into the arms of Miguel Calero. Three minutes later, Osaka skipper Satoshi Yamaguchi shot straight into the wall from 20 yards.

Pachuca looked quick on the break, but rarely threatened. The closest they came was when Christian Gimenez flashed a shot across the face of goal with 20 minutes on the clock.

The deadlock was broken just before the half hour mark when Yamaguchi found Ryuji Bando who produced a delightful chip over the Pachuca defence and Yamazaki was on hand to slot home.

Osaka almost doubled their advantage four minutes later when the lively Lucas crossed into the box. Bando met the ball on the half-volley, but only the outstretched left boot of Calero denied the Asian champions their second of the afternoon. It was a fantastic piece of football from the Japanese side, but an even better save from the Colombian international.

The pace of the game stepped up a gear at the beginning of the second half, but the 62,619 fans had to wait a full 40 minutes for the only shot on goal. When it came, it was a tame one; substitute Luis Montes firing straight into the arms of Fujigaya as Osaka did a good job of frustrating their Mexican counterparts.

Enrique Meza and his side were left with their heads in their hands as profligate finishing ultimately led to their defeat. Gimenez hit a free kick over the bar, Montes scuffed a shot when well-placed and Paul Aguilar also went close.

But Osaka had chances too. Akira Kaji rose above the Pachuca defence to plant a header narrowly over and the defender went close again with a low shot. However, Tomakazu Myojin had the half's best chance, heading narrowly across the face of goal with Calero stranded.

Pachuca poured forward in the closing stages, but still struggled to create any real chances. Indeed, the only real incident was the regrettable sending off of substitute Takahiro Futugawa for a clumsy challenge on Aguilar.

That took some of the shine off a memorable victory for Gamba Osaka, whose side and supporters have been a source of entertainment at Japan 2008.