Review: Cerezo Osaka 5-0 Cento Cuore HARIMA (Emperor's Cup 2nd Round)
Sota Kitano's Brace, Reiya Sakata and Nelson Ishiwatari's First Professional Goals Shine as Youngsters Excel, Advancing to the Emperor's Cup Third Round with a Resounding 5-0 Victory.
The Emperor's Cup Second Round marked the first match for J1 and J2 teams. Cerezo Osaka faced Cento Cuore HARIMA, the representative team from Hyogo Prefecture, at the Yodoko Sakura Stadium. The starting lineup saw a complete overhaul from the recent league match, with Tatsuya Yamashita and Nelson Ishiwatari making their first appearances of the season, while Reiya Sakata made his first start in an official match.
Cerezo Osaka started in a 4-4-2 formation, just like in the league matches. They faced a defensively organized Cento Cuore HARIMA in a 5-4-1 setup. Right from the beginning, Cerezo launched attacks, and in the 5th minute, Hikaru Nakahara intercepted the ball in midfield and initiated a one-two play with Sakata, entering the penalty area. Seizing the opportunity, they opened the scoring in the 7th minute as Sota Kitano headed in a near-post corner kick from Riki Harakawa. Kitano continued to pose a threat, as in the 10th minute, he took a loose ball from a free kick and struck a powerful shot that hit the crossbar. After the match, Kitano revealed that he approached the game with a sense of crisis, stating, "The most important thing for me was the sense of urgency. I knew that if I didn't produce results here, there would be no turning back." He transformed the bitterness he experienced in the U-20 World Cup into immediate strength on the pitch.
In the 25th minute, another scoring opportunity arose. Harakawa made a sweeping pass to the left side, where full-back Kakeru Funaki delivered a direct cross, setting up a decisive chance. However, the shot from Hatada, who connected inside the box, sailed over the crossbar. Then, in the 29th minute, Cento Cuore HARIMA created a chance from a long throw-in, but Cerezo managed to clear the ball and avoid any danger. In the 32nd minute, it was Ishiwatari, who started as the right full-back in this match, sprinting up the wing and making a deep incursion to deliver a cross. Inspired by his experience with the U-20 Japan national team, Ishiwatari showcased his strength in both offense and defense in this game, excelling in individual battles.
As the second half kicked off, Cerezo continued to press forward after finishing the first half with a one-goal lead. And in the 53rd minute, Cerezo added another goal. Once again, it was a corner kick from Harakawa, and this time Sakata met it with a header at the far post. It was a delightful moment for Sakata as he scored his first professional goal. "I entered the pitch today with the determination to score, so I'm glad I could deliver the result," he expressed with a smile after the match. With the burden off their shoulders, the players unleashed a goal rush. Just two minutes after Sakata's goal, it was Ishiwatari's turn to score his first professional goal. Satoki Uejo made a run behind the defense to create the opportunity, and ultimately, it was Harakawa's cross that Ishiwatari met with a header from the opposite side, shaking the net. "Moving forward is my strength," said Ishiwatari, and his bold attacking participation resulted in a goal.
In the 60th minute, Coach Akio Kogiku made substitutions, bringing on Leo Ceará, Capixaba, and Rui Osako, replacing Sakata, Funaki, and Kida respectively. Osako took the left-back position, while Kida dropped back to the defensive midfield, allowing Nakahara to shift. Although Cento Cuore HARIMA had a few chances, Cerezo managed to keep a clean sheet. Then, in the 74th minute, they scored their fourth goal. Once again, Uejo broke through the defense from behind, penetrated the side, and although his cross was cleared by a defender, the loose ball fell to Kitano, who struck it powerfully into the net. In the 81st minute, with precise passing on the left side, Cerezo broke through the defense, and finally, Seiya Maikuma, who had just come on as a substitute, tapped in Harakawa's cross to secure the fifth goal. It was a goal that sealed the game.
Kitano's two goals, along with the professional debut goals of Sakata and Ishiwatari, stood out in this match, with Osako, who came on as a substitute, also playing a key role in the fifth goal. The impressive performance of these teenagers was evident. The coach reflected on the match, stating, "The players who took part in today's game gained valuable experiences, feeling the atmosphere that can only be felt in official matches and recognizing their own areas for improvement. I'm delighted that we were able to demonstrate through results that Cerezo's future is bright." With only two days of rest, the team now prepares for the upcoming league match against Vissel Kobe, who currently leads the standings. Coach Kogiku remarked, "Even the core players who watched today's game from the stands have likely felt various things. We will all prepare well together and head towards the Kobe match." It will be a crucial match that will shape the remainder of the season, and the team will strive together to secure all three points in the final game of the first half.