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Review: Cerezo Osaka 0-1 FC Tokyo (J1 MD22)

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Abundant Opportunities But Lack of Finishing: A Painful 0-1 Defeat on the Path to Top 3 Goal

Cerezo Osaka, who suffered a defeat in the penalty shootout during the Emperor's Cup Round of 16 against Shonan Bellmare, faced FC Tokyo in the 22nd round of the Meiji Yasuda Life J1 League, just three days after the cup match. Making four changes to the starting lineup from the cup game, they welcomed back Seiya Maikuma, Ryosuke Shindo, and Shinji Kagawa, while Ryo Watanabe, making his J1 debut, joined as one of the strikers. During the player entrance, all members wore the number 13 jersey in support of their captain, Hiroshi Kiyotake, who is currently undergoing rehabilitation after undergoing surgery on July 28th.

In the 6th minute, Cerezo Osaka launched their first shot, as Ryosuke Shindo headed in Kakeru Funaki's corner kick, but they conceded a goal in the 8th minute. Reacting late to Diego Oliveira's challenge for a long ball from the opponents, they allowed Kuryu Matsuki to pick up the loose ball and score with his left foot. Cerezo, somewhat disappointingly, fell behind early and started their counterattack from that point on. In the 15th minute, Jordy Croux and Seiya Maikuma combined on the right side to create a chance. Then, in the 19th minute, Satoki Uejo received Funaki's pass outside the penalty area and took a powerful shot with his right foot, but it narrowly missed the target. As FC Tokyo's key player, Oliveira, was substituted due to injury in the 21st minute, Cerezo intensified their offensive efforts. In the 28th minute, Uejo broke through and faced the goalkeeper in a one-on-one situation, but the goalkeeper managed to evade him and made a pass forward, just out of reach for Watanabe. In the 39th minute, Cerezo orchestrated a left-side attack through Uejo, and eventually, Kagawa connected with Funaki's cross, but the shot missed the mark. Watanabe's follow-up attempt was also saved by the goalkeeper. Despite several incursions into the opponent's goal area after conceding, Cerezo failed to convert their chances into goals, and they trailed 1-0 at halftime.

In the second half, Cerezo's momentum continued without slowing down. In the 50th minute, a pass from Uejo, who broke through on the left side, found Capixaba, who unleashed a powerful shot. In the 53rd minute, Croux received Funaki's pass on the opposite side and took a shot from his favorite position, but it narrowly went over the crossbar. Showing relentless attacking, Cerezo had another scoring opportunity in the 55th minute. Amidst thick offensive pressure, Maikuma connected with Capixaba's cross from the opposite side, but his header was saved by the goalkeeper's excellent goalkeeping. Cerezo kept pushing forward and had another chance in the 60th minute when Watanabe broke through the opponent's defense, receiving a pass from Uejo, and faced the goalkeeper one-on-one. He attempted a well-placed shot, but it narrowly missed the target. Shortly after, Cerezo endured a shot hitting the crossbar from FC Tokyo's Watanabe Ryoma. However, they remained composed in handling the opponent's counterattacks and maintained control of the game's flow. In the 67th minute, Kitano Sota and Shibayama Masaya replaced Watanabe and Croux. Shibayama, making his J1 debut, showcased his aggressive dribbling skills, but he was stopped by the defense. As the match neared its end, FC Tokyo solidified their defense with a five-back formation, causing Cerezo's counterattacks to somewhat ease off. In the added time of the second half, a good opportunity was created with a pass from Funaki to Uejo, who found Kitano, but his shot went straight to the goalkeeper. The match ended with no further goals. Throughout both halves, Cerezo continuously created scoring opportunities, but their lack of finishing touch resulted in a painful defeat as they aimed for the top positions in the league.

After the match, Coach Akio Kogiku commented, "Overall, we were able to create many opportunities. We will continue with this style of soccer and work on raising the team's quality, becoming a stronger team that can win consistently. To achieve that, we need to improve both the offensive and defensive qualities of the team and enhance individual attacking capabilities. We want to focus on both aspects moving forward." Reflecting on the game, Shinji Kagawa also expressed his thoughts, saying, "It was a match where we needed to score and win, including myself. We need to reset our mindset and prepare to win in the next game." With their heads held high, they aim to secure a victory in the upcoming away match against Kashiwa Reysol, converting the opportunities into goals and claiming three points.

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