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Review: Cerezo Osaka 1-3 FC Machida Zelvia (Levain Cup Play-off Round 1st leg)

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Despite taking the lead with Jordy Croux's golazo, Cerezo conceded three goals in the second half and are looking for a comeback in the 2nd leg.

Three days have passed since the 17th match of the Meiji Yasuda J1 League against Kyoto Sanga F.C. The tournament moved to the J. League YBC Levain Cup, and Cerezo Osaka took on FC Machida Zelvia in the first leg of the play-off round. The starting lineup was changed from the league game with the exception of Seiya Maikuma and Kakeru Funaki. The players who played against FC Ryukyu mainly started this match, including Satoki Uejo and Hiroto Yamada in the top two, and Hiroshi Kiyotake and Yuichi Hirano as double volantes.

Machida started with a quick attack that resulted in a shot on goal. But in the 5th minute, Cerezo also worked the ball through Hirano and Kiyotake, and Jordy Croux broke through on the right flank to create a chance. And in the 6th minute, Cerezo took the lead. Funaki deflected a long ball from the opponent, and the second ball was collected by Uejo, Hirano and Yamada, who dropped it to Uejo, who again played it to Croux on the right flank. The ball was dribbled to number 11, who cut inside and scored with a curling left-foot shot. The golazo lifted Cerezo's spirits and they had another crucial opportunity in the 14th and 15th minutes. In the 14th minute, Uejo received a pass from Kiyotake and fired an non-rotating mid-range shot, but the goalkeeper made the save. From a corner kick, Funaki met Kiyotake's kick, but his header went just wide. After scoring the first goal, Cerezo chose to let Machida have the ball. On defense, as mentioned before the game, they chose to pull back and eliminate space. There were some notable occasions when Machida carried the ball high, but they put their bodies on the line to block the final crosses and shots. Tatsuya Yamashita, wearing the captain's armband, led the way in the first half, preventing Machida's opponents from creating any decisive chances. After Funaki's header, Cerezo were unable to create any chances in attack, but "fulfilled our game plan defensively" (manager Akio Kogiku) and the first half ended with a one-goal lead.

Koji Toriumi replaced Yamashita at the start of the second half. Yamashita, who had been strong from the start and bounced back at the center of the defense, "had a bit of an accident and had to be replaced," according to the manager after the game. In the second half, Machida continued to possess the ball, but Cerezo came close again in the 54th minute when Croux cut in from a similar angle to the first goal, but this time the ball went wide. Cerezo had not allowed their opponents to mount an effective attack, but in the 59th minute a desperate feed from their opponents led to a goal. Toriumi, reacting to Erik on the left flank, committed a handball in the box and was awarded a penalty. The goalkeeper, Yang Han Been, was able to touch the ball but was not able to flick it forward, and the ball ended up in the net. The second goal came shortly after the restart. A kick to the opposite corner was rebounded to Machida, who then brought the ball into his own half, where Na Sang Ho finally scored with a mid-range shot.

Manager Akio Kogiku immediately introduced Leo Ceara and Capixaba, and in the 68th minute, Uejo fired a shot on goal after a play from Ceara. In the 70th minute, Shinji Kagawa replaced Hirano. Kagawa played as an anchor for a while, and halfway through the game, Uejo moved to the anchor position, with Kiyotake and Kagawa taking positions in the inside half in a 4-3-3 formation, and the team went on the offensive. In the 74th minute, Ceara received a pass from Kagawa and advanced on goal, but could not get a shot off. Cerezo, led by Kiyotake and Kagawa, tried to equalize, but conceded a third goal in the 87th minute. Goalkeeper Yang Han Been tried to react to Eriki's run on the back of the defender, but the ball was touched and crossed by the opponent before he could get a hand on it, and it went into the empty net. Cerezo had a number of corner kicks in the added time of the second half, but could not convert them into goals, and the time expired, leaving Cerezo with a two-goal deficit and a heavy burden on their hopes of advancing to the prime round.

However, as the manager said after the game, "If it was a one-shot game, we would be eliminated today, but we have an away game on Sunday, so we will just try to get back at them." There is still a good chance for them to get back from behind and make a comeback. "We lost 1-3 today, but I think we have the potential to score three goals. We will go into the next game with the same strong feeling that we will definitely get back at them in the next game," said Funaki. The team will be looking for a win in the second match on June 9 on the road to advance to the prime round.

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