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Dec 3, 2005

Gamba Osaka win dramatic first J-League title

TOKYO, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Gamba Osaka won 4-2 at Kawasaki Frontale on Saturday to become Japanese champions for the first time as city rivals Cerezo suffered final day heartbreak.

Gamba began the day a point behind Cerezo Osaka but Cerezo were stunned by a last-minute equaliser in a 2-2 home draw with FC Tokyo.

Gamba finished the season with 60 points from 34 games with four teams on 59 in the closest title race since the J-League was launched in 1993.

'We lost three games in a row and didn't want the season to end like that,' said Gamba manager Akira Nishino. 'Credit to the players for how they battled. They showed tremendous spirit.'

An 80th-minute penalty from midfielder Yasuhito Endo and a late strike from Brazilian Araujo secured victory for Gamba, who also became the first team from western Japan to win the title.

Araujo's stoppage-time goal sparked wild celebrations among the away supporters with dozens spilling on to the running track behind the goal to mob the Gamba players.

'It's incredible,' said a tearful Gamba captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto, who headed Gamba's second goal. 'This is something I've wanted so badly...and it's something Gamba needed to take the club to the next level.'

Araujo's two goals on his return from suspension gave the prolific Brazilian 33 for the season -- 11 more than his closest challenger in the scoring charts, Tokyo Verdy's Washington.

Urawa Reds, Kashima Antlers, JEF United Chiba and Cerezo all finished a point behind Gamba in a dramatic run-in.

Cerezo's endured a cruel end to the season as midfielder Yasuyuki Konno snatched a 90th-minute equaliser for FC Tokyo to silence a crowd of 44,000 in Osaka.

The Reds won 4-0 at Albirex Niigata to finish runners-up on goal difference. Four-times champions Kashima finished in third after thrashing visiting Kashiwa Reysol by the same score.

JEF United secured a creditable fourth place thanks to a 2-1 home win over Nagoya Grampus Eight.