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Review: Cerezo Osaka 2-2 FC Tokyo (J1 MD1)

  • TEAM

The 2024 season kicks off: The team showed solid progress but unable to keep the lead twice, harvesting both successes and challenges.

The 2024 season has finally started. This season marks the 30th anniversary of Cerezo Osaka. With the goal of "winning the league championship," the team has been preparing since the preseason. One week before the season opener, Ryosuke Shindo suffered an injury, but as manager Akio Kogiku said on the day before the match "To put it simply, I feel refreshed. We are fully prepared and I can't wait to start the season," the team was able to open the season after a productive six weeks.

In the first match of the Meiji Yasuda J1 League, Cerezo hosted FC Tokyo at the Yodoko Sakura Stadium. Cerezo started with goalkeeper Kim Jin Hyeon and a 4-3-3 formation with, from left to right, Kyohei Noborizato, Kakeru Funaki, Koji Toriumi, and Seiya Mamakuma in the back line, Shunta Tanaka at anchor, Hiroaki Okuno and Shinji Kagawa in the midfield, and Capixaba, Lucas Fernandes, and Leo Ceara up front. The Celeste gave FC Tokyo a series of CKs at the start of the game, but Capixaba, who has shown his ability to drive vertically this season, quickly pushed the ball back. The right side of the field also showed a good combination, with newcomer Lucas Fernandes and Maikuma teaming up. With Tanaka anchoring the team this season, the team was able to send vertical passes forward, and the central midfield was also invigorated. Kagawa, who moved up a position, received the ball in a good position and Okuno supported him near Leo Ceara. In the 16th minute, Maimuma, Tanaka and Kagawa linked up and eventually Leo Ceara headed Lucas Fernandes' cross into the net, but Kagawa's pass was first met by Okuno, who was offside. Kagawa, who was the first to receive Kagawa's pass, was offside and no goal was scored.

However, in the 27th minute, Cerezo, who had been dominating the game, managed to take the lead. Once again, Kagawa was at the center of the action. Kagawa's pass was met by Leo Ceara, who kept the ball, and Lucas Fernandes and Maikuma combined to attack down the right flank. Maikuma then crossed for Capixaba, who was waiting on the opposite flank, to head home. The Yodoko Sakura Stadium was alive with excitement after the long-awaited first goal of the season. The visitors looked to have taken the lead in the first half, but Ryotaro Araki equalized in the 34th minute when he flicked a pass past Kuryu Matsuki. The goal was disappointing as Cerezo had the ball in their hands and were caught off guard. In the 38th minute, Toriumi's pass was met in the near area by Maikuma, who made a perfect stop and played the ball into the middle of the field. Leo Ceara ran onto the ball and fired a powerful shot towards the near post. The ball hit the post.

Cerezo started the second half on the offensive, and in the 50th minute they took the second ball from FK and combined with a pass for the decisive goal. Maikuma latched onto Kagawa's curling pass and unleashed a shot that was saved by the goalkeeper. However, Cerezo took the lead again with a CK. Tanaka met Lucas Fernandes' kick at the near side. The number 10's first goal as a new member of the club put Cerezo ahead once again. Cerezo continued to push forward, and in the 55th minute they had another golden opportunity. Lucas Fernandes dribbled and Leo Ceara shot at Okuno's post. The goalkeeper was again denied. Capixaba also failed to get on the end of a loose ball and could not get a shot on target. From that point on, the tide turned in favor of FC Tokyo. After a change of players to boost the side's attack, substitute Jaja Silva broke down the right flank and crossed for Araki to score the equalizer in the 75th minute. Unsatisfied with just one point, given their season's target and their performance in this match, Cerezo brought on Masaya Shibayama and Vitor Bueno in the midfield, and with a change of character, they went for the final goal. The team changed the character of the players and they were looking for the final goal. Then, in the 88th minute, Shibayama slipped into Tanaka's path and had a chance off the dribble. In the 90+3 minute, Lucas Fernandes had a great chance from behind after a counterattack, but could not finish. The game ended 2-2.

As Noborizato reflected, "In order to win the championship, we had to win out." Although it was a bitter blow to finish with only one point after failing to capitalize on the lead twice, "There were many positives in this game. The new players showed their strengths to the fullest. I think we were able to build on the foudation of last year's game, and we were able to show areas in both offense and defense that we can build on," said manager Kogiku, summing up the game. If we can continue to improve our common understanding of tactics, the quality of our build-up and finishing, and the defensive lapses, we will be able to show our consistent strength. Our next match is against Kashima Antlers at their home stadium. We hope to make the most of what we learned from this week's match and the challenges we faced, and get our first win of the season.

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