ADELAIDE, Australia (AFP) - It's back to the J-League for Gamba Osaka as they attempt to return to next season's AFC Champions League after their emphatic trophy victory over Adelaide United in this year's final.
Gamba demonstrated the gulf in class and skill levels between the J-League and Australia's fledgling A-League with a commanding 2-0 win here in Wednesday's return leg for an overwhelming 5-0 aggregate triumph.
It was Japan's second consecutive win as Asian club champions following Urawa Reds' 3-1 aggregate victory over Iran's Sepahan last year.
While Gamba Osaka are the toast of Japanese football they have a tussle on their hands to appear again in next year's revamped ACL where the competition will be expanded from a current 28 to 32 teams.
Depending on the strength of each participating country's domestic league it will decide their number of teams in next year's Champions's League.
But Japan, which meets all the Asian Football Confederation's criteria, will have a maximum of four teams in the competition, including staging a new one-off final, rather than the current two-leg final.
That's where Gamba Osaka's task of back-to-back AFC Champions League titles becomes problematical as they are currently in seventh spot and seven points behind J-League leaders Kashima Antlers.
"At this stage Gamba has not qualified for next year so we are going back to the J-League and it will be a hard challenge for us to get through," Gamba coach Akira Nishino said Thursday.
Gamba showcased all their attacking flair in destroying the Adelaide Reds on their home ground before a sellout crowd and effectively killed off the deciding tie and Adelaide's remote chances with two killer goals from Brazilian striker Lucas in the first 15 minutes.
"For Gamba and myself this is the second time we have played in the ACL and we were always thinking about doing better than in the previous tournament," Nishino added.
Gamba bombed out in the group stages of the 2006 tournament and it was a sense of pride for Nishino that his team won in such grand style.
"We won all of our away matches rivals as Urawa Reds did last year, although I'm not sure Urawa would see us as rivals," he said.
"I wanted to win after what Reds did but I wanted to do it with a different style. We won all our away matches and that showed we are in good shape."
Adelaide may get another chance to test themselves against Gamba in next month's FIFA Club World Cup in Japan where, under the tournament format, Adelaide, who benefited from hosts Japan being only allowed to have one team, qualified as the ACL runners-up.
Adelaide are in line to play Gamba on December 14 if they can overcome Oceania's representative, New Zealand's Waitekere United, in the first round in Tokyo on December 11.
Coach Aurelio Vidmar describes the prospect of playing Gamba again as "exciting but frightening" given the comprehensive manner of their defeat in the ACL final.
"There's a mini-gulf absolutely - technically, physically, tactically, everything," Vidmar conceded.
Reds skipper Travis Dodd admitted there appeared a class gulf between the A-League and J-League based on Gamba's performance.
"It seemed like they had 15 players out there," Dodd said.
"They found space, their movement off the ball was unbelievable and they're easily the best team we've played in this competition."
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