Adelaide United clinches top spot

Adelaide United FC will host a knockout Round of 16 encounter after confirming first place in Group E with a 2-0 win over Gamba Osaka in Japan tonight.

Adelaide United FC will host a knockout Round of 16 encounter after confirming first place in Group E with a 2-0 win over Gamba Osaka in Japan tonight.

The Reds made sure there was no chance they could be dislodged from top spot and have set up a date with Nagoya Grampus at Hindmarsh Stadium on May 29 as they withheld some persistent Gamba pressure before scoring two second half goals to seal all three points, the win meaning Bunyodkor will finish second after defeating Pohang 1-0 in the other Group E match.

Super sub Sergio van Dijk broke the deadlock five minutes after being introduced, before the second goal arrived in the 88th minute through an own goal credited to Akihiro Sato as Gamba failed to deal with a lethal Dario Vidosic corner.

The final whistle signalled a fourth win from six group matches for the Reds, while also giving them a fourth clean sheet with only two goals conceded in a group comprising of three of the most highly fancied clubs in Asia.

Now it is Adelaide United further making a name for itself as a force in Asian football having made it past the Group Stage on three out of four attempts, a record unmatched for an Australian club in the competition.

But while acknowledging the club-s achievement has brought a sense of satisfaction and delight to the squad, captain Eugene Galekovic, who has been part of the Reds- 2008 and 2010 ACL campaigns, declared the players are viewing it as just the first step in the journey.

“It-s massive. We know how big it is but when you think about it, it-s almost only just the start,” Galekovic said.

“Now we-ve got to worry about the Round of 16 and then hopefully the quarters, semis and the final, and I think we can do what we did in 2008.”

“I believed we could get through and I think a lot of the boys did. Obviously you get some of the outside people thinking how much we struggled in the A-League and that we would struggle in the ACL, but it happened last time as well. We believed we could do it and now we-ve done it.”

Iain Ramsay fired the first warning shot inside the opening minute to show the Reds meant business, the winger blasting a drive into the side netting.

With nine changes to the starting eleven from the one that took to the field against the Reds at Hindmarsh back in March, Gamba took time to settle, a number of early passes missing their mark on a slick, near perfect pitch.

Nigel Boogaard made a crucial block as Gamba-s Brazilian Rafinha was played through ominously into the penalty area before Fabian Barbiero forced a sharp save from Yosuke Fujigaya.

A couple of build ups from the home side around the edge of the penalty area threatened to break the Reds, but United was proving why they are the equal best defensive team in the competition.

Adelaide hearts were in mouths on 39 minutes when Gamba found an opening that Galekovic and then the Reds- defence just managed to deal with, Kiego Numata with another half chance for the hosts but again United-s defence scrambled well to leave it scoreless at the break.

Gamba heaped on the pressure in their best period of the match following the restart, Galekovic almost gifting them the first goal when his attempted clearance from a back pass found fresh air as he missed the ball completely but he managed to save his blushes.

The Reds were being made to sweat, a quality Barbiero tackle the only thing coming between another promising Gamba build up.

But on the hour mark the momentum of the game shifted as van Dijk replaced Barbiero and within five minutes the Dutch marksman was celebrating his first goal of the campaign as he met a Mullen cross at the near post and side footed the ball past Fujigaya.

Van Dijk came close again with another on target header in the 75th minute that Fujigaya managed to get a glove to, Sato then narrowly missing at the other end for Gamba as his header landed on the roof of the net.

Gamba were then nearly caught napping when Evan Kostopoulos beat the offside trap within a minute of coming on, the youngster-s eventual shot saved with van Dijk-s measured curling effort on the follow up cleared off the line.

Then with two minutes left the Reds had their two goal buffer thanks to a corner form Vidosic that proved near impossible to defend, United finally rewarded after being a constant threat from set pieces. Galekovic ensured a fourth clean sheet and it was mission complete for the Reds who are scheduled to arrive in Adelaide at 7.20am on Friday.

Match Details Gamba Osaka 0 Adelaide United FC 2 (van Dijk 65-, Sato 88- (og)) Referee: Nawaf Abdulla Ghayyath Shukrulla (Bahrain) Crowd: 7,294 @ Expo -70 Commemorative Stadium

Gamba Osaka line-up: 1.Yosuke FUJIGAYA (gk), 2.Sota NAKAZAWA (c), 5.Daiki NIWA, 8.Hayato SASAKI, 9.RAFINHA (20.Akihiro SATO 76-), 10.Takahiro FUTAGAWA, 25.Hiroyuki ABE (19.Kotaro OMORI 66-), 27.Tatsuya UCHIDA, 33.Kiego NUMATA, 37.Lee SEUNG-YEOUL (24.Kenta HOSHIHARA 82-)

Substitutes not used: 4.Hiroki FUJIHARU, 6.Shigeru YOKOTANI, 13.Shinichi TERADA, 22.Yohei TAKEDA (gk) Yellow Cards: Nil Red Cards: Nil

Adelaide United line-up: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk) (c), 3.Nigel BOOGAARD, 4.Jon McKAIN (21.Francisco USUCAR 77-), 5.Daniel MULLEN, 6.CASSIO, 7.Zenon CARAVELLA, 10.Dario VIDOSIC, 11.Bruce DJITE, 17.Iain RAMSAY (23.Evan KOSTOPOULOS 85-), 18.Fabian BARBIERO (9.Sergio VAN DIJK 60-), 22.Iain FYFE

Substitutes not used: 12.Antony GOLEC, 20.Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk) Yellow Cards: Djite 80- Red Cards: Nil