Hirai, Mota inspire victories
Shoki Hirai scored a hat-trick as Gamba Osaka recorded their first win of the season with a hard-fought 4-2 victory over ten-man Singapore Armed Forces in the AFC Champions League today.
The 22-year-old's clinical finish opened the scoring for the 2008 champions in the Group G encounter at Jalan Besar Stadium. Erwan Gunawan headed SAF level on 30 minutes after home goalkeeper Shahril Jantan had denied Hirai, Cho Jae-Jin and Takahiro Futagawa.
Gamba regained the lead just ten seconds after the restart as Cho beat Shahril to a cross, leaving Hirai with a simple tap-in. SAF again hit back as Swedish defender Niklas Sandberg headed home Ahmad Latiff's free-kick two minutes after the hour mark.
But Sota Nakazawa smashed home from point blank range for Gamba eight minutes later and, after Taisuke Akiyoshi was sent off for the visitors, Hirai sealed his hat-trick with nine minutes remaining. "During half-time, the players weren't nervous about the score being 1-1 because we knew we were controlling the game and playing well," said the Osaka team's coach Akira Nishino.
"The team system could have been improved and we could have passed the ball around more effectively, but we weren't nervous at all. We haven't had a good season. Now we will aim to keep winning and climbing up the table in the Champions League."
Elsewhere, Suwon Bluewings beat Henan Jianye 2-0 to stay top of the pool, two points clear of Gamba and five above their opponents.
Brazilian striker Jose Mota was the K-League side's hero, scoring both goals. He broke the deadlock just a minute after the break as he headed home Juninho Vendrechovski's free-kick, before sealing the three points around the hour mark following Li Weifeng's left-footed cross.