Osaka storm past Johor and into AFC Champions League

Japanese outfit Gamba Osaka were far too much for Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim as two first goals and one second half-strike ensured they were the team who progressed to the group stages of the prestigious AFC Champions League.

With so much on the line, the match got off to a cagey start. Neither side was willing to risk conceding an early goal and so collective surges forward were non-existent.

It was Osaka who settled first, though. Twenty minutes in and their midfield trio of Shu Kurata, Yasuhito Endo and Ademilson assumed control of the ball in the centre of the park and began to really stretch the brave Johor defence.

One felt that the pressure was building and in a matter of minutes the dam wall broke.

First to get on the score sheet for Osaka was Ademilson in the 26th minute with a firm header. Moments later and it was Shun Nagasawawho who hammered the ball home with his deadly left foot.

Osaka were able to consolidate and took that 2-0 advantage into the break. After half-time, it was essential that Johor scored first and scored quickly.

However, that never happened. Instead, Osaka slowed the game down and got numbers behind the ball.

Brian Ferreira got poor service from an inefficient Johor midfield that was made up of S. Kunanlan, Safiq Rahim, Safawi Rasid and Gonzalo Cabrera. It was to be a frustrating day for Benjamin Mora’s men.

With 20 minutes remaining, the exciting talent that is Genta Miura all but secured Champions League status for Osaka as he found the back of the net with a well-directed header.

As the Suita City Football Stadium began to rock with jubilation, the players stuck to their task diligently in the closing moments of the game. Osaka were able to keep a clean sheet.

In the end, it was a difficult day for Johor but the better team won. The final score was 3-0 in favour of Osaka.

The result sees Osaka claim a spot in Group H of the AFC Champions League alongside Adelaide United of Australia, China’s Jiangsu Suning and Jeju United from the Korea Republic.

Johor, meanwhile, will play in Group F of the AFC Cup, where they will face Myanmar’s Magwe, Global FC from the Philippines and one of Boeung Ket Angkor of Cambodia or Lao Toyota.