Review: Kashima Antlers 1-0 Cerezo Osaka (J1 MD27)
Early Concession and Inability to Capitalize on Numerical Advantage in Frustrating Top Match
After a break for international duty following the previous match against Kawasaki Frontale, the J1 League resumed with Cerezo Osaka facing Kashima Antlers in the 27th round of the Meiji Yasuda J1 League. The starting lineup remained the same as the previous match, and Seiya Maikuma, returning from Japan national team duty, was also included.
Cerezo had a promising start, maintaining possession of the ball. Maikuma made chances by narrowing the field from the right side, while Capixaba and Kakeru Funaki connected with crosses from the left side, utilizing both flanks to search for goal opportunities. However, in the 13th minute, an unexpected goal was conceded. Yuma Suzuki intercepted a pass from Shindo, which was intended for Hinata Kida during the build-up in their own half, and he subsequently found the net in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper. It was a painful goal to concede for Cerezo, who wanted to persistently continue the game. Nonetheless, they switched their mindset to chase a goal. In the 25th minute, Diego Pituca of Kashima was shown a straight red card for a significantly improper play, resulting in his ejection. As the Kashima bench vehemently protested the referee's decision, Kashima's head coach, Daiki Iwamasa, received a warning, and one staff member was also sent off. This led to chaos in the entire stadium, including home supporters. Unfortunately, Cerezo's players also struggled to maintain composure amidst the commotion. In the first half, Cerezo found it challenging to increase the passing speed effectively against the opponent's block and failed to capitalize on the numerical advantage as time passed. They couldn't create clear-cut opportunities and ended the first half trailing by one goal.
In the second half, determined to equalize, both sides pushed high up the field from the start. In the 46th minute, Jordy Croux headed a cross from Capixaba from the opposite side. Creating the first clear chance of the match, they quickly followed it up in the 47th minute, breaking through the center this time. Leo Ceara controlled Kida's pass from Kida's vertical pass, and Satoki Uejo, who broke free from the defense, shot from behind the defenders. With a varied use of the inside and outside, an increased passing tempo, they continued to press Kashima back into their own half in the second half. Even against Kashima's occasional counterattacks, they didn't concede a second goal, thanks to goalkeeper Yang Han Been's excellent saves and the calm response of the defenders. In the 69th minute, Maikuma, taking advantage of Kagawa's pass from the right side, crossed from behind. Ryo Watanabe, who came on as a substitute, met the cross, but his shot went over the crossbar. In the following 74th minute, another clear chance came. Once again initiated by Kagawa, he sent a perfectly floated pass to the left side's back. Runaway Funaki crossed the ball, and Leo Ceara met it far post, but his favored header narrowly missed the target. In the 81st minute, Haruki Arai came on and created a good opportunity with a daring breakthrough from the left side. Towards the end, they had more set-piece opportunities, but that elusive goal remained out of reach. In the final play, Capixaba's header from Kagawa's free-kick found Koji Toriumi, who headed it in, but it was cleared off the line by the defenders. Unable to recover from the early conceded goal in the first half, the match ended with a 0-1 score.
In their pursuit of a higher position, they desperately sought three points in this crucial matchup. However, once again, they fell short against their arch-rivals, Kashima, failing to extend their points and slipping to sixth place in the standings. Nevertheless, this round saw the league leaders, Vissel Kobe, suffer a defeat, while second-placed Yokohama F. Marinos settled for a draw. Fortunately, the gap in points with the top two teams did not widen significantly.
In the next round, they will face Vissel Kobe directly on their turf. After the match, head coach Akio Kogiku stated, "There is not a single player here who will give up. We want to finish the last seven matches with all wins and strive for the championship." Sota Kitano, who scored the dramatic winning goal at home in their previous encounter against Kobe, also looked ahead optimistically, saying, "I think we're being tested. In a good way, I want to enjoy this situation." The frustration they felt in the match can only be redeemed on the pitch. The upcoming match will be a pivotal showdown that could determine the course of this season. They aim to paint their opponent's territory pink and strive for a victory, riding the updraft once again.