Manager's Comments“The players created opportunities with some well-defined attacking. The problem that remains is our inability to finish on those opportunities. However, I felt the team at least played its toughest until the very end of the game.
We have to move on from today’s game and start preparing for the next game (against Yokohama FC, 19:00 on 8th July, at Nippatsu) on Wednesday.”
Q: Was your decision to change last game’s line up made in light of your upcoming matches?
“It was a decision I made when I was faced with Hasegawa’s looming departure from the team. Knowing that it would be his last match with the team, I could have played him on the starting line-up. However, I talked this over with him and Tashiro, and we decided to play Tashiro in the starting line-up.
Thinking ahead – to our games without Hasegawa – I wanted to nudge the team one step forward.
Allow me to use this opportunity to thank Hasegawa. I thank him for being such a dedicated player. His transfer means a lot not only for Hasegawa himself, but for the world Japanese football, as well. I say this because the league to which he is moving is one in which the world’s top players play, and he is a player of the right calibre to be moving into such a league. I pray from my heart for Hasegawa’s future success as a player, and will follow and support his development as a great professional sportsman.”
Players' Comments■ Ariajasuru Hasegawa
"(Q: What was your honest impression of the last game for Cerezo?) Many fans and supporters came out to watch this game, despite the rain. Though we were unable to win the match, over the past year and a half I was able to play with strong emotions. I would have liked to have repaid the team with a result in this match. However, since I can no longer help the team win, I am certain the rest of the players that have remained on this side will help the team to victory. I would like every fan and supporter to continue believing (in the team) and supporting them.
(Q: Starting with the banner that had been put in place before the game, what do you have to say to the Cerezo supporters that sent you their encouragement and support?) The warm welcome you gave me when I moved here from Tokyo, the songs (chants) that you wrote for me, and the support you have shown me – even when times got tough – has not fallen on deaf ears. With that in mind, I was determined to get our team into the J1 league and then move overseas to play. As I have told many people in the past, playing overseas has been a dream of mine since I was a child. So, I will play my heart out when I get to Spain, and will send my support for Cerezo from the lands of Spain.
(Q: Do you feel that coming to Cerezo has broadened your football skills?) Yes, I do. Honestly speaking, starting my professional career with the Yokohama F Marinos, and then moving to Cerezo after playing for FC Tokyo, has given me plenty of experiences – through good and bad times. Taking into consideration my age, I am already 27 years old, and that has given me a variety of experiences. Of course I look at from the point of view that I have heard plenty of stories from those above me and am in a position to teach and help players that are younger than I am. It’s time that I put these experiences to the test, and make a fresh start by playing overseas and challenging myself to something new.”
"I am not satisfied with this result, as we always aim for a win when we play. However, I think everybody played a great match – particularly in the second half, when we were able to take control of the game. I had a feeling that the ball would not find the net in today’s game. I feel that we are on the right path. So, our condition will improve as long as we keep pushing ahead. If we continue playing as we have, our rhythm will naturally return to us. As we have been scoring goals up till our last game, next match we will all do our best to make sure we score. Since our next game is an away match against Yokohama, I would like to switch our attention to that game and win."
■ Kim Jin-Hyeon
"(Q: Yet again you were able to keep a clean slate.) I had a feeling that today’s rainy weather would make it hard for any goals to be scored. Though there were some signs that we could have one by a goal’s difference, there were very few threatening moments – and I believed that we would not be beaten by the other side. Even I did not have much work to do. When the players in the front are playing hard the way they did today, it usually stops us from conceding. So, I thank those players. We had chances to attack, and there were also times when you knew the ball would not go into the goal. Though we did not score, we were able to keep a zero on our side of the scoreboard – an encouraging inspiration that allows us to be confident in our capabilities as defenders. I would like us to have more games with clean slates."
■ Hotaru Yamaguchi
"(Q: Do you see Ariajasuru Hasegawa’s departure from the team coming as a painful loss to the team?) He kept an eye on the balance of the team [in play], and was a tactful player. Personally speaking, he was the player with which I shared a mutual understanding – more than anyone else – and that makes me regret the fact that he’s leaving. However, it can’t be helped if he’s not he’s already decided to leave. We have to concentrate on the future and playing well, and we have to keep our chins up, since we have back to back games approaching. I am glad that we did not lose today.
(Q: What was your impression of the first half of the match?) Thinking about certain moments, I thought we did an excellent job ending the half. The manager had constantly told us to regain our tracks. If it had been up to me, I would have liked to have won this match and ended on a streak of three wins. However, as we are still in a position where we have to aim for the teams above us, we have to focus on achieving results for the remaining half of the season.
(Q: What do you think you need to do in order to secure automatic promotion to the J1 League?) The most important thing is to avoid losing. If we can finish a game without conceding any goals, we can also win a game 1-0 in the final minutes. Even for games where we are pressured and threatened, we can link to the next game if we are able to end on a score of 0-0. Every point counts: the important thing is to continue adding points.”
■ Keiji Tamada
"(Q: What were the highlights of today’s game?) Our ability to defend as team. (Q: Do you see scoring as your remaining problem?) Frankly speaking, yes. We need to envision the same picture in the goal scoring process. At the moment, we are unable to do that when we shoot. Today we did not have any chance-like chances, and we couldn’t work toward some decent shooting.
Not losing is a good thing. However, in order to make it to the top, we have win games … especially at home."
■ Yuzo Tashiro
"We had a number of chances in the first half which we would have been able to turn into goals if we had played calmly. I feel responsible, as the result was a draw in the end. We are becoming increasingly better as we continue to play. However, we cannot say these sorts of things, as we are faced with official matches. If we have a chance to win in our next game, we must simply seek results whilst we play. I felt a little exhausted in the second half. However, I was able to move around a lot more than I thought I would. Playing a few more games should help build my physical strength. Since we have consecutive matches to play, I would like to rest and prepare well for the upcoming games."
■ Tatsuya Yamashita
"I am happy that we ended today’s game without conceding a goal. Our zero-goals conceded stretch continues. It is something I would like us to maintain. As we had plenty of opportunities to create chances on the pitch, we should watch the playback of our game in order to improve our performance in those scenarios. Our awareness of the defensive aspect of the game has increased – centring on the defence line. There are times when a small gap opens in our midfield after the other side crosses the ball or changes sides. However, Pablo and Kuni (Sekiguchi) pull back when that happens, and their dedicated performances on the field lead into our next games. Such players are essential in the game of football."
■ Yusuke Maruhashi
“We allowed ourselves to easily lose the ball too many times in the first half. With the second half we were able to make some great shots, and what remains [as an issue] is our finishing.
(Q: Did you feel there were any problems with starting the game in a 4-4-2 formation?) I believe we could have connected the ball more during the first half. In my case, I was too focused on Yuzo (Tashiro) and gave him many long balls. That is something I need to work on.
(Q: Tell us about Ariajasuru Hasegawa – it’s his last game with Cerezo.) He truly is a skilful and great player who has saved the team numerous times. I believe he will perform well even overseas, and I want him to do well. Though it’s sad to see him leave, this is the world in which we work, and I will continue to support him."
■ Yuta Someya
"The bad point about today’s match was that we were unable to win. Despite being severely threatened by the other side, we had to keep in mind that even if we are able to put pressure on the ball, we may come under attack. In that case, we should have stuck together as a team and repelled any offensive tactics our opposition threw at us. (Q: Did your chat with Jin-Hyeon during the first half have anything to do with you checking the spacing of the players on the pitch?) As two players were being played in front, they would always aim for our rear. When that happens, we would fall back, and during that moment a player would come to receive the ball. I believe we needed to be a bit clearer with each other about how to handle that threat. (Q: Could you see any reason to paint your performance today in a negative light?) Though we did not lose, it is also true that we did not win. And that is something we need to address in order to player better football.
Nothing will start if we keep our heads down. We have to be optimistic, and form a tight-knit unit and continue to play – in order to get three points in our next match."
■ Kunimitsu Sekiguchi
“The first half did not go that smoothly. I watched Yuzo (Tashiro) and tried to kick the ball to him too often. After the match we talked about how it would have been better if we had connected the ball a bit more. As we have the ability to connect the ball to one another, I think we should leave kicking the ball to Yuzo as a last resort. Really connecting the ball: one thing we have to remember to continue doing whilst we play.
(Q: Your defence from the players in the front shows that, to a certain extent, you are able to work together as a team in defence.) We played a better defence in the second half as opposed to the first. In the beginning of the first half it would have been great if we could have put more pressure on the other side. Instead, however, we the pressure was put on us and we kicked the ball away on many occasions. Doing the basics – such as spreading out after stealing the ball – would help us reduce the pressure placed on us by the opposition.
(Q: Do you believe you displayed an encouraging performance in the second half?) Though of course it really hurts that we only managed to end on a draw, it is crucial that we did not rush ourselves. We’re going to concentrate on our next game and once again clarify all the things we need to do.”
PostscriptThe 21st sec. of the Meiji Yasuda Life J2 League pitted Cerezo Osaka against Oita Trinita in a home game at Kincho Stadium which ended in a scoreless draw of 0-0. Unable to achieve their first winning streak of three wins, Cerezo ended the first half of the season on 34 points and in 5th place. This brings the gap between it and leaders Omiya Ardija (on 46 points) to 12 points, and places them six points away from runners up Jubilo Iwata (on 40 points), both of whom are in J1 automatic promotion zone. This match also saw the announcement of Ariajasuru Hasegawa’s complete transfer to Spanish club Real Zaragoza - making this his last game for the Osaka side. The team, however, was unable to send him off with a victory.
With “a decision I made when I was faced with Hasegawa’s looming departure from the team” (manager Paulo Autuori), Cerezo switched from a 4-3-3 formation to a 4-2-2 formation, with Keiji Tamada and Yuzo Tashiro - making his season debut in the starting line-up – in front. Hasegawa was to start from the bench. However, perhaps due to the absence of Hasegawa, a key mover of the game, Cerezo’s match (played in wet conditions) resembled its last game against Tochigi SC, in which the side was unable to properly concert their efforts offensively and defensively. Despite this, Tashiro threatened the opposition’s goal in the 17th, 18th, and 28th minutes, and in the 38th minute a shot by Hotaru Yamaguchi rattled the crossbar, gradually giving the team control of the match.
Even in the second half, some consecutive corner kicks and a cross from the left by Yusuke Maruhashi saw Cerezo progress in a somewhat aggressive manner. However, shots by Kunimitsu Sekiguchi in 57th minute and Pablo in the 66th flew straight into the goal keeper’s arms, and a mid-range right footed shot by Takahiro Ohgihara in the 80th minute failed to hit its mark. Oita keeper Yohei Takeda, former Cerezo player, would not allow the Oita fortress to be penetrated. In the 83rd minute Takamitsu Yoshino and an eager Hasegawa were sent into the game to bring the side a victory. However, the almost immediate opportunity that Hasegawa found was blocked by Takeda and his defenders, who were unwilling to let Hasegawa fire off a shot. In the 90th minute Noriyuki Sakemoto received a second warning and was sent off the pitch, which put the side at a numerical disadvantage. However, in the dying seconds a chance was awarded to the team in the form of a free kick. However, nothing came of it. In defence, the side calmly handled Oita’s set plays and swift offensives, giving the side three back to back clean slates, and seven lossless games. Though this match was another pressing game against a struggling team – following from the 15th sec. match against Roasso Kumamoto (0-0) and the 18th sec. match against Mito HollyHock (1-1) – the fact that the side was unable to grab a win at home made things even more excruciating.
“We had a number of chances in the first half which we would have been able to turn into goals if we had played calmly. I feel responsible, as the result was a draw in the end,” said Tashiro, who played his first whole match. On the other hand, “I watched Yuzo (Tashiro) and tried to kick the ball to him too often… it would have been better if we had connected the ball a bit more,” said Sekiguchi, who was unable to make use of his pass-work and effective side changes – an issue that remains to be resolved.
Despite such developments, one player noted that “though of course it really hurts that we only managed to end on a draw, it is crucial that we did not rush ourselves” (Sekiguchi), and another said “if it had been up to me, I would have liked to have won this match and ended on a streak of three wins. However, as we are still in a position where we have to aim for the teams above us, we have to focus on achieving results for the remaining half of the season” (Yamaguchi). The team looked ahead and rallied themselves for the second half of the season.
After the game Hasegawa made a lap around the stadium. As a player, he always answered his supporters’ calls. As a final message and farewell to the cherry blossom coloured uniform, the number five player said: “over the past year and a half I was able to play with strong emotions. I was determined to get our team into the J1 league and then move overseas to play. As I have told many people in the past, playing overseas has been a dream of mine since I was a child. So, I will play my heart out when I get to Spain, and will send my support for Cerezo from the lands of Spain.”