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Review: Cerezo Osaka 1-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima (J1 MD16)

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Despite conceding first, Ryuya Nishio's first goal of the season gave the team a point. The team was able to hold their own against Hiroshima's high intensity and showed a fight that will lead to the next match.

Three days have passed since the J.League YBC Levain Cup 1st Round 3rd Round match against FC Ryukyu. Back in the league, Cerezo Osaka hosted Sanfrecce Hiroshima at home for the 16th round of the Meiji Yasuda J1 League, looking for back-to-back wins. The starting lineup was changed from the previous match against Avispa Fukuoka. Seiya Maikuma returned from injury at right back.

Cerezo have not won at home against Hiroshima since 2017, and have lost six in a row. As if to illustrate their unfavorable odds, Hiroshima went on the offensive early in the match. After Cerezo's press from the front was disrupted, they quickly moved the ball forward, creating chances with crosses from the flanks. Cerezo conceded eight corner kicks in the first half alone, but the defenders did well to keep them out. Midway through the first half, manager Akio Kogiku changed the defensive approach: "We lowered our block, eliminated the space behind us, and changed our defensive approach to pressing based on the first and second lines." In attack, the team used long balls to avoid the opponent's press, especially with Jordy Croux on the right flank, and they managed to force the opponent into a corner towards the end of the first half. In the 45th minute, Lucas Fernandes latched onto a Croux cross that drifted to the far post, cut inside and unleashed a shot. It went just wide, but it was the closest they came to scoring in the first half.

The second half started well for Hiroshima and in the 53rd minute Hayato Araki scored from a corner kick. They had another chance in the 57th minute when Taishi Matsumoto slipped in behind the defence, but goalkeeper Kim Jin Hyeon made a great save with his left foot. Ryuya Nishio reacted quickly to pounce on the rebound. A second goal was somehow prevented. Shunta Tanaka, who celebrated his 27th birthday that day and made his 150th appearance for the J1 in this match, said: "If that shot had gone in, it would have been a tough game. It was a big play and I can only thank Jin-san (Jin Hyeon) for his super save. Cerezo were unable to carry the ball as well as they would have liked due to Hiroshima's pressing, but after the 60th minute, space began to open up in midfield and they began to link up from the bottom and push forward. In the 65th minute, Tanaka, Vitor Bueno, Leo Ceara and Croux combined at a good pace, and Croux delivered the cross. The ball was saved by Hiroshima goalkeeper Keisuke Osako, but Cerezo equalized from the resulting corner. Nishio met Fernandes' precise kick at the far post. Nishio's first goal of the season came after a tense duel with his opponent since the first half.

Cerezo came back to life with this goal, and from that point on, they went on the offensive towards the end of the game. In the 68th minute, a corner kick by Fernandes again found Nishio in the near corner, but his shot went wide. In the 77th minute, a feed from Kim Jin Hyeon found Hirotaka Tameda, who came on as a substitute, but he could not get a shot on target, as he was stopped by the opposing defense. Cerezo won a free kick, and Bueno kicked it, and Hiroaki Okuno stuffed the loose ball, but it was just out of reach. They then won a number of set pieces, and Hiroshi Kiyotake came on in the closing minutes, and in added time, Funaki, Tameda, and Kiyotake broke down the left flank, creating a great chance for Ceara to dive in on Kiyotake's cross. However, they were unable to find the winner, and the game ended 1-1.

Still, the fact that they were able to hold their own against a Hiroshima team that is strong on the ball was a positive result. Manager Kogiku summed up the game by saying, "We played a high intensity game against a great team like Hiroshima, which will help us in the next game." Nishio added, "Everyone's desire to win was very strong. I think that's why we were able to come back from behind, so we can take that as a positive. We want to get three points next time." The next match is away to Kyoto Sanga F.C. After a difficult May, they hope to start June with a win.

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