TOKYO (Reuters) – Gamba Osaka completed a stunning turnaround by winning the J-League title on Saturday following a drama-filled final round where they drew with already-relegated Tokushima Vortis.
Gamba, who were languishing in the relegation zone at the mid-season break, drew 0-0 at bottom club Vortis, opening the door for long-time leaders Urawa Red Diamonds.
Urawa failed to take advantage of the opportunity, however, slumping to a 2-1 home loss against Nagoya Grampus, despite taking an early lead, and gifting the title to Gamba.
Gamba finished the season with 63 points, one better than Urawa and three ahead of Kashima Antlers, who were also in with a chance of snatching the title on the final day but were beaten 1-0 at home by Sagan Tosu.
“I’m just glad we’re champions in the end,” Gamba manager Kenta Hasegawa was quoted as saying by Kyodo News. “It would’ve been better had we won today, though. It’s great we could win the league in our first year back from J2.”
Gamba’s second title following their 2005 success was the second leg of a possible treble, with the League Cup already secured and second tier Montedio Yamagata awaiting them in the final of the Emperor’s Cup next Saturday in Yokohama.
Such a feat seemed beyond comprehension when the J-League halted in May for the World Cup in Brazil, with newly promoted Gamba looking like they were heading back down.
However, the arrival of forward Patric made the difference in the second half of the campaign. The Brazilian scored nine goals as Gamba racked up 15 wins in 19 matches to haul themselves above the faltering Reds with one match to go.
Gamba, who went top last week on goal difference with a win over Vissel Kobe as the Reds conceded a late strike to draw at Tosu, were overwhelming favourites on the final day.