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Review: Gamba Osaka 1-2 Cerezo Osaka (J1 MD11)

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The 60th official games of the Osaka Derby. Both strikers Leo Ceara and Mutsuki Kato deliver results in a dramatic victory.

Cerezo Osaka challenged their 60th official match for the Osaka Derby. The starting lineup was the same 11 players as the previous section against Sanfrecce Hiroshima. To stop the consecutive defeats and aim only for 3 winning points to cling to the higher ranks, they entered the away stadium.

Tickets were sold out in advance, and under clear skies, the match was filled with the derby-like heat from before the match. At the beginning, Cerezo had a series of pass mistakes in their own half and invited the pinches. However, in the final scene, Riku Matsuda and Koji Toriumi used their bodies to block the shots. Showing tenacious defense, in the 10th and 14th minutes, Shinji Kagawa stole the ball at high positions and created chances.

Then, in the 28th minute, Cerezo succeeded in scoring the opener. Matej Jonic connected pass to Toriumi and Ryosuke Yamanaka, and Kagawa made a through of the diagonal pass which Yamanaka fed to the center from the left side. Hiroaki Okuno, who received the ball in the center, went past two opponents with a brilliant turn and provided a pass to the right side, and then it was Leo Ceara who reacted to Riku Matsuda’s highly accurate cross. He scored his fifth goal of the season with a splendid header and moved the game. The first half ended with a one-point lead as it was. Cerezo made the most of their one-chance and advanced the match strongly.

In the second half, Matsuda, who received a yellow card in the first half, was replaced due to “continuous matches and risk management” (Manager Akio Kogiku). Hikaru Nakahara entered the right wing, and Seiya Maikuma moved down to right side back. However, in the 56th minute, Gamba broke down Cerezo's right side where the players changed and they conceded a goal. From here, while they started to receive the attacks of Gamba who was gaining momentum, the commander decided to make an early change. In the 60th minute, Hirotaka Tameda was replaced by Satoki Uejo, and Leo Ceara and Riki Harakawa were done by Mutsuki Kato and Sota Kitano in the 68th minute. They changed the system to [4-4-2] to increase the press strength from the front and the accuracy of the counter. “We also expected that (Gamba) would attack even with losing their system balance. We changed to [4-4-2] in the intention of tenaciously covering the CB, stealing the ball and aiming for a counterattack with four speedy players”, said the commander after the game, and the players embodied that aim on the pitch.

Gamba took possession and pushed in for a while, but Cerezo defended with their body at the end, centering on both SBs and GK Kim Jin Hyeon, and then they also made a scene to make a counterattack from a good defense. In the 88th minute, Kim Jin Hyeon showed a good save in a scoring chance for Gamba, and immediately after that, a big chance came to Cerezo from the counter. Uejo dribbled and passed to Kitano. However, Kitano was not able to look forward and so unable to bring it to the shot.

In the closing stages of the match, the composition of the battle became clear, and it was Cerezo who scored the next goal that decided the match. In the 90th minute, after Yamanaka cleared a cross of Takashi Usami, he launched a long counter, and Uejo, Kagawa, and Kitano quickly connected passes and entered vertically. Kitano dribbled and passed to Yamanaka, who sprinted from behind with tremendous momentum. Yamanaka sent an accurate cross to the far side from a forward-facing trap, and Kato, who “had an eye contact (with Yamanaka). So I jumped in with the mind that definitely (a cross) comes to me”, headed and shook the goal net. At this moment, the visitor seats dyed in pink boiled up. The Cerezo bench was also united and was surrounded by loud cheers.

Right after that, Manager Kogiku replaced Kagawa with Ryosuke Shindo to close the game with a [5-4-1] system. Even so, in the last play, the tenacious Gamba created a decisive opportunity, but it was Kim Jin Hyeon who stood in the way. He blocked the shot that Issam Jebali threw from close range, with an amazing reaction. He prevented a tie goal in the last minute. Cerezo, who endured the CK immediately after, won a dramatic victory, and won the away Osaka Derby in the league match for the fourth time in a row. At the press area after the match, Kato said with a delighted expression, "I am happy that I was able to lead the team to victory. I think today's goal has been engraved in the history of the Osaka Derby, so I am really excited.” And “It was a victory that all of you Cerezo family, who made a wonderful environment, are delighted with. It was great to share the happiness of victory with everyone”, said Kim Jin Hyeon with a smile of relief. Making the best result of winning in the Osaka Derby at away stadium into the momentum, Cerezo welcomed Kashima Antlers at home in the next section.

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