Gamba Osaka are the new kings of Asia. It was always going to be difficult for Adelaide United to overturn a 3-0 deficit from the first leg in Japan, and after the Reds conceded two early goals, the tie was all but over.
Although Aurelio Vidmar's team put up a spirited fight in the second period, Gamba never looked in danger of losing the game, and maintained their fresh, attacking brand of football right up to the final whistle. As continental champions, they have now secured a place at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2008, alongside their already-qualified opponents.
"As a coach I'm very satisfied, it's something I have aimed for throughout the season," said Gamba's Akira Nishino. "The standard has been very high and I'm really very happy that we have won.
"For Gamba and myself this is the second time we have played in the Asian Champions League, and we were always thinking about doing better than before. But we honestly never thought about this result until we got through to the final."
United captain Travis Dodd paid homage to Gamba's success. "It seemed like they had 15 players out there," he gasped."."
Adelaide, without key defensive lynchpins Angelo Costanzo and Eugene Galekovic, had no option but to attack from the outset, and that they did, throwing men forward in search of an early goal. But it was at the other end that the scoring was opened on five minutes, when United's stand-in keeper Mark Birighitti fumbled a shot from Hayato Sasaki into the path of Gamba's Brazilian striker Lucas Severino, who pounced on the loose ball and put the Japanese visitors 4-0 ahead on aggregate.
Things got even worse for Adelaide ten minutes later, when a sublime pass from Takahiro Futagawa put Lucas in the clear once more. The Brazilian deftly evaded the advancing Birighitti and slotted home the second, to effectively put an end to Adelaide's Champions League dreams.
Cristiano looked to have given Adelaide the sniff of a comeback when he headed in a cross from the left on 27 minutes, but the linesman's flag denied the Brazilian. Gamba, meanwhile, had a number of chances to extend their lead before the break, but could not apply the finishing touch to any of their many sweeping moves.
In the second half, the home side rallied, driven on by their captain Travis Dodd, and came close to scoring on a number of occasions. But with Sota Nakazawa defiant at the back, Adelaide failed to breach the Gamba rearguard. The final whistle sounded to wild celebrations from the boys in blue.
Football Federation Australia CEO, Ben Buckley, nevertheless praised the Reds' achievement. "Even though Adelaide were beaten by Gamba Osaka, it's a fantastic achievement for a club from the A-League to get this far in just the second year of participating in the competition," he said.
The two sides will now prepare to compete against the world's elite next month. Gamba's formidable performance will have certainly given Japan 2008 favourites Liga de Quito and Manchester United food for thought.