Osaka and Adelaide make final

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: Gamba weren’t intimidated by the 60,000-strong crowd in Saitama, while in Tashkent, a defensive Adelaide United kept the home side quiet

AFP , SAITAMA, JAPAN

Fri, Oct 24, 2008 - Page 19

Gamba Osaka and Adelaide United charged into the AFC Champions League final on Wednesday with gritty performances, ensuring the trophy will have a new name written on it this year.

The Japanese side shattered the hopes of defending champions and fellow J-League outfit Urawa Reds in a pulsating 3-1 victory in Saitama for a 4-2 aggregate win.

It was a stunning come-from-behind triumph for Gamba who were down 1-0 at half-time before goals from Satoshi Yamaguchi, Tomokazu Myojin and Yasuhito Endo put them into their first ever final of Asia’s top club competition.

Awaiting them in the two-legged showpiece next month will be Adelaide, who traveled to Tashkent with a 3-0 first leg cushion and knuckled down with a solid defensive display to concede just one goal in a narrow defeat.

Substitute Bahodir Pardaev gave Kuruvchi a sliver of hope 12 minutes from time when he volleyed home but it was too little, too late for Zico’s men.

It marks the first time a club from Australia has made the final, with the enticing prospect of a place in the FIFA Club World Cup at stake for the winner.

Gamba’s achievement was all the more remarkable given they were playing in front of a vocal 60,000-strong crowd on Urawa’s home turf at the imposing Saitama Stadium after the first leg two weeks ago ended 1-1.

Former Eintracht Frankfurt striker Naohiro Takahara put Urawa one up in the 36th minute, pouncing on a rebound, and they went close again just before the break when he hit the bar.

But Gamba came out firing in the second half, with Endo lofting in a ball from the right to set up Yamaguchi who met it perfectly with his head to put Gamba level on 51 minutes.

The goal spurred them into life and Endo was again involved in their second with Tomokazu Myojin credited with what looked suspiciously like an own goal.

Endo put the game beyond doubt by adding a third 14 minutes before the final whistle.

Adelaide played deep in defense for much of their match, but they had few problems dealing with Kuruvchi’s attempts at reducing their three-goal buffer.

Despite home advantage, the Uzbekis were strangely muted for much of the opening half with their expensive Brazilian import Rivaldo largely anonymous.

Kuruvchi’s main avenue of attack was Jasur Hasanov on the left but he was well marshalled by Adelaide’s Robert Cornthwaite.

They came out for the second half with more purpose and midfielder Timur Kapadze forced goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic into a hurried save in the 54th minute.

Adelaide absorbed immense pressure late in the game with their goal under attack but they held their composure with just the one defensive lapse to win through to the biggest occasion in their history.

Gamba will have home advantage in the first leg of the final on Nov. 5 with the second leg in Adelaide on Nov. 12.