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Review: Albirex Niigata 1-0 Cerezo Osaka (J1 MD34)

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The team lost their final game of the season 0-1, vows to examine issues in the offseason and make a leap forward next season.

Cerezo Osaka traveled to the home of Albirex Niigata for the final match of the season, the 34th round of the Meiji Yasuda J1 League, seven days after the previous match against Kyoto Sanga F.C. The starting lineup was changed for three players from the previous match. Reiya Sakata and Hiroaki Okuno, who played from the start of the second half in the previous match, both started. For rookie Sakata, it was his first time starting in a J1 match.

The game kicked off in a steady rain before the match, and Cerezo started well, with Shinji Kagawa leading the way in the 2nd minute before Okuno fired a shot, and in the 6th minute came the decisive moment of the game, when Shinji Kagawa cut a pass from the opposing defense and sent it quickly up the front line to Leo Ceara, whose shot was saved by the goalkeeper. In the 14th minute, Niigata's pass from inside his own half was intercepted by Kagawa, who shot straight at the middle but hit the post. Cerezo had another great chance in the 28th minute. Kagawa found Leo Ceara, who slipped a pass to Maikuma on the right and Sakata crossed for Leo Ceara, who shot wide from close range. From the 30th minute, Niigata had the ball in their hands, but they kept a compact formation and responded by closing in on others and filling the space. However, a series of poor passes in their own half led to a series of Niigata counter-attacks and a golden opportunity, but goalkeeper Kim Jin Hyeon made a good save to deny the visitors. The first half ended 0-0 despite chances for both teams.

The first half was a back and forth affair with both teams passing the ball about equally, but in the second half Cerezo was pinned back in their own half for much of the half. The ball was taken but not connected, and mistakes were countered. In the 61st minute, Akio Kogiku brought on Hiroshi Kiyotake and Hirotaka Tameda at the same time. In the 66th minute, Kiyotake was sent through by Leo Ceara, but his through ball went just wide, and in the 67th minute, Maikuma was the beneficiary of Kagawa's great interchange of players, but his direct cross went just wide. Kagawa's big cross on the flank allowed Maikuma to run straight at him, but he was unable to connect with the ball. In the 77th minute, Ryosuke Yamanaka and Satoki Uejo combined for the first goal, and in the 79th minute, Ryosuke Shindo headed over the crossbar from a Kiyotake corner. The first goal came in the 79th minute when Ryosuke Shindo headed a Kiyotake corner over the bar. After failing to get on the board first in an offensive period, Niigata took the lead in the 87th minute. Cerezo pressed high but were unable to get the ball forward, and then, outnumbered in front of goal, were able to break down their own left flank and find the back of the net. After the goal, Cerezo was unable to create any more chances and time ran out. The team finished the season in 9th place, one place down in the standings.

There was a time in September when they were in contention for the top 3 and even the championship, but since the away game against Kashima Antlers, they have stalled with a 1-1-6 record in 8 games. In that time, they have scored just one goal and have struggled in attack. "(This match) was a game where we were once again reminded of the problems we have been facing in the last few games. However, we were able to share these issues with everyone early on, and we were able to share them with everyone, including not only our players and staff, but also the team strengthening department. I think that is a positive thing. Next season will also be a memorable year for Cerezo Osaka's 30th anniversary, so we want to prepare well and work towards our goals," said manager Kogiku. On top of the build-up that they have accumulated, how can they increase the number of finishes and increase their scoring power? They aim to raise the level of both the team and the individual players and lead to success next season.

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