Kawasaki Frontale’s coronation as 2020 J.League 1 champions was further delayed on Sunday as 2nd placed Gamba Osaka kept their mathematically slim title hopes alive by beating Urawa Red Diamonds 2-1 at the Saitama Stadium 2002 in their Matchweek 28 encounter. The three points meant that Gamba are now 14 points behind Kawasaki and with the two teams having five matches left to play for until the end of the season, this sets up an exciting showdown on Matchweek 29 as Gamba will lock horns with Kawasaki at the Todoroki Athletics Stadium on Wednesday.
Oita Trinita had done Gamba a huge favor in their Matchweek 28 game by beating league leaders Kawasaki 1-0 on Saturday, which provides the only J1 team mathematically capable of catching up to Kawasaki a shot at keeping their realistically slim title hopes alive. Traveling to Saitama on Sunday, Gamba would have to plunder a win at Urawa to keep their heads in the title race and despite going behind first, the men from Suita did their job and eke out three valuable points off Tsuyoshi Otsuki’s men.
After a goalless first half, Gamba were dealt a severe dent in their quest for victory after Tomoaki Makino had given the hosts a 62nd minute lead. Urawa’s Ryosuke Yamanaka found Australian teammate Thomas Deng inside the Gamba area, who then sets up Makino with a headed pass. The 33-year old defender made no mistake with the chance presented to him and he tapped the ball in past Gamba custodian Masaaki Higashiguchi.
However, four minutes after Urawa had taken the lead, Makino turned from hero to villain for Urawa as he let Takashi Usami slot the ball between his legs and into the bottom corner of Shusaku Nishikawa’s goal for the equalizer.
24-year old defender Ryu Takao then headed in the winner for Gamba in the 81st minute, taking advantage of a corner to score his first ever J1 goal.
The hard-fought 2-1 victory would surely motivate Gamba as they set out to navigate a tricky midweek tie on Wednesday, taking on league leaders Kawasaki at the Todoroki in their Matchweek 29 clash. A win for Gamba would prolong the title race slightly longer, however a Kawasaki victory would seal Toru Oniki’s men’s third J1 title in front of their faithful supporters.