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J-League: Hwang earns relegation-threatened Gamba 3 points

Gamba Osaka players acknowledge supporters after they beat Shimizu S-Pulse in a J-League soccer match in Shizuoka on Sept. 21, 2018. (Kyodo)

SHIZUOKA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Hwang Ui Jo was credited with one goal and caused another to pull Gamba, at least temporarily, out of the relegation zone with a 2-1 away win over Shimizu S-Pulse in the J-League first division on Friday.

What looked like Hwang's 11th goal of the season, was instead ruled a first-minute own goal. The South Korean striker, however, put his name on the scoresheet 25 minutes later.

The best S-Pulse could manage in response was a beautiful Koya Kitagawa strike at IAI Stadium that halved the visitors' lead.

The goal could have been Kitagawa's second of the game and an equalizer, had two of his teammates well away from the ball not been flagged for offside 15 minutes earlier.

The three points pushed Gamba to 14th in the league on 30 points. But with the next three teams all on 29 points and poised to play Saturday, Gamba could easily find themselves sinking back to 16th.

Just 27 seconds into the game, a perfect through pass from Kazuma Watanabe sprung Kosuke Onose into space down the right touch line. He crossed to Hwang, whose shot hit the bar but came down with back spin that sent it sailing toward the goal. With the ball inches from the net, an S-Pulse defender tried to clear it but only managed to drive it home.

Hwang doubled Gamba's lead as the culmination of some dominant movement on the ball by midfielder Shu Kurata. Dribbling through traffic from the left touch line into the penalty area, Kurata crossed to Onose in front of the goal. Onose got the slightest of touches with a back heel, deflecting the ball straight to the unmarked Hwang.

Moving away from the goal, Hwang planted his right foot, swung his body around and delivered a roundhouse kick that sent the ball thundering home.

Kitagawa pulled one back for S-Pulse in the 76th minute, sprinting forward as a ball off Douglas' head came to him 40 meters from goal. Kitagawa charged forward, and with a defender on each side smashed home just after entering the penalty area.

Keeper Masaaki Higashiguchi came out halfway and was well poised to block the shot, but Kitagawa struck it so hard that Higashiguchi could do nothing but watch the ball rocket past him.

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