J1 Promotion Play-offs Final vs Fagiano Okayama: Match Report

After finishing fourth in J2 Cerezo Osaka advanced to the J1 promotion play-off final for the second consecutive year, and thanks to the regulations of the competition they had the benefit of playing at home by virtue of ending the regular season above opponents Fagiano Okayama, who had come sixth.

It began raining shortly before kick-off, but a sold out Kincho Stadium was filled with the hope of seeing Cerezo clinch the promotion they had narrowly missed out on a year ago. The game was preceded by a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the plane crash in Colombia, which included former Cerezo striker Kempes. The players on the pitch also wore his No.9 uniform as a further tribute.

Cerezo could have earned promotion even if the game finished as a draw but they made an aggressive start, with Souza in particular trying his luck with some shots from distance early on. Okayama's hard work prevented them from scoring in the first half, but Cerezo were equally as steady defensively and the first 45 minutes ended 0-0.

After the restart, as the rain grew stronger, Fagiano had two good attempts to snatch the goal they needed but some great saves from goalkeeper Kim Jin-hyeon were crucial in keeping things scoreless.

Then, in the 52nd minute, Cerezo earned a corner from the right. Souza met Yusuke Maruhashi's cross with his head before Shohei Kiyohara bundled the ball into the net from inside a crowded six-yard box.

Fagiano used more long balls to try and break down Cerezo's defence but the home side's effort was enough to prevent them from creating any clear opportunities. The substitutes also contributed to strengthen the defence, and they kept fighting until the very end to achieve the team’s target of earning a return to J1. After the disappointment of the last two years they finally achieved joy through the unity of the team, and thanks to the support of the home crowd.

J1 Promotion Play-offs Final Fagiano Okayama J1 Promotion Play-offs Final