Cerezo’s campaign for the J. League YBC Levain Cup was launched with the hope of being title winners as they’ve been desperate for the last three seasons. Cerezo who reached the semi-final battled against Gamba Osaka to grab a ticket for the final. Cerezo hosted the first round of the play-off at Yanmar stadium Nagai. The contenders are subjected to face the play-off, the same as the quarterfinal.
For this game, the starting members were massively changed due to the absence of national team players, such as Hotaru Yamaguchi, midfielder, Kenyu Sugimoto, forward in the Japan team, and Kim Jin-Hyeon, goalkeeper in the Korean team.
On top of that, just three days after the 28th game against Kawasaki Flontale also affected the Manager’s pick. The selected team headed to the pitch for the first half.
The number of away goals is the key for the play-off in the Levain Cup.
At home any concession will be a disadvantage for the host team. On the day, Cerezo’s first priority was to win with a clean sheet. Takaki Fukumitsu commented before the game “It could be tough game if we allow them any goals”
Early on the first half, their plan was destroyed. On 16th minute, Shuhei Akasaka, the Gamba forward, fired a middle-range shot in the front of the penalty area and scored. Cerezo conceded an opening goal, which they never yearned for.
Even with such a result, Daichi Akiyama in an armband said later “ we encouraged each other, shouting “never mind about the opening. Reset yourself and focus on the game. “ The cherry blossom soldiers triggered a counter attack, surrounded by the tremendous cheering from the home crowd. On the 23rd minute, Toshiki Onozawa pressed forward, intercepted a ball, passed it to Yasuki Kimoto, from Kimoto to Fukumistu, and a final touch was Ricardo Santos. His right-foot shot went to the back of the net, showing a fantastic loop. The cherry blossom’s No11’s fourth league goal helped Cerezo level with the opponents.
After the half-time, the battle heated up tremendously, which is the Osaka derby’s ongoing conclusion.
On the48th minute, Yasuhito Endo, the Gamba midfielder, blasted a mid-range shot, but it was saved by goalkeeper, Kennta Tanno. On the 52nd minute, Onozawa, a young attacker, fired his right-foot shot in the penalty area, but it was cleared by goalkeeper, Yosuke Fujigaya. Such a great chance went begging for Cerezo.
As time went by, the battle intensified. In the wake of consecutive crunch time, Yusuke Maruhashi repeatedly participated the attacking team.
Cerezo hankering after a home win sent on Hiroshi Kiyotake for Onozawa on the 71st minute. Meanwhile, Sekiguchi encouraged the fans to cheer louder. The crowd responded and created more supportive vibe for the lads. Kiyotake was a game changer. On the 81st minute, Kimoto met a ball from Kiyotake ‘s free kick with header at the near post, sending it on the target. It helped Cerezo to go ahead. The delighted fans’ cheers echoed tremendously throughout the stadium. Immediately, Soza was brought on and Kimoto moved to the back to form a solid defense. On the 86th minute, the opponents capitalized on an error to intercept a ball in Cerezo’s half. It allowed Haruya Ide, the Gamba midfielder to hit the net, who came on midway through the second half. Gamba managed to draw level. Cerezo pressed for a goal by sending on Kota Mizunuma but time ran out. The first round ended up with a 2-2 draw.