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Review: Cerezo Osaka 2-1 Vissel Kobe (J1 MD17)

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Jordy Croux's Debut Goal after Joining and Sota Kitano's Dramatic First J1 Goal Secure Victory over League Leaders! Cerezo Osaka Ends First Half with a Win

In the final match of the first half of the Meiji Yasuda J1 League, Cerezo Osaka hosted the league leaders Vissel Kobe at the Yodoko Sakura Stadium. With tickets sold out, the atmosphere created by both teams' supporters was electric even before the match began. Cerezo made four changes to their starting lineup from the previous match. Goalkeeper Yang Han Been made his first J1 League start, Hinata Kida made his first league start of the season, Jordy Croux returned to the starting lineup after two matches, and Kakeru Funaki made his first start since the second match against Avispa Fukuoka.

From the start, there was a palpable sense of tension befitting a clash between top teams, and a thrilling offensive and defensive battle unfolded. In the first minute, after Cerezo launched an attack, they were caught on the counter, creating a dangerous situation, but Seiya Maikuma quickly recovered and prevented a shot. In the 10th minute, there was another swift counter-attack that threatened Cerezo's goal, but the opponent's shot sailed over, resulting in no harm. Cerezo effectively defended against the fast vertical attacks led by Yuya Osako, maintaining compactness, sliding up and down, and not allowing any gaps to open. In terms of offense, the right side combination of Croux and Maikuma showed great chemistry, while on the left side, Capixaba unleashed his natural dribbling skills. In the 21st minute, the first clear scoring opportunity of the match emerged. Ryosuke Shindo made a wide pass to the left side, Capixaba made a vertical breakthrough and crossed the ball, and Shinji Kagawa met it in the middle. However, his header was brilliantly saved by the opponent's goalkeeper, narrowly missing the target. The game continued with both teams battling back and forth, swiftly launching vertical attacks when seizing the ball. The relentless first half ended 0-0 after 45 minutes without a moment's respite.

In the second half, Cerezo Osaka started off strong and managed to take the lead in the 50th minute. From a flowing throw-in sequence, Croux leaped from the opposite side to meet Funaki's cross with a header. The stadium erupted in celebration for Croux's first goal since joining the team wearing the number 11 jersey. However, their lead was short-lived as the opponents quickly equalized. A long ball from the kickoff created an opportunity on the left side, leading to a coordinated attack that ended with Hotaru Yamaguchi finding the back of the net. With back-to-back goals, the stadium's atmosphere intensified rapidly. From this point on, both teams created scoring chances for each other. In the 56th minute, Funaki made a desperate clearance to avert a dangerous situation. In the 57th minute, Maikuma found himself in a scoring position from Funaki's cross, but his header went over the crossbar. In the 60th minute, Kobe launched a relentless attack, but goalkeeper Yang Han Been made an excellent save to deny their shot. From the ensuing corner kick, Kobe managed to shake the net, but the goal was disallowed due to an offside call.

Amidst the relentless action, Cerezo Osaka continued to press forward, with substitutes Hirotaka Tameda and Satoki Uejo targeting the spaces behind and on the sides, threatening the opponent's goal. In the 78th minute, Mutsuki Kato and Sota Kitano also entered the pitch, aiming to score a second goal. However, as the game approached its final stages, Kobe kept Cerezo on the backfoot, creating some decisive moments of danger. Yet, with excellent saves from Yang Han Been and the determined efforts of the defensive line, they prevented any further goals. As the coach reflected, "In difficult times, we overcome together, cover each other, and work hard. I want to express my gratitude to the players who learned from the defeat in the previous match against Nagoya." Cerezo Osaka continued to fight without crumbling, and in the 90+3rd minute, the winning goal was born. Seizing a moment where the opposing goalkeeper mishandled consecutive presses from Kato and Kitano, Kitano did not miss the opportunity, snatching the ball and pushing it into the net with a shot. It was a long-awaited first J1 goal for Kitano. "I want to express my gratitude to the coach who continued to believe in me. Finally, I was able to meet the expectations of the supporters who have been waiting for me to score," said a relieved Kitano, wearing the number 38 jersey, filled with joy and relief. The thrilling and intense game ended in an unexpected manner, but there is no doubt that it delivered the beauty and enjoyment of soccer. With a record attendance of 22,542 spectators at the Yodoko Sakura Stadium, it was a match that undoubtedly showcased the greatness and joy of the sport, as stated by coach Kogiku.

After successfully defeating the league leaders, Cerezo Osaka extended their points to 29, concluding the first half of the season. "We don't want to be satisfied here; we want to continue winning by addressing and correcting our challenges one by one," said Shinji Kagawa. With the Levain Cup coming up next week and the start of the second half of the league in the following week's 18th match against Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, the team is ready to strive for their goal of finishing in the top three and beyond. "We want to move forward as a united team, growing together," stated coach Kogiku.

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