Gamba claim Emperor's Cup
Gamba Osaka scored late in the second period of extra time to beat Kashiwa Reysol 1-0 in the Emperor's Cup final and secure a place in the AFC Champions League.
Substitute Ryuji Bando, who had only been on the pitch for a few minutes, was the hero, netting in the 116th minute after being neatly teed up in front of goal by Yasuhito Endo and Shu Kurata. The striker's shot hit defender Naoki Ishikawa, but Bando was quickest to react to stab the rebound into the net.
"My coach told me 'you could be the hero today' when he put me on, so I was thinking nothing but scoring a goal," Bando said. "Although I played only a short period of time, I was able to be the hero today."
It was Osaka's first Cup win since the inauguration of Japan's professional J-League.
Kashiwa had started the game aggressively with their Brazilian duo of Alex and Popo threatening the Gamba goal in the first 15 minutes. However, Gamba gained the initiative and kept a tight grip on the game, winning the battle for possession.
"I'm really happy, because we've had many tough games and my players were almost worn out," Gamba coach Akira Nishino said. "But we never gave up and tried to win the title. That resulted in the sole goal. We've played 61 official games this season. We've improved a lot through those tough games. Our team was very solid in the end."
Osaka, whose eighth-place finish in the J-League would have ruled them out of the Champions League next season, needed victory in the Emperor's Cup final to secure their berth in the competition, in which winners do not automatically earn the right to defend their title.
Nishino became the first coach here to have won four different titles -- the Champions League and the 2005 J-League titles as well as the J-League Cup twice in 1999 and 2007.