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Soccer: Gamba keep slim title hopes alive with comeback win at Urawa

Takashi Usami (2nd from R) of the Gamba Osaka on Nov. 22, 2020. (Kyodo)

SAITAMA (Kyodo) -- Gamba Osaka kept their slender hopes of a J-League first-division title alive Sunday after coming from behind to beat Urawa Reds 2-1.

    The only side with a mathematical chance of catching runaway leaders Kawasaki Frontale, Gamba needed a win to avoid bowing out of the title race.

    Their hopes hung by a thread when former Cologne defender Tomoaki Makino tapped home for the hosts in the 62nd minute at Saitama Stadium.

    But former Bayern Munich winger Takashi Usami leveled the scores four minutes later, and defender Ryu Takao headed home off a corner in the 81st minute to secure the three points.

    With five games remaining, Kawasaki are virtually assured of their third title since 2017. Toru Oniki's men are 14 points ahead of Gamba, who they will host on Wednesday.

    Kawasaki could have clinched the silverware with a win away to Oita Trinita on Saturday but were forced to put their celebrations on hold after the home side prevailed 1-0.

    The 24-year-old Takao, who joined Gamba at the start of last year, made his first-ever J1 goal a timely one.

    "I've always wanted to score from a corner so it was great. I hadn't had a goal or an assist and I'm glad to have got one in an important game like this," he said.

    "The title isn't decided yet so we'll stick together and do our best. Kawasaki are really strong and play good football but we'll look to win playing our football."

    Urawa striker Shinzo Koroki almost scored at the wrong end in the 40th minute, hitting the post with a miscued header while defending a corner kick.

    Reds midfielder Kazuki Nagasawa and Brazilian forward Leonardo both struck the woodwork early in the second half before Makino's opener.

    Ryosuke Yamanaka's long ball into the box found Australian defender Thomas Deng, who headed across goal to set up Makino.

    Usami equalized after picking up a loose ball inside the box and firing through the legs of Makino into the bottom corner.

    With time ticking away, Takao netted the winner moments after having a close-range effort denied by the feet of Urawa keeper Shusaku Nishikawa.

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