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Review: Nagoya Grampus 3-1 Cerezo Osaka (J1 MD16)

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Early Lead with Capixaba's First League Goal, but Succumb to Pressure and Concede Three Goals in Top Clash

Cerezo Osaka, facing Nagoya Grampus in the 16th round of the Meiji Yasuda Life J1 League, traveled to the opponent's turf. This direct clash against 3rd-placed Nagoya, with a 3-point difference, was a crucial match for 5th-placed Cerezo, with implications for their future. There was one change in the starting lineup from the previous match, with Capixaba replacing Jordy Croux and taking the right midfield position.

Cerezo took the initiative, moving the ball and finding their rhythm from the start. And in the 4th minute, they immediately took the lead. Hiroaki Okuno received a vertical pass from Shinji Kagawa and launched an attack down the right side. Capixaba's shot after cutting inside was blocked by the defender, but Ryosuke Yamanaka picked up the loose ball and took a shot. It also deflected off a defender, but Capixaba seized the opportunity, striking a powerful left-footed shot from a one-touch control. The league debut goal from jersey number 27, responding to the coach's decision to start him, created momentum. In the following 7th minute, they had another scoring chance. Leo Ceara initiated the play, and Hirotaka Tameda headed Yamanaka's cross, but it went over the crossbar. They continued to attack with a good rhythm, with combinations between Kagawa, Okuno, and a shot from Leo Ceara at a difficult angle in the 17th minute. However, Nagoya's pressing gradually intensified, and Cerezo found themselves increasingly pressured and pushed back.

Then, in the 21st minute, Nagoya connected with a direct play, exploiting the space behind Cerezo's left side and conceded a goal. This was the first goal Cerezo had conceded since the 12th round against Kashima Antlers, having kept clean sheets in their previous three matches. They were quickly overwhelmed by Nagoya's momentum, and in the 31st minute, they conceded again from a near-post corner kick. Taking advantage of the nervousness caused by the referee's decision just moments before, the entire team showed a vulnerability. Within a short span of time, they allowed a third goal in the 43rd minute, as Mateus Castro dribbled past Cerezo's midfield and scored with a long-range shot.

"We mentally collapsed after conceding the first goal. It wasn't just a matter of technical decisions, but also about our mental state and self-control. Unusually, everyone became disorganized. I take responsibility for not being able to correct that," the coach lamented. Unable to stop Nagoya's momentum once it had shifted, Cerezo found themselves swiftly overwhelmed.

In the second half, Coach Kogiku made three substitutions, including the goalkeeper. Yang Han Been, Kakeru Funaki, and Hikaru Nakahara were brought on to stabilize the team and launch a counterattack. In the 53rd minute, they made their fourth substitution, replacing Tokuma Suzuki with Hinata Kida in the defensive midfield position. Despite Nagoya taking a defensive approach with a two-goal lead, Cerezo dominated ball possession and pressed forward in the second half. In the 58th minute, Leo Ceara threatened the goal directly from a free-kick, and in the 68th minute, Okuno's pass to Leo Ceara created another scoring opportunity, but the returning defender blocked the shot. In the 80th and 81st minutes, Okuno managed to get behind the opponent's defense twice but couldn't finish the shots. In the 82nd minute, Ryosuke Shindo's header from a corner kick hit the goalkeeper straight on. Although they gave the opponent some chances on the counterattack, goalkeeper Yan Han Been, making his league debut, made some excellent saves and prevented any additional goals. However, they couldn't score a comeback goal, and the game ended when Satoki Uejo's shot as a substitute hit the crossbar. "We needed to win here to move up" (Kagawa) - it was a high-stakes match approached with strong determination. However, just like in the 10th round against Sanfrecce Hiroshima and the 12th round against Kashima Antlers, they once again hit a wall and were denied.

"We keenly felt the need to continue growing in terms of mentality, skills, and physicality in this game. Based on our current abilities, we must firmly acknowledge and accept the defeat," admitted the coach, showing a resolute attitude. "We want to address various challenges head-on and strive for growth both individually and as a team. We need to move forward," he added. Kagawa also emphasized the importance of not repeating the same mistakes. With the Emperor's Cup coming up, the next match will be a home game against the league leaders, Vissel Kobe. There is no time to dwell on this result. It is crucial to thoroughly analyze the challenges revealed in this match and use them to secure a victory in the next one.

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