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Review: Tokyo Verdy 1-1 Cerezo Osaka (J1 MD22)

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After conceding a goal, our ace scored the equalizer, but the team was unable to break down a 10-man opponent and score another goal, resulting in a draw.

The first away match of the second half of the season was against Tokyo Verdy in the 22nd round of the Meiji Yasuda J1 League. Cerezo Osaka, looking for their second three-game winning streak of the season, made one change to their starting lineup from the previous match. Reiya Sakata started at right back in place of Hayato Okuda, who missed the match due to "poor health" according to manager Akio Kogiku. This was Sakata's first league appearance and first start of the season.

Before the match, the coach had mentioned "how to get into the game" as a key point, and in order to cancel out Tokyo Verdy's momentum, "we spread them out vertically and horizontally, and once we spread them out, we moved forward mainly through the volantis and side-backs," said Kogiku. They used passes to their feet and passes behind opposing defenders to gain possession and keep the game going. However, Tokyo Verdy's aggressive and solid defense prevented them from penetrating deep into the opponent's territory, and they were unable to create any shooting opportunities. In the 23rd minute, Satoki Uejo fired a shot from distance that flew just wide of the goalkeeper. Despite their superiority in possession, Cerezo were unable to create any real chances and Tokyo Verdy threatened the goal with simple attacks and counterattacks from the back. However, goalkeeper Kim Jin Hyeon made a good save in the 17th minute and Hiroto Yamami's shot in the 31st minute was saved by the post. In the 42nd minute, Tokyo Verdy's Fuki Yamada was sent off for a tackle on Capixaba that showed the back of his foot. The tide of the game turned dramatically. With Cerezo holding a numerical advantage, Leo Ceara fired a curling shot from midfield in the 44th minute and Sakata shot from a cut-in in first-half stoppage time. Cerezo ended the first half on a positive note.

At halftime, Cerezo's manager, Kogiku, shared his team's goal to "increase the number of shots, aim for more mid-range shots, be bold with crosses, and aim for the center of the field" in order to break down Tokyo Verdy's 5-3-1 defensive block. However, early in the second half, after a throw-in in their own half, Hiroaki Okuno swung his leg to clear the second ball after a bouncing cross, resulting in a foul and a penalty kick, allowing their opponents to take the lead with a man down. Cerezo, looking to fight back, replaced Uejo and Okuno with Ryo Watanabe and Masaya Shibayama in the 59th minute. Shibayama was able to accentuate the attack with his presence on the ball, and in the 61st minute he fired a shot from a free kick on a sign play. In the 72nd minute, after Tokyo Verdy's defense seemed to be holding firm, manager Kogiku introduced Hirotaka Tameda and Yuichi Hirano, and switched to a back three. Then, Cerezo equalized in the 76th minute. Hirano's long pass found Leo Ceara, who ran behind the opposing defender and collected the ball. Tameda played the ball to Shunta Tanaka, who saw Leo Ceara's diagonal run and squared the ball to the number 9, who stopped the ball well and calmly slotted it home, despite being pulled down by the defender. The ace's 16th goal of the season got the Cerezo supporters all fired up, and another opportunity came in the 78th minute they had another chance when Lucas Fernandes' pass found Leo Ceara in the penalty area, but he could not find the target. In the 83rd minute, Tanaka's pass found Hirano in the box, but he could not find the target. Another chance came in the 90th minute when Lucas Fernandes' pass found Watanabe, who sent a one-touch pass forward to Leo Ceara, but his looping shot went just over the crossbar.

Ryuya Nishio also moved up front in the final minutes, and everyone expressed their "desire to win" (Nishio) on the pitch. In the last minute of second-half added time, Justin Hubner, who came on as a substitute in the 90+3 minute, had a good chance from a corner kick, but his header went wide. Finally, Nishio got behind a feed from Sho Funaki and tried his best to stretch his legs, but was unable to make it meaty, and the game was over. Cerezo had an overwhelming 12-1 advantage in shots in the second half, but were unable to overcome the deficit. We managed to catch them, but it was a game we had to win. Tanaka was not smiling after the game, saying, "It was a waste of a game. We had a player sent off, and in a game like this you have to be as close to 100% as possible to get the win. We managed to catch up, but it was a game we had to win." The draw was a bitter blow, leaving a 10-point gap with leader FC Machida Zelvia and a 5-point gap with second place, but they will try to finish the remaining two games with consecutive wins to catch up with the leaders until the intermission. On Wednesday, July 10, they will face Ventforet Kofu in the third round of the Emperor's Cup. This is an important match to win the title. They will work as a team to overcome this series of games in the increasing heat of the season.

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