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Review: Cerezo Osaka 3-1 Nagoya Grampus (J1 MD25)

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Spectacular Double Goal by Satoki Uejo. Successful Away Revenge Narrows Gap to 3 Points Against 3rd Place Nagoya.

After securing victory in the previous match against Yokohama FC, ending a 3-game winless streak, Cerezo Osaka faced 3rd-place Nagoya Grampus at home with only 5 days of rest. They entered the 25th round of the Meiji Yasuda Life J1 League aiming for points. The point difference between the two teams was '6'. In their pursuit of the top three, this match was crucial for Cerezo to secure 3 points. There was one change in the starting lineup compared to the previous match. Koji Toriumi was replaced, and Matej Jonjic, who had not started since the 19th round against Avispa Fukuoka, returned to the starting lineup as part of the central defense.

Three minutes into the game, Cerezo Osaka's defense was breached by Nagoya's long ball, and the net was shaken early on. However, after a VAR review, the goal was ruled offside, saving Cerezo from conceding. Then, in the 9th minute, they managed to take the lead. Seiya Maikuma delivered a long ball to the side, and Leo Ceará ran in to provide a direct cross into the middle. Satoki Uejo met the ball with his left foot, accurately guiding it into the goal. Nevertheless, the lead was short-lived. Right after the kickoff, Nagoya connected passes and breached Cerezo's defense on the left side. The final pass came from Morishima Tsukasa, and Morishita Ryoya, arriving from the far side, netted the equalizer. The pattern of conceding soon after taking the lead was similar to their previous encounter with Nagoya, but this time, they demonstrated resilience from this point onward. Shinji Kagawa, who later stated, 'We couldn't afford to repeat the same mistakes,' calmed his teammates and took control of the ball in the midfield. Manager Akio Kogiku emphasized that they learned from the previous game and didn't allow themselves to fall into the same patterns. In the 30th minute, there was another close call from the left side, but Ryosuke Shindo extended his leg to clear the cross. Although Cerezo had to contend with Nagoya's attacking wing-backs, they prevented a turnaround and reached halftime at 1-1.

As the first half concluded with Cerezo pushing back, the second half saw them take control of the ball and penetrate the opponent's territory from the start. In the 55th minute, Uejo broke free on the side but was deemed offside. Despite this, they effectively dismantled the left side and created a chance where Kagawa threatened the goal. The game, befitting a high-stakes clash, showcased tension and excitement with battles for the ball and rapid transitions. The focus now shifted towards the next pivotal goal. While the middle of the second half saw Nagoya pushing Cerezo back at times, in the 62nd and 68th minutes, goalkeeper Yan Han Been produced a series of crucial saves. Particularly, the latter shot had the power and accuracy to be a certain goal, yet the guardian of the net extended his right hand to deny it. Riding this momentum, Cerezo succeeded in taking the lead in the 71st minute. Starting with a deep throw-in from the right side, Maikuma, Leo Ceará, Jordy Croux, and Maikuma linked up, with the final pass provided by Kida Hinata, who showcased active distribution throughout the match. Uejo, positioned in the forward line, received a vertical pass despite carrying an opponent's defender on his back. Number 7 skillfully turned and unleashed a powerful left-footed strike that flew into the net with an unstoppable trajectory, even for the accomplished goalkeeper Langerak. Uejo scored his first multi-goal game since joining. Reflecting on the match, he said, 'I wanted to meet the expectations of the coach who trusted me. Winning with my goal in a high-stakes match gives me confidence.'

In the 80th minute, Manager Kogiku introduced Ryuya Nishio and Sota Kitano, shifting to a 5-back formation. While protecting the lead, they aimed for a third goal from counter-attacks. In the 82nd minute, Haruki Arai came on, followed by Ryo Watanabe in the 86th minute, and Tokuma Suzuki, as they fully utilized their substitutions in the closing stages. Cerezo secured their decisive third goal. Nishio intercepted a loose ball in an advanced position and passed to Watanabe, who cut inside and delivered a through pass. Kitano, who had a positive impression of their training together, mentioned, 'I had a good image of that moment from our practice sessions. Our eyes met at that instant.' Kitano broke free, evaded an opponent's center-back, and executed a shot. He scored his second J1 goal, in line with his envisioned scenario. The match concluded with Cerezo winning 3-1. In a complete reversal of the score from their previous away encounter, they managed to turn the tables.

Mental resilience throughout the match, utilizing both the flanks and the center for the attack. Reflecting on the top-tier clash that ended in victory, Manager Kogiku expressed, 'I'm very pleased that what we've been working on for about three months is manifested in our performance. The growth is the most rewarding.' With this win, the gap against 3rd-place Nagoya has been reduced to 3 points, and the pursuit is becoming clearer. Uejo, who scored the crucial two goals, stated, 'The next step is crucial. We want to keep it going.' In the next fixture, they will face Kawasaki Frontale at home once again. 'The final match before the international break. We want to make sure we win,' said Kagawa. The team aims to continue the good preparations collectively.

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