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Review: Gamba Osaka 1-0 Cerezo Osaka (J1 MD12)

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A good start, but a mistake cost them a goal, and Cerezo lost the Osaka Derby for the first time in 5 years.

Two days after the previous match against Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, Cerezo Osaka traveled to their opponents' stadium for the Osaka derby against Gamba Osaka. The starting lineup was changed by two players from the Sapporo match. Shinji Kagawa and Hirotaka Tameda, who had turned the tide in the previous match, started, while Hiroshi Kiyotake was on the bench for the first time this season in a league match.

Cerezo was looking for their first win in four games this week. The start of the game was excellent. They dodged Gamba's press, which came at them from the front with great force, and moved forward. Shunta Tanaka and Kyohei Noborizato received the ball in open positions and used both sides of the pitch well to move into the opposition's territory. In the 12th minute, a swing from left to right allowed Maikuma to get into the penalty area, and again in the 13th minute, a through ball from Shinji Kagawa allowed Maikuma to send in a cross to break down the opposing defense. In the 26th minute, Maikuma was again the source of the attack, linking up with Tameda and Leo Ceara before unleashing a shot. However, as in the Nagoya and Sapporo matches, Cerezo controlled the game but failed to score the first goal, and in the 28th minute, a mistake in their own half led to a conceded goal. Maikuma and Koji Toriumi were out of sync, and an errant pass was picked up by Takashi Usami, who fired home a mid-range shot. The game continued without any major breakdowns, but in the 36th minute there was an accident. Maikuma was forced to leave the game with a leg injury. He was replaced by Hayato Okuda, a graduate of the Gamba Academy. He was suddenly called upon to play in the Osaka Derby, which was his goal as a professional player, but as he recalled, "I was able to play calmly from the start."

In the second half, Cerezo was able to take control of the ball from the start, but again there was an accident. This time, left back Noborizato got injured, and manager Akio Kogiku made three substitutions at the same time. Satoki Uejo, Vitor Bueno, and Masaya Shibayama were introduced in place of Noborizato, Hiroaki Okuno, and Tameda. Anchor Tanaka was dropped to center back, and Kakeru Funaki was moved to left back. Kamikado moved to anchor, and the 4-3-3 continued. In the 64th minute, Bueno tried a direct free kick. A corner kick soon after, Bueno again fired a shot through the middle from a short corner. In the 66th minute, Kiyotake replaced Kagawa, making his first league appearance of the season. Cerezo was hoping to equalize and then turn the game around with the help of the substitutions, but Gamba had a series of crucial chances in the 70th, 71st, and 73rd minutes. Cerezo managed to hold on, thanks to a good save by goalkeeper Kim Jin Hyeon, and then began to fight back with through passes from Kiyotake, dribbles from Shibayama, and other individual talents, but they were unable to find the decisive goal. Kim Jin Hyeon again made a good save in the final minutes to keep the opponents off the board, and in the 89th minute, Kiyotake tried to head in Okuda's cross for a goal. In added time, Kim Jin Hyeon also went up to the box and fired a bicycle shot from a set piece, but the game ended 0-1. This was Cerezo's first loss in the Osaka derby in the league in five years.

The result, as well as the injuries to both fullbacks, Maikuma and Noborizato, made this a painful game for Cerezo. The gap to leaders FC Machida Zelvia has widened to five points, dropping them to fifth place in the standings. However, there is no time to look down. Next up are games against second-placed Vissel Kobe and then Machida, which will determine the fate of this season's top flight. "These are difficult times, and that's when we have a chance. There is no need to be pessimistic at all. We just have to keep doing what we have been doing," said Tanaka. Will the team be able to bounce back from the adversity and make strong strides towards this season's goal again? This is truly a time when the team's collective strength will be put to the test.

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