Thrilling Finish As Manchester United Beat Gamba Osaka

Manchester United will provide the opposition for Ecuador’s Liga de Quita for Sunday’s Club World Cup final after comfortably dismissing the threat of Asian Champions, Gamba Osaka, in a thrilling match.

Gamba Osaka 3-5 Manchester United
Two simple goals from corner kicks provided the platform for Manchester United to record a routine victory over Gamba Osaka in the semi-final of the Club World Cup in Yokohama. Ryan Giggs was the taker of each kick, setting Nemanja Vidic up for the opening goal midway through the first half and Cristiano Ronaldo on the stroke of half time for the second.

Much of the game after the break was played as a dead rubber but the final 15 minutes was simply superb. Masato Yamazati sparked a flurry of goals before a Wayne Rooney brace was sandwiched by a Darren Fletcher header. The character in the Japanese side was there for all to see as they fought back through a Yasuhito Endo penalty and a Hideo Hashimoto thunderbolt.

With the backdrop of a incessant chanting and a constant drum beat, the Japanese side, largely considered to be the lambs to the slaughter, showed some offensive teeth. Michihiro Yasuda danced impressively down the left before shooting over the bar from the corner of the box.

The English side would be exposed down their right only a few minutes later and were lucky that the centre did not drop to the unmarked Lucas. Instead, the strong Brazilian had to retrieve the ball

When Manchester United did attack, it was Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo that inevitably attracted the ball. A tame effort after five minutes, which was saved by Yosuke Fujigawa easily, proved an appetiser as the home fans were delighted with the Portuguese star’s quick feet and willingness to display his flair.

Somewhat ironically, it was a weak Ronaldo free-kick that would lead to the best early chance of the match. Fujigawa fielded the 23 year-old’s weak knuckling free-kick before releasing a quick throw forward. Yamazaki released Rayuji Bando, who showed expert control to pull down the accurate pass but could not force the ball past Van der Sar, who was swiftly from his line to make life tough for the striker.

Prematch talk had suggested that the Japanese side might be a little vulnerable defensively. Certainly, Gamba did not look particularly organised but their wholehearted approach was enough to keep United temporarily at bay.

Ronaldo was still firmly to the fore, running across the face of the box while evading three challenges only to bend his shot narrowly wide of goal. A surging run and cross down the left then nearly set-up a chance for Giggs, whose path to goal was swiftly blocked.

It would by characteristic play from Ronaldo that would, ultimately, break the Japanese resistance. Floating from right to left and back again, the Portuguese superstar popped up to test right-back Akira Kaji again. Cutting inside, only a block by Sota Nakazawa would deny Ronaldo the opening goal.

But this merely delayed the opening goal by a few moments. Ryan Giggs’ corner was dealt with in an uncertain manner by the Japanese defence, allowing Nemanja Vidic to rise and direct a textbook header into the net.

More teasing play down the right from ‘you-know-who’ should have resulted in a second Manchester United goal but Anderson could not make proper contact with his header despite being totally unmarked just six yards from goal.  

Throughout all these United attacks, Gamba were still controlling their share of possession and territory, however, they were finding chances difficult to come by. Sir Alex Ferguson had pinpointed Yasuhita Endo as the main threat to his side yet the playmaker’s first half was summed up by a corner kick straight into the side netting.

Slack play from Ferdinand then presented possession to Bando but, from the edge of the box, the hit-man’s shot rose narrowly over the bar.

If Gamba’s offensive play was impressive, their defence was simply treading water. The side’s attacking principles was leaving their back four exposed, however, there can be few excuses as they conceded a second goal from a corner kick on the stroke of half time as Ronaldo leapt imperiously to thump a header from Giggs’ corner low into the net with the last serious touch of the half.

After withstanding a number of dangerous looking United attacks in the early stages of the second half, Gamba would have their first really serious sustained spell of pressure but could not muster a shot that forced Van der Sar into action as Bando’s shot was well stifled by a wall of red.

The first half had seen a steady flow of chances, however, the second would not be so incident packed. Gamba still probed for a breakthrough, nearly hauling themselves into the match as Endo showed his promised class was a dangerous free-kick that was well repelled by the lanky Dutchman in the United goal. Bando did well to get a shot in as he picked up the rebound but the lively striker lifted his effort narrowly over.

Largely content to contain their opponents throughout the second half, a lack of concentration allowed Gamba into the game. Gary Neville switched off as a Gamba move flowed down the right side, failing to track Masato Yamazati, who shot into the corner of the net.

Hope was short lived as substitute Darren Fletcher’s direct ball to Wayne Rooney was missed by the Japanese defence. From inside the box with just the goalkeeper to beat, the England forward was never likely to miss, tucking the ball into the corner of the net.

From nowhere the game was now a lively spectacle of attacking football. Fletcher would shoot over for United before Endo’s thumping drive was palmed skywards by Van der Sar before the ball was wrestled round the post by Neville, who made up for his earlier aberration impressively under pressure.

Manchester United broke up the field to add a fourth goal as Fletcher fed the ball out to the left, where Patrice Evra exchanged passes with Nani before centring for the unmarked Scottish international to head home.

Worse was to follow for the Japanese side as sharp passing from the Red Devils unhinged an increasingly tired Gamba defence. Rooney was again left with great freedom in front of Fujigawa and was again deadly with his finishing.

Goals were flowing freely and, with Gamba pushing flagrantly forward, it was little surprise that the Japanese side scored again. Gary Neville was harshly adjudged to to have handled the ball in the box and Yasuhito Endo, from 12 yards, finished with great confidence.

There was to be more joy for the guests as a sweeping late move saw defensive midfielder Hideo Hashimoto released on the right side of the penalty box. Having steadied himself, the unlikely scorer composed himself before mustering a thumping finish.

It really was a quite incredible conclusion to an otherwise mundane game. Both sides deserve great credit for making this such a wonderful spectacle, with Gamba’s insistence on attacking football particularly refreshing. Nevertheless, it is Manchester United that will progress to the final of the competition as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have taken another step towards becoming world champions.

GAMBA OSAKA 3-5 MANCHESTER UNITED


0-1 28’ Nemanja Vidic
0-2 45’ Cristiano Ronaldo
1-2 74’ Masato Yamazati
1-3 75’ Wayne Rooney
1-4 78’ Darren Fletcher
1-5 79’ Wayne Rooney
2-5 85’ Yasuhito Endo (penalty)
3-5 90’ Hideo Hashimoto

Gamba Osaka:
Fujigawa; Kaji, Nakazawa, Yamaguchi, Yasuda; Endo, Yamazaki, Hashimoto, Myojin; Bando (Terada, 85’), Lucas

Yellow Cards:
Yamaguchi 90’

Man Utd:
Van der Sar; Neville, Evra, Ferdinand, Vidic (Evans, 70’); Anderson, Scholes (Fletcher, 68’); Giggs, Nani, Ronaldo; Tevez (Rooney 74’)

Yellow Cards: Rooney 82’

Robin Bairner, Goal.com