Manager's Comments"I think we had an excellent game. Both our team and the opponent’s side are clubs with a tradition; plenty of supporters made their way to watch the game, and this was a match filled with fantastic football. Also, I would like to praise and bless our players from the bottom of my heart for their hard work. However, the game is now over. So, we must prepare our best for the next game."
Q: You decided to play your substitutes into the game one after the other in the final minutes of the match. Could you tell me what your strategy was in those last fifteen minutes?
"I knew that our opponents would play lots of long ball and crosses. Today our players fought through and bore it all. Honestly speaking, we could have played the game without substituting anyone on. I spent a lot of time thinking whether we really needed to use all three substitutions. I try to substitute a player into the game when a change is needed. Looking at the focus shown by our players today, a substitution didn’t seem necessary. That’s how tough our players played today. Amidst that, the reason I played Moniwa was because I predicted Iwata would, naturally, increase their power plays toward the end. The other two substitutes who came on both concentrated on the game. The whole team performed beautifully. If I had to add one criticism, it would be the two chances at scoring we missed after we took the lead. Being able to convert chances into goals is what we will focus on from hereon."
Q: In the last two games the team continually conceded a goal in the beginning of the match. Did you emphasise anything before going into this match?
"The last two games saw us concede in the early start of the game. However, both of those mistakes came about due to the inattention and judgement of a single player. That said, on the whole I strongly feel that our team’s defensive capabilities have grown over the season. With every match we play, even the team’s organisational skills are improving. I told the players to remember these facts, and to enter the game with their heads on straight. As for today’s match, I am happy to say that on the mental, physical, technical, and strategic aspects of the game, our players performed superbly."
Players' Comments■ Yuzo Tashiro
"(Q: Tell us about the decider you scored.) Pablo passed the ball with perfect timing, and I managed to play fairly calmly when I got hold of the ball. My body followed, and I shot the ball and scored with a feeling of composure.
(Q: Today the team won like the Kashima Antlers used to when you were on that team.) The strongest teams are those that win regardless of how awfully they perform. I think Iwata outperformed us, and the counter attacks during the match made it very tough on us. However, a team that is able to win these types of games is sure to extend the number of points it has in the tables. Though its unarguably true that we have to improve our performance, we were able to endure our opponents as a team, and that gave us a big victory and three points.
(Q: You did a good job up the field by keep the ball with your body and winning challenges for the ball.) I would have liked to have held on to the ball for a bit longer. There was some space left between myself and my teammates behind me. There were other things that could not be helped. However, Iwata’s Jay had an amazing talent at keeping the ball. He is someone I would like to imitate.
(Q: Did the idea that you could win in a head-to-head match make a big difference?) Yes, it did! Everyone was consciously aware of that. The game made us feel as if we had won six points, as we had secured three win points for ourselves, and taken three points from our opponent. That was something both teams understood. The other team played vigorously, and being able to win in such circumstances means a lot to us. However, we are still in third place, with our next game being an away match. So, we have to concentrate and quickly ready ourselves for the next game by correcting all of the flaws that still haunt our team. Today we were able to win the game this way. However, since we have always been the type of team that wins games by moving the ball around the field, we have to bring that to our upcoming matches."
"(Q: Do you believe your victory today is a sign of your maturity as a team?) Yes, I do. It is a sign that we have grown as a team. We all knew how important today’s game would be, and it was fantastic to be able to play our best and win with that in mind. Our opponents include such players as Jay; they’re a team of many high quality players. Being able to win against such a team is important if we are to be promoted. We were playing for the top two spots. Today was a game that we could not lose. Though it was a tough and fierce match, we were able to show everyone how badly we want to be promoted.
(Q: You were prevented from appearing in the last game. Did that encourage you to play even harder today?) My desire to play in our games is always there. I really wanted to get onto the pitch today. I always think about scoring goals and assisting others so that they can score. Luckily, I was able to provide Tashiro with a good pass. One of my shots bounced off the post. However, we fought as a team today. Everybody did their job, and we managed to fight our way through, which was splendid. JinHyeon injured himself in the last match. That came as a bit of a blow to us.
However, Tanno showed us some quality keeping. It was a fantastic performance. Every member of the Cerezo team is a great player. Starting with Tanno, with proved that fact to the world. This match allowed us to demonstrate our collective skills.
(Q: Today is the interpreter Gandhi’s birthday. Were you glad to be able to celebrate with him?) Actually, this afternoon we got him a cake and celebrated. (laughs) He is loved by everyone on the team, and is a very friendly interpreter. I love him, and so does everyone else. After the game, we all discussed how today’s victory was won for him. Since I have arrived he has been of great help to me. So, I would like to dedicate today’s win to him. (laughs)"
■ Kunimitsu Sekiguchi
"It was an extremely ferocious game, played on our opponent’s home turf. Despite that, we were able to win 1-0, which was truly wonderful. I would have liked to have taken a larger role in attack. However, since our opponent’s left side is their strong point – something we discussed at our meeting – it was decided that I play defensively. I’m glad that I was able to keep the other team at bay by doing so.
(Q: After taking the lead, did you anticipate that a certain degree of pressure would be placed on the team?) Yes. I am proud that we were able to stop the other side from scoring after we scored the first goal. It was really cool, and the fact that we could defend against such aggressive attacking made me believe in our team even more. It was absolutely great not to concede a goal during those moments.
(Q: Winning a head-to-head match against Iwata has allowed you to shrink the point difference between the teams. On your way to promotion into the J1 League, do you see this as a meaningful victory?) These were an extremely big three points. However, the next game is also very important for us. In order to make today’s match count, we have to keep winning from now on, and play each game as it comes."
■ Hotaru Yamaguchi
"Eighty per cent of today’s game was controlled by our opponent. However, our ability to endure and win is significant. Winning and losing today’s game would have made a humongous difference to our attitudes. I think it would have been better if we had controlled the ball more in midfield. That is something we have to reflect on. That said, I’m glad we were able to win today.
(Q: Your opponents made a lot of crosses. Did you consciously envision yourself making it through that?) We already knew that the ball would be crossed into Jay, and though there were a few scary moments, we were able to put up with their attacking to the end.
(Q: It seems like you and Hashimoto worked well together) Hashi is an experienced player who has played in lots of games. There are lots of times where he helps me out, as he is constantly watching the balance of the team. It would have been perfect if the two of us were able to connect the ball and control the game. However, we spent most of our time playing in defence, and I lacked the strength to encourage the team to attack. However, it’s a positive [our good teamwork on the pitch]."
■ Hideo Hashimoto
"(Q: You managed to make it through all of your opponent’s crosses. Did your feet start tiring at the end?) No, I was actually fine. (laughs) As for the crossing, we had expected that to happen. In our last game against Okayama, Kubo was able to keep on top of any crosses. We had all predicted that was how they would play. That made it rather difficult to play in the first half. However, we managed to hold the ball for a bit longer in the second half. That said, the end of the second half was very difficult. I think it was even harder on the defenders and strikers. The players up front have to put pressure on the opponents that are about to kick the ball, and when we were attacking, they would have to hold onto the ball. Our defensive line was frequently fighting off the opposition. As we were unable to filter any of that out in midfield, I believe the strikers and defenders played much harder than we did."
■ Tatsuya Yamashita
"Since we played away, we came against more pressure than I expected we would. However, we managed to overcome that and defend with all our hearts. That came as a great gift to the team. I would like to thank Yuzo (Tashiro) for scoring on his first shot, as well as all the players up front.
(Q: Cerezo hardly ever win in this way. Do you think today’s style of victory will become an asset to the team?) Since we’re playing in the J2 League, this type of football is sure to come to the fore everyone once in a while. When that happens, it comes down to how well the defenders can stand up to the opposition. And we were able to do just that today, which makes me glad.
(Q: With Tanno starting as goalkeeper today, were you able to concentrate on your defending?) Iwata had many shots on goal, with some rather threatening plays. So, we have to work on our concentration levels. However, with Tan-chan as the focal point, we were able to defend well.
(Q: Would it be fair to say that the results of today’s match mattered more than anything else?) Jubilo (Iwata) are still above us in the rankings, and we have yet to win anything. It’s on us to continue winning, and since Hotaru (Yamaguchi) will leave the team [to play for the Japan national team], we have to be more focussed from now."
■ Yuta Someya
"(Q: You had a lot of work to do in defence. Did you feel the game was very trying?) There were a few plays that almost resulted in the other side scoring. Though we had sort of predicted they would cross the ball into their strikers. Since we knew what the other side’s tactics were, we could put our bodies on the line and keep the ball.
(Q: It seemed like you were in a few painful scuffles, as well. How are you feeling?) I was kicked a few times, and the ball was kicked into my stomach. However, that happens during games. The most important thing is that you’re there to defend against your opponent. And I have no problems with doing just that, since that is what I am paid to do. (laughs)
(Q: Do you think winning this game made a substantial difference to your outlook as a team?) Yes. However, winning today has made it even more important to win our next game. If we want to make the three points we earned today mean anything in the future, we have to play our best in the next match."
■ Noriyuki Sakemoto
"(Q: You did a wonderful job sticking it out to the end) With our early goal, Iwata starting attacking, and we took it on the chin. For the first half, I told myself that I must try my hardest to bear the brunt of the attack. The second half also required us to make it through some mean attacking, and we did just that. We can now use our defensive capabilities to give us confidence.
(Q: This was the first game you played without Kim Jin-Hyeon, since his accident kept him from making an appearance. We think you and Tanno did a terrific job defending your goal to the final whistle.) Yes, I also think we did very well. Being able to win not only when you perform well but when you don’t perform is key. I had nothing to worry about when Tanno started, since we hadn’t lost a single game this season when he played. I was also relieved when we scored our first goal (laughs), and am just grateful that we won."
■ Yusuke Maruhashi
"(Q: The number of crosses Iwata sent into your half must have made this a tough game for you.) We knew there would be lost of crosses to deal with, and we tried our best to keep our opponents from freeing themselves for a shot.
(Q: Has winning such a tough game made you more confident?) Being able to keep a clean slate after the amount of attacking we had to go through comes as a great benefit. I would like us to continue to be able to win games in this way."
■ Kenta Tanno
"Taking the lead in the beginning of the game helped me somewhat loosen up and collect myself. However, in the second half I was able to play without worrying.
(Q: You made some great saves in the second half.) Since our centre-back covered the goal at the end of the game, the shots I had to save weren’t that strong. I have to say that we all defended as a unit.
(Q: A lot of pressure was put on you during the end of the second half. How did that make you feel?) During the beginning of the first half we played to our own rhythm. However, it was almost inevitable that we [as the leaders in the game] would encounter some pressure somewhere down the line. Today we were all able to overcome that pressure, and play with our hearts and minds on the game.
(Q: There are only three points separating you from second place.) Sure. However, it will be meaningless if we lose our next game. From now on every game will be as important as the other. I would take today’s win in the right direction. As for myself, I want to train hard in order to improve my performance on the pitch."
PostscriptSecond place Jubilo Iwata (47 points) versus third place Cerezo Osaka (41 points). The hand-to-hand battle over automatic promotion between two teams only six points apart was played at Iwata’s home ground to a record appearance of 12,868 spectators. The awe-inspiringly appropriate was witness to a constantly heated offensive and defensive game that lit up the match for those who were watching.
A mere twenty seconds after the game had started Yuta Someya had knocked over Jay, who was awarded a free kick. Kota Ueda took the kick and aimed straight for goal with a shot that headed straight for the net. However, Kenta Tanno saved the shot. The game was underway. In the first five minutes of the match Cerezo managed to only secure a fraction of the possession, and in the seventh minute, a ball to Jay was stolen by Someya and Hideo Hashimoto, who began to play short counter attacks as a team. The first chance they created, which came when Pablo passed the ball to Yuzo Tashiro, who weaved the ball past his defender with some beautiful footwork, before scoring and giving Cerezo the lead. Immediately afterward a second opportunity showed itself in the ninth minute. Pablo made a 45 degree shot, which deflected off the post. In the twelfth and thirteenth minutes both sides were afforded scoring chances, with a ferociously aggressive Cerezo later giving way to an Iwata side that would regain control of the ball. In the thirty-fourth minute a cross from Yuichi Komano allowed Jay, in the penalty box, to fire off a header. What was a crucial chance for Iwata came to naught, as Someya’s involvement in the play forced Jay’s header over the goal. The first half ended successfully for Cerezo, who kept all threats at bay.
In the second half Tashiro became the centre of focus, as the team found their rhythm on the field. However, they were unable to create any chances, before the pace of the match returned to Iwata, once again. The moment of truth came in especially in the seventieth and eightieth minutes, when the Cerezo side was threatened every minute. During these testing moments, the team’s defensive line deepened, allowing the opposition to pick up any loose balls. The person that stood out the most during these moments, when it seemed like a goal would be aimed for, was Tanno. In the seventy-third minute he fended off a middle range swerving ball by Hayao Kawabe, and in the seventy-seventh minute he stopped a threatening header by Jay. At the end of the match, manager Paulo Autuori commented that “I played Moniwa because I predicted Iwata would, naturally, increase their power plays toward the end.” His decision to play Moniwa was to thicken the Cerezo defence, and in response, the Iwata squad unleashed wave after wave of attack. In the ninety-fifth minute, Iwata goalkeeper Kaminski came up to the Cerezo goal for a corner kick for a tenacious header which, however, was denied by the Cerezo side, who went on to win the game 1-0.
After the game Hotaru Yamaguchi remarked that “eighty per cent of today’s game was controlled by our opponent.” A noteworthy reflection, as Cerezo did spend a lot of game time in a defensive stance, and only won through enduring the worst. The two formidable Iwata strikers Jay and Adailton certainly gave the side a show of force to be reckoned with. Despite such unique strengths, Yamaguchi noted that “However, our ability to endure and win is significant. Winning and losing today’s game would have made a humongous difference to our attitudes.” The importance of the match was telling. Tashiro, the hero of the day, said, “the strongest teams are those that win regardless of how awfully they perform,” showing a strong pride in his team’s performance. Manager Autuori, who stated that “the team has got to plunge its technique, tactics, physical and mental strength to their upper limits in a game.” He ended his comment with praise for the team, stressing that “as for today’s match, I am happy to say that on the mental, physical, technical, and strategic aspects of the game, our players performed superbly.” Both of the team’s centre-backs, Someya and Tatsuya Yamashita, worked to the end to ensure that none of the ten shots that Jay fired made it into the goal. Tanno is also to be mentioned for his ability to cover his team as professionally as any impregnable fortress. We must also remember the lighting speed dash Kunimitsu Sekiguchi made to mark his man, Adailton, in the twenty-seventh minute. Of course, Hashimoto’s performance in offense and defence was laudable, and each player dedicate 100% of their energy to the game, resulting in a Cerezo win. Their game against Iwata at home saw them lose when the opposition turned the tables on them. However, this game Cerezo came back with a vengeance.
As had been expected before the game, the match turned out to be a tough fight to the finish. The Cerezo victory succeeded in bringing the difference between Jubilo Iwata and Cerezo Osaka to a mere three points. As manager Autuori and goalkeeper Tanno state: “However, the game is now over. So, we must prepare our best for the next game” (Autuori), “it will be meaningless if we lose our next game. From now on every game will be as important as the other. I would take today’s win in the right direction” (Tanno); though the team is “still in third place” (Tashiro), the side must continue to win every battle if it seeks to be promoted to the J1 League.