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Review: Sagan Tosu 0-2 Cerezo Osaka (J1 MD4)

  • TEAM

Vitor Bueno's and Masaya Shibayama's first J1 goals and the team's first clean sheet of the season secured back-to-back wins

Cerezo Osaka's starting lineup for their away game against Sagan Tosu, looking for their first consecutive win of the season, changed by one player from the previous match. Leo Ceara returned to the starting lineup for the first time in two matches, while Capixaba also returned to the bench.

In the first three matches of the season, Cerezo had dominated the game by maintaining possession throughout the first half, but in this match, Tosu's skillful possession put Cerezo on the back foot as they were unable to get their defense on the front foot. In the 19th minute, the ball was carried from left to right and when the ball was played into space, it found the back of the net, but it was disallowed for offside. Cerezo started the first half under pressure from Tosu, but began to gain possession from around the 20th minute, and in the 28th minute, Jordy Croux took a feed from Kim Jin Hyeon and crossed for Hiroaki Okuno to threaten the goal with header. The defense also stabilized as manager Akio Kogiku switched from a high-pressing 4-3-3 to a more compact 4-5-1. The first half ended without Tosu having much of a chance, although they were unable to take the lead. "The first half was tough, but the good thing is that we didn't concede any goals in that period," said Ryuya Nishio after the match.

At the start of the second half, Kogiku introduced Vitor Bueno in place of Shinji Kagawa. The game was off and running. A diagonal pass from Kakeru Funaki set up an attack down the right flank that led to a series of crosses from Croux and Seiya Maikuma. Bueno collected the loose ball from Maikuma's cross and swung his right foot out of the trap for a spectacular finish. The moment the ball hit the crossbar and was sucked into the net, the benches erupted in celebration. The players were delighted with the goal, which quickly turned the tide of a difficult first half.

Cerezo regained their composure after taking the lead. Considering the previous three games, an early goal was needed, and in the 64th minute, the number 55, who had just scored a golazo, was once again the star of the show. After receiving the ball in the middle of the park from Ceara's drop, he passed the ball to Masaya Shibayama who ran forward. The number 48, who had just come into the game and had the first touch, stopped the ball with his right foot and swept it in with his left foot out, which bounced off the goalkeeper's hands and into the goal. The players gave a wild celebration for Shibayama's first J1 goal, which came a few months after he joined the club last summer and a season apart, and the joy was palpable once again. Another good chance came again in the 69th minute. Shibayama intercepted an opponent's pass and played it into the middle of the field, where Bueno ran through and Ceara met the ball, but could not find the back of the net.

In the 86th minute, an incident occurred in which Shibayama was sent off for a straight red after VAR intervention, but Cerezo replaced Ceara with Koji Toriumi, and the team held on for the win with a 5-3-1 defense. "The first clean sheet of the season, back-to-back wins, and the fact that some of our struggling players came on and got results along the way. The depth of the bond between the players, who all worked hard even though we were down to 10 men at the end. This was a game that gave me a lot of pleasure," said manager Kogiku, summing up the match. Maikuma, who will join the national team after the match, also commented, "Teams that win matches like this can move up. Even at halftime, some people were saying, 'We have to win these games.' This was a win that will help us grow as a team to move up to another level," he said. The team, which has become more competitive with more players playing well, will look to improve both offensively and defensively in preparation for their next match against Shonan Bellmare in about two weeks, after the national team's week off.

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