#AFCChampionsLeague2017 preview for Hyundai A-League clubs

Adelaide United's Kim Jae-sun, Wanderers' Terry Antonis and Brisbane Roar's Brandon Borrello.

Monday, 24 April 2017

John Duerden @JohnnyDuerden
The ACL returns this week. How will Roar do in Thailand ahead of Sunday’s blockbuster with Victory in Melbourne? The revitalised Reds and Wanderers are also in action.

Muangthong United vs Brisbane Roar (Wed night)

If there were those in Korea Republic, Japan and Australia who underestimated the Thailand Premier League champions when the draw was made, they are doing so no longer.

With four games of the six down and two to go, Muangthong is top of the group with eight points. A win at their compact stadium will secure a place in the last 16 and even a draw could be enough.

“We know what we have to do,” said Muangthong head coach Totchawan Sripan at the weekend. “We also know that the game will be very difficult and that Brisbane is a good team.”

The Kirins have plenty of talent with a number of stars who play for the Thailand national team. Chanathip Songkrasin gave the Caltex Socceroos some major headaches in Bangkok in November as two nations played out a 2-2 draw in qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Brisbane Roar and Muangthong United played out a 0-0 draw at Brisbane Stadium on Tuesday night.

The diminutive playmaker is off to Japan soon and helping Muangthong to the knockout stage would be a welcome parting gift. There is also sharpshooter Teerasil Dangda and two of the best full-backs in Asia in Tristan Do and Theerathon Bunmathan, who scored a spectacular free-kick on Saturday.

One plus for Brisbane is that influential midfielder Sarach Yooyen is injured and will not play.

That has not been a problem domestically as the champion has won eight and drawn one of the ten games so far, the latest being a slightly disappointing 1-1 draw at Ratchaburi.

The one defeat was inflicted by Buriram United where Muangthong, accustomed to dictating proceedings, were in the unusual position of being put on the backfoot and struggled.

That could provide some encouragement for an experimental Brisbane who have one eye on Sunday’s blockbuster semi final with Victory, and a trip to Thailand these days is a tough ask.

Just ask the national team.

Urawa Reds vs Western Sydney Wanderers (Wed night)

Six points behind with just two games remaining, Western Sydney Wanderers need nothing less than a win but it is not going to be easy. Far from it.

Urawa needs just a draw to be certain of a place in the knockout stage but head coach Mihailo Petrovic said Saturday that he is targeting a win.

The Reds have reason to be confident. There can’t be a tougher assignment in Asia this week than Wanderers’ trip to Saitama Stadium just north of Tokyo.

Urawa is back to the kind of best that took the team to the top of Japanese football in 2006 and a continental title the following year.

The Wanderers' Kearyn Baccus flies high for a header against Urawa on Tuesday night.

Incredibly, neither feat has been repeated but this year could be the one. The Reds are top of the J.League and is on course to win the title that many think it deserved in 2016.

A 3-2 win on Saturday over Consadole Sapporo in front of 37,000 fans was the fifth successive win in all competitions.

In Asia, Urawa has nine points from four games, recovering from the 3-2 loss at Shanghai SIPG on Matchday 3 to defeat the cash rich Chinese club at home last time around.

Yet Urawa, who let a ten point lead at the top of the 2007 J. League slip with five games remaining, will know that it is not over until it is over.

At the very least for the 2014 continental champion, there is the 4-0 home loss in the opening game in February to avenge for coach Tony Popovic and his men.

Not to mention banishing the bitter disappointment last Friday night in Brisbane, when their domestic season ended in heart-breaking circumstances.

Gamba Osaka vs Adelaide United (Tue night)

If the other two games feature Hyundai A-League teams that are at the bottom of their groups travelling to the home of the leaders, this Group H clash is different.

Adelaide looked down and out with just a few minutes remaining in Matchday 3.

A loss at home to Jeju United would have almost certainly spelled the end of their hopes. Yet the Reds fought back to a 3-3 draw and then went to Korea Republic to defeat the islanders on their own soil.

The victory put the team second, level on points with Jeju and one ahead of Gamba. Should Adelaide win in Japan and Jeju lose in China at the already-qualified Jiangsu Suning then the Australians  are through.

Adelaide United and Gamba Osaka players ahead of kick-off in their ACL opener on Wednesday night.

It won’t be easy. Gamba Osaka famously defeated United in the final of the 2008 tournament and after winning 3-0 at the Hindmarsh Stadium in the opening game,will be confident.

More so after a 6-0 thrashing of Omiya Ardija on Friday – giving the hosts an extra rest day – put the Kansai club up into second.

What was impressive was how all six goals came from different players.

Yet Adelaide can’t be written off. With the ACL their only remaining competition to play for, they’ll be refreshed and ready as they finished their domestic season on April 15 after missing out on the Finals Series.

Gamba has lost both home games so far in the group, most notably a 4-1 loss to Jeju and the Reds can have hope of staying in the hunt for the last 16 and also a little revenge for 2008.

Source : Football Federation Australia

Gamba Osaka 3-3 Adelaide United #AFCChampionsLeague2017

Adelaide United players celebrate after Jordan O'Doherty's stunning goal against Gamba Osaka in the ACL on Tuesday night.

An injury-time goal from striker Baba Diawara has seen Adelaide United come away with a well-deserved 3-3 draw against Gamba Osaka in a pulsating AFC Champions League Group H clash on Tuesday night.

Trailing 3-2 in the dying moments, Diawara produced an excellent header to salvage a point for the Reds, a result which could prove decisive in their hopes of making the ACL knockout stage.

It was an incredible fightback from Gui Amor’s side who – without suspended trio Dylan McGowan, Taylor Regan and Riley McGree – made a shocking start in Japan.

They conceded twice inside the opening 12 minutes via Shun Nagasawa’s header and a long-range bullet from Ritsu Doan.

Bu the Reds came storming back and got a lifeline just before the break as Sergio Cirio halved the deficit, before it was all square less than 10 minutes into the second half with youngster Jordan O’Doherty’s fabulous strike from distance scorching into the top corner.

Adelaide then had a let-off as Yasuhito Endo missed a penalty for the home side but an unfortunate own goal from Reds defender Michael Marrone 13 minutes from looked like it would be decisive.

But Diawara had the final say at the death, ensuring the Reds are still alive heading into the final group match at home against runaway Group H leaders Jiangsu Suning on Tuesday, May 9.

 

GOALS

1-0 Gamba Osaka: Shun Nagasawa 6’

From a corner, Yasuhito Endo’s pinpoint delivery picked out the run of Nagasawa at the near post, getting to the ball just before keeper Eugene Galekovic to glance his header into the net.

Gamba Osaka players celebrate a goal  in their win over Adelaide United in the ACL on Tuesday night.

2-0 Gamba Osaka: Ritsu Doan 12’

There appeared little threat as Doan had the ball more than 25 metres from goal to the right of the Adelaide box. But he unleashed a bullet shot that dipped and caught out Galekovic at his near post. A howitzer!

2-1 Adelaide United: Sergio Cirio 43’

Baba Diawara capitalised on a defensive slip to drive into the box before cutting the ball back to Cirio 10 yards from goal, with the Spaniard finishing clinically into the far corner.

2-2 Adelaide United: Jordan O’Doherty 54’

Diawara was again involved, picking up the ball just outside the box before laying it into the path of O’Doherty. And the youngster did the rest, hitting a wicked swerving shot into the top corner.

Adelaide youngster Jordan O'Doherty doing his best to keep the ball in the Reds' ACL clash with Gamba Osaka on Tuesday night.

3-2 Gamba Osaka: Michael Marrone (og) 77’

Oh Jae-Suk went on a marauding run down the right flank before crossing to the near post, where the ball was missed by Nagasawa only for Marrone to divert the ball in off his leg.

KEY MOMENT

Just moments after the Reds equalised, the home side had a great chance to go back in front when they were awarded a penalty after Ben Garuccio’s foul on Oh Jae-Suk. But Endo blazed his spot-kick high over the bar to let Adelaide off the hook.

Re-live all the action on Twitter

@AdelaideUnited , @TheAFCCL , #GAMvADE #ACL2017

 

Source : Football Federation Australia

#AsianChampionsLeague2016 – Gamba Osaka 1 x 1 Melbourne Victory

Melbourne Victory have maintained their unbeaten start to the 2016 AFC Champions League, with goalkeeper Danny Vukovic standing tall in a 1-1 draw away to Gamba Osaka.

Kevin Muscat’s men took the lead in the third minute in fortuitous circumstances, with Gamba winger Shu Kurata scoring an own goal but the J-League club eventually earned a share of the points thanks to Yasuhito Endo’s second-half header.

But it was Vukovic, who played the most decisive role in Victory’s draw, with the gloveman making three brilliant stops after half-time, including a point-blank save to deny Patric with a minute remaining at Suita City Football Stadium.

Victory hit the front via the first corner of the match with Nick Ansell’s initial header knocked into the net by Kurata, who knew little about it.

The goal gave the visitors momentum with a number of chances falling their way as Gamba struggled to get going.

But Victory couldn’t manage a second goal and the hosts responded after the break, initially forcing Danny Vukovic into two brilliant saves before Endo equalised in the 57th minute.

Vukovic’s first stop was an acrobatic tip onto the crossbar from Patric’s thunderous shot, while his second led to the corner that Endo scored from, Victory’s custodian denying Takashi Usami from close range.

Gamba were suddenly on top and Victory had to hang on in defence, with Oliver Bozanic coming off just after the hour mark, seemingly due to the after-effects of a first-half knock to the head.

The match evened out again in the final 15 minutes, although Gamba had more genuine opportunities including Patric’s late effort, and Muscat would have been thrilled to hang on for a point to keep Victory top of Group G after two games.

Football Federation Australia

#AsianChampionsLeague2016 preview: Gamba Osaka v Melbourne Victory

Gamba Osaka danger man Takashi Usami and Victory star Besart Berisha.

With a key defensive injury and two attacking stars rested in the J-League over the weekend, what can Victory expect from Gamba Osaka? Asian football expert @JohnnyDuerden has the inside word.

Following Saturday’s thrilling Big Blue, reigning Hyundai A-League champions Melbourne Victory hit the road to play Gamba Osaka.

 

After their impressive 2-1 win over Shanghai SIPG in matchday 1 last week, can the Big V back it up in Japan on Wednesday night?

Well, like Victory, Gamba Osaka are of the most successful teams in recent years.

The first title came in 2005 and then came the AFC Champions League in 2008 and that dismantling of Adelaide United in the final.

There has been something of a roller-coaster of late. From 2004 to 2011, the team finished outside the top three just once but then in 2012, out of nowhere, came relegation.

Not to worry, the Kansai club won the J2, and then, in its first season back in the big time came a second league title.

2014 brought a runners-up spot and a playoff final defeat at the hands of Sanfrecce Hiroshima, probably the right result as over the season as a whole as Hiroshima were the standout team.

There is still much to like about Gamba. Kenta Hasegawa was the long-term coach of Shimizu S-Pulse and came to Gamba in 2013.

Watch Out For

Takashi Usami. Perhaps the most exciting player in Japan, the 23 year-old attacker has been top-class since returning from Germany in 2013 (his move to Bayern Munich in 2011 was too much, too soon) and has not stopped scoring.

He can play in the middle, on either side or behind the striker, but is likely to start on the left side of the three players who line up behind Patric though is liable to drift inside.

Fast, direct with excellent close control, Usami is a real handful though has still yet to show his best for the national team.

Gamba’s strengths and weaknesses

In Patric, Gamba have a forward of power to add some steel to the silky style of recent years and with the Brazilian and Usami, there is a real twin goal-scoring threat.

Gamba can keep the ball well, counter-attack very well and have two full-backs that like to get forward and are capable of getting behind defences.

There are issues defensively, even with Niwa the defence could struggle against powerful opponents and now he is out, Gamba are looking a little vulnerable.

And in the absence of Endo, there looks to be a lack of leadership on the pitch.

If and when things start to go wrong, who will step up and take control?

Hasegawa looks set to establish a dynasty to rival the ten-year reign of the popular Akira Nishina who led the team from 2002 to 2012 and turned it into a powerhouse.

Hasegawa ran out of ideas at the end of the long spell at Shimizu but has brought almost constant success to the club as he starts his fourth season.

Promotion in 2013; the title in 2014; second in 2015 and a successive Emperor’s Cup and a semi-final spot in the AFC Champions League.

The former international still follows the traditional Gamba pass and move groove that was as its peak in 2008, but there is more of a willingness to mix it up now.

Compared to the Gamba of the past, this is a team that can go route one when necessary and did so against Suwon Bluewings in the opening match last week.

In that match, Gamba were delighted and a little lucky to escape the Korea Republic with a 0-0 draw.

The coach made no apologies for playing more defensively. The formation is 4-2-3-1 but there are times when it is attack-minded and times when the emphasis shifts towards defence.

The formation is the same but often ‘defensive Gamba’ take the pitch, and sometimes it is the ‘offensive’ version.

At the weekend, Gamba kicked off the league season with a 1-0 loss at home to Kashima Antlers in their brand new stadium.

Worryingly for Victory, the two star attackers Patric and Takashi Usami were rested which suggests that Gamba are going to be aggressive.

Midfield legend Yasuhito Endo did start and at the age of 36, that means that he is likely to start on the bench.

The coach said last week that the 2008 winner can’t play at weekends and midweek.

In Patric’s absence, new signing Ademilson started and while he wasn’t so effective in terms of goals, the Brazilian did help three Kashima players pick up yellow cards.

Something for Kevin Muscat to think about.

There is a problem, however. Against Kashima, centre-back Daiki Niwa broke his collerbone.

This takes the team’s main physical presence out of the backline. Yasuyuki Konno moved back from midfield to fill the gap but if Endo does not start, taking another veteran out of the middle may be risky for the coach.

This may force a more cautious approach than would otherwise have been the case.

Football Federation Australia