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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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