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Review: Cerezo Osaka 3-2 Paris Saint-Germain (Paris Saint-Germain JAPAN TOUR 2023)

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Jordy Croux, Sota Kitano, and Shinji Kagawa's Goals Defeat Paris Saint-Germain FC. New Talents Shine in a Fruitful Match.

On a midsummer night's dream at Yanmar Stadium Nagai, over 32,000 spectators gathered. In the "Paris Saint-Germain JAPAN TOUR 2023," Cerezo Osaka secured a come-from-behind victory, defeating Paris Saint-Germain FC 3-2. The world-renowned powerhouse, reigning champions of Ligue 1 (France), were dealt a significant defeat by Cerezo Osaka.

In the first half, Cerezo Osaka showed an aggressive approach by pressing high to win the ball. In the 6th minute, they capitalized on the opponent's mistake and earned a corner kick. Jordy Croux delivered a sharp ball, creating a scoring opportunity. However, as the game progressed, Cerezo gradually retreated their pressing position to cope with PSG's skillful ball possession. They dropped their defensive block and compacted their formation, successfully averting any major threats until the 17th minute when they conceded a goal. During a PSG counterattack, Cerezo's defense was breached as Hugo Ekitike, PSG's lone striker, found space behind the center-back (CB) and converted a cross from the right side into a goal. Nevertheless, Cerezo did not falter after conceding and launched a counteroffensive. In the 21st minute, Leo Ceara broke free from a feed by Ryosuke Yamanaka, but his shot was blocked by a defender. However, just a minute later, Cerezo equalized. Capitalizing on a mistake by PSG's two CBs, who collided while attempting to clear Yan Han Been's long kick, Jordy Croux seized the opportunity, took the ball forward, and blasted a powerful left-footed shot into the net. Buoyed by their momentum, Cerezo had another golden opportunity in the 29th minute. Satoki Uejo won the ball through pressing, and Ceara carried it forward for a shot. Unfortunately, the goalkeeper pulled off an impressive save, denying them a goal. For the next ten minutes or so, Cerezo had to endure PSG's attacks, but their defense held firm. In the 45th minute, they had a big chance on the counter. Although they couldn't convert it into a goal, Capixaba dribbled with speed from deep in their own half, creating a promising attacking situation.

In the second half, which began with a 1-1 scoreline, Cerezo Osaka made ten substitutions, leaving only Ceara unchanged. Early in the half, Sota Kitano dribbled and took a shot, and in the 48th minute, after a sustained attack, Ryosuke Shindo fired a shot. Cerezo intensified their offensive efforts, but in the 49th minute, they conceded a goal due to a passing error in their own half, which led to a skillful one-two play by the opponents, breaking through the center of defense. Once again, they found themselves trailing. Nevertheless, in the 57th minute, Shinji Kagawa approached the goal with a one-two combination with Kitano, and in the 58th minute, Tatsuya Yamashita made a good cover in a crucial moment of PSG's attack. Continuing to concentrate on both attacking and defending, Cerezo managed to equalize again in the 67th minute. Ryo Watanabe, who made his Cerezo debut in the 60th minute, pressed from the right side of the forward line. He quickly delivered the ball to the center, where Kitano received it inside the penalty area and struck a powerful left-footed shot into the net with a one-touch strike. Cerezo gained momentum with a sharp trajectory that left the opposing goalkeeper motionless after the ferocious shot. In the following 68th minute, Watanabe attempted a shot, aiming for a third goal.

From this point on, the match became a fierce back-and-forth battle. In the 72nd minute, substitute Achraf Hakimi broke through on the right side, creating a decisive opportunity, but his near-post shot was brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Keisuke Shimizu. Then, in the 79th minute, the man of the moment showcased a decisive golazo. Haruki Arai, who rejoined Cerezo Osaka this summer after playing in Croatia, tenaciously won the ball with a strong press and dribbled forward before sending a pass to Kagawa. The number 8 received the ball just outside the penalty area and curled an exquisite shot beyond the reach of the opposing goalkeeper, causing the net to ripple. With this goal, Cerezo took the lead for the first time in the match. From this point on, Cerezo raised their level in both attack and defense, successfully withstanding PSG's fierce comeback attempts. The match ended with Cerezo securing a 3-2 come-from-behind victory. Head coach Akio Kogiku commented, "The key to today's victory was that we played aggressive football for the full 90 minutes, not just sitting back and defending near our goal." He also expressed, "With today's victory, I believe people could feel the charm of Cerezo, the beauty of football, and the greatness of the fighting spirit." With these words, he wore a smile of satisfaction.

The match against PSG, during which numerous players took the pitch with almost a complete rotation between the first and second halves, showcased not only the usual starters in league matches but also the dynamic performances of new signings Arai and Watanabe. Young players like Kitano and Nelson Ishiwatari also demonstrated confident plays. Kagawa, who led the team in the second half, commented, "I think it was a fantastic experience for the future. For the young players, this game will be a source of confidence. As a team, it was a great match for us as we head into the second half of the season." With this victory, they gained momentum for the Emperor's Cup Round of 16 against Shonan Bellmare the following week, as well as for the Meiji Yasuda J1 League Round 22 match against FC Tokyo.

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