Gamba Osaka only lost one of their six AFC Champions League group stage matches, but that wasn’t enough to keep them in the competition. While the Blue and Black won two matches, drew three and lost one in the round to finish second in Group H, they were not one of the top-three second-place sides in the East Region, thus eliminating them from further contention.

The entirety of Group H was played behind closed doors in Tashkent, Uzbekistan due to the pandemic.

The competition started well for Gamba, who got goals from Patric and Leandro Pereira to beat Singapore’s Tampines Rovers. They followed that up with a 2-2 draw against last year’s Korean double winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. With four points from two matches, and a result against one of the top teams in the competition, Gamba were in good position.

Unfortunately for Gamba, draws against Thai side Chiangrai United followed, the first one which came when they conceded a 94th-minute equalizer. Those two draws put Gamba well behind Jeonbuk and despite an 8-1 win over Tampines Rovers on Matchday 5, the Korean side had already clinched the group.

Gamba could have advanced as a second-place finisher if they could get to 11 points and they entered the final matchday on nine, so a win over Jeonbuk would put them through to the knockout stages. Things began poorly, with Jeonbuk scoring a sixth-minute penalty, but Patric equalized in the 53rd minute. If Gamba could find a winner, they were moving on, but an 88th-minute goal by Jeonbuk ended the J.League side’s dream.

Gamba are now out of the tournament they won in 2008 and return to play in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE with a tall task on their hands, needing an immediate response to move up the table and reach the heights of continental qualification after a difficult start to the campaign.