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Review: Vissel Kobe 1-0 Cerezo Osaka (J1 MD28)

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Kobe's Aggressive Defense Stifles Offense, Leading to Frustrating Loss and 10-Point Gap with League Leaders

Six days after suffering a 0-1 defeat to Kashima Antlers, Cerezo Osaka once again took to the away field to face league leaders Vissel Kobe in the 28th round of the Meiji Yasuda Life J1 League. The gap in points between both teams was seven, and in order to slightly widen the possibility of a come-from-behind championship, this round became a must-win match where only three points were sought. There was one change in the starting lineup from the previous round. Sota Kitano made his first league start since the opening match, partnering with Leo Ceará in the front two.

In the early stages, both teams increasingly resorted to long balls, aiming for the goal from the sides while avoiding risks. Cerezo's first chance came in the 15th minute when Sota Kitano collected a kick from goalkeeper Yang Han Been and initiated an attack from the left side, resulting in a corner kick after a move involving Shinji Kagawa. In the 17th minute, a combination play involving Hinata Kida, Kagawa, and Capixaba led to a cross from Kakeru Funaki on the right flank, but Jordy Croux's attempt to jump in for a header on the far side was thwarted by a defender, and he couldn't take the shot. With both teams swiftly transitioning between offense and defense, the tension remained high as a momentary lapse could prove costly. In the 20th minute, after losing the ball on the left side of their own half, Cerezo allowed Kobe to launch a counter-attack. Eventually, Yuya Osako took a shot, but it sailed over the crossbar. In the 32nd minute, Cerezo threatened from a Kagawa corner, with Seiya Makimura attempting a close-range header, only to be denied by the opposing defender. Throughout the match, Cerezo struggled to advance the ball forward. Even when they managed to break through the opponent's press, Kobe's quick recovery and defensive efforts on the flanks prevented them from accelerating, resulting in a first half where they couldn't create clear-cut scoring opportunities. Nevertheless, they held their own in the battle for second balls, making it a nearly even contest in terms of overall performance. The outcome remained undecided as the match headed into the second half.

In the second half, Cerezo sought to increase their offensive intensity, but they found themselves repeatedly creating scoring opportunities for Kobe, who were stepping up their offensive efforts. In the 55th minute, Yuya Osako received a cross from Gotoku Sakai on the far side and unleashed a shot from a one-touch effort. Just a minute later, Osako was again involved, providing the setup for Yoshinori Mutō's chance after a vertical pass. However, in the somewhat delayed 59th minute, Cerezo conceded a goal. Leo Ceará, who received a long pass from goalkeeper Yang Han Been in the forward position, was targeted by Jordy Croux. Kobe managed to steal the ball, and with a single pass, they breached the high defensive line, leaving Ryosuke Shindo with no time to recover. This allowed Daiju Sasaki to score. Immediately in the 60th minute, Cerezo substituted Kitano and Kida with Satoki Uejo and Hiroaki Okuno. Okuno made his first appearance in 11 games since the J1 Round 17 match against Kobe. With Okuno taking the ball forward and contributing to an activated attack, the manager Akio Kogiku further utilized substitutions with Masaya Shibayama in the 65th minute and Haruki Arai in the 74th minute. Trying to equalize, Cerezo made proactive changes, and in the 75th minute, they came close to a scoring opportunity as Koji Toriumi, Kakeru Funaki, and Hiroaki Okuno combined, with Ryo Watanabe almost getting a clear chance, but his shot was blocked by a defender. In the 77th minute, Masaya Shibayama took a cut-in shot from Kagawa's side change, but this time, it was saved by the goalkeeper, denying Cerezo a goal. They entered the late stages of the match still trailing by one goal.

After taking the lead, Cerezo faced increased defensive pressure from Kobe, who pressed higher up the pitch. Cerezo did concede a few counterattacks from their own passing errors, but they managed to avoid allowing a decisive second goal. Nevertheless, in this match, they couldn't create clear-cut scoring opportunities throughout, and the final whistle blew. While the first half saw an evenly matched contest, as time went on, Cerezo found themselves on the back foot in the battle for second balls, and Kobe ultimately dominated. This top-of-the-table clash was approached with the aim of securing a vital victory, but in the end, they were comprehensively beaten in both attack and defense. The point gap with the league leaders has widened to 10, and considering there are only six matches remaining, the possibility of a come-from-behind championship has realistically become slim. However, as long as there's a chance, they will continue to fight until the end and also work toward their other goal of securing a spot in the "Top 3." In the next match, they will return home to face Shonan Bellmare, aiming for their first win in three games.

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