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Review: Yokohama FC 0-1 Cerezo Osaka (J1 MD24)

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Seizing Opportunities While Prioritizing Risk Management: Leo Ceará's Decisive Goal Secures First Victory in 3 League Matches

Facing Yokohama FC in the 24th round of the Meiji Yasuda Life J1 League, Cerezo Osaka took the field again seven days after their previous match against Kashiwa Reysol. Starting with the same eleven players as the previous match, Cerezo aimed for victory in this league match, hoping to break the streak of three winless games.

From the start, Cerezo faced some attacking moments from Yokohama FC, but in the 6th minute, Seiya Maikuma returned to cover a tight situation. In the 9th minute, goalkeeper Yan Han Been caught a shot. Breaking away from the unpleasant trend of conceding early goals, as they did in the 8th minute of the match before and the 4th minute of the previous match, Cerezo gained control after the 10-minute mark. Centered around the midfield duo of Shinji Kagawa and Hinata Kida, they began to increase their ball possession, distributing passes to both sides. Seizing opportunities whenever they arose, they played vertical passes. In the 22nd minute, the first big chance of the match came. Leo Ceará picked up a loose back pass from the opponent, carried the ball vertically, and delivered a low cross. Kagawa, Capixaba, and Jordy Croux all came close to scoring. In the 23rd minute, Kagawa, Croux, and Maikuma combined on the right side to break through, with Maekawa delivering a cross that Leo Ceará headed towards the goal. In the 29th minute, Croux and Maikuma linked up again on the right side, creating opportunities with middle-range shots from Kida and Croux, threatening the goal in quick succession. In the 36th minute, Capixaba received Kida's pass at the center and attempted a shot after dribbling. The shot narrowly missed the target, but it was an audacious attempt. After the early stages, Cerezo continued to create chances from the right side through Kagawa, not giving Yokohama FC any counterattack opportunities and consistently winning second balls. Despite their efforts, the first half ended 0-0 without either team scoring.

The first half saw a solid performance, with a focus on risk management in defense while maintaining possession and seeking goals. However, the team aimed to step up another gear in the second half, especially in their pursuit of taking the lead. Early in the second half, Croux broke through the right side consecutively to create opportunities. In the 49th minute, the much-awaited moment arrived. Starting from Kagawa, Maikuma cut inside, maneuvering the opponent, and received an accurate side-switching pass from Kagawa. Capixaba received the pass and elegantly crossed the ball, evading his opponent, creating space. Upam Satoki Uejo and Maikuma drew the attention of the opponent's defenders near the goal line, leaving Leo Ceará unmarked in the far post. He delivered a powerful header, securing the long-awaited lead after three games. The Cerezo Eleven erupted in jubilation. The team continued to push for a second goal, maintaining their attacking momentum. In the 54th minute, Leo Ceará attempted a headed shot from Maikuma's cross. In the 61st minute, a great opportunity emerged from a short counterattack. Capixaba dribbled and provided a final pass to Leo Ceará, who was in a promising position, but his shot was blocked by the goalkeeper.

In the 62nd minute, Yokohama FC made two substitutions, gradually gaining more possession of the ball. In the 66th and 67th minutes, they created dangerous situations from their own left side. In the 69th minute, Manager Kogiku made a change, bringing in Suzuki Tokuma and Shibayama Masaya. He shifted the formation to a 4-5-1, aiming to 'create a solid block with five players in midfield and eliminate the space in the box,' as stated by Manager Kogiku. In the 77th minute, Yokohama FC made another substitution, shifting to a two-striker front line to increase the pressure up front. In the 79th minute, Manager Kogiku made further adjustments by introducing Matej Jonjic and Watanabe Ryo, transitioning the system to a five-back formation. This change was aimed at not only handling crosses but also shifting from ball-winning defense to goal-protecting defense. In the 89th minute, Shibayama carried the ball in a counter-attack situation, creating a threatening scene near the goal. However, during the later stages of the second half, in additional time, when Yokohama FC advanced deep on the side, Jonjic provided cover. This defensive adjustment proved effective in solidifying their defense.

The match ended 1-0 as it stood. In a crucial game to enter the top three, 'Three points were a must' (Manager Kogiku), and Cerezo Osaka brilliantly secured victory in the J1 League after three winless matches. 'If we had scored a second goal, the game would have been sealed. We had opportunities, but our precision is an area to improve' (Kagawa). 'Towards the end when we were pushed back, I felt that we need to enhance the defensive intensity as a team' (Maekawa). While acknowledging their challenges, the players utilized their substitution options fully and successfully reduced the point gap against third-placed Nagoya Grampus. The upcoming match is a pivotal one, as they face Nagoya Grampus at home, a six-pointer match. 'From here on, in the last ten matches, we aim for the top three, and once we're there, we'll aim for the championship. We want to prepare for the significant match against Nagoya with everyone's effort,' said Manager Kogiku. Building upon the gains and lessons from this match, they strive for further improvement.

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