From right beginning of the game, Cerezo was struggling with Niigata’s attacks from sides, as having threatening scene at 1st minute, and broken-through by Roni of Niigata at 3rd minute. However Cerezo was the one to have the 1st chance. At 5th minute, Kenyu Sugimoto received cross by his chest from Matej Jonjic, and made a shot. He managed to clear the defender perfectly, but there was a good save by Niigata’s goalkeeper who came forward, making the ball just miss the target. As Sugimoto regretted later ‘I wanted to execute it’, Cerezo missed the chance, and they went downhill after.
At 8th minute, Roni made break-though and sent a cross, but that was cleared by Matej Jonjic. Then Ryohei Yamazaki at 17th minute, and Roni at 19th minute, they made shot, both hit a defender and changed the direction, became very tricky shots, but saved by goalkeeper Kim Jin-hyeon with his excellent skill.
In the recent 5 games, Niigata has been regaining as resulting with 4 wins and 1 loss. And that team made Cerezo for defending all the time from beginning of the game. However the 1st half ended 0-0, and into the 2nd half, Cerezo increased their time to attack by using wide area of the pitch. But Cerezo was still struggling by having timing errors for the last pass and crosses, and couldn’t increase numbers of shots, then at 77th minute, Souza’s pass miss caused the counterattack, Roni managed breakthrough and scored a goal by one versus one situation to the goalkeeper. After that, though Sugimoto kept trying to score, the 1 goal became very far to reach till the end, and their 5 consecutive wins in the league and 8 consecutive wins in regular games was stopped there.
Also Sugimoto, it was the last chance for him to become the top scorer at this game by 2 goals lead, but he narrowly lost the position, because Yu Kobayashi of Kawasaki Frontale, the come-from-behind victory winner of this season, had hat trick. After the match in interview, the manager Yoon Jung-Hwan was asked about Sugimoto and mentioned “Sugimoto went onto the pitch with injury today, and I think that effected on his play.” Sugimoto himself revealed “I hurt my side at the international game against Belgium” in the press room interview when he was asked about it. Though he didn’t show any sign of the injury after returning back to Japan, something had happened in practice match 2 days before the match. Sugimoto was seen crouched down with holding his left side during the game. The trainer went down and Sugimoto was almost stopped to continue to play, but he went back in the practice match and completed the menu. “Are you… alright?” The word of concern was on the tip of my tongue. But, after the practice, by watching him talking enthusiastically about his determination to become the top scorer, I felt his preparation to take the risk, and swallowed the word.
By looking back, his way of mass scoring had begun from the 2 goals at the match against Gamba Osaka at 7th round. After that match, the direct volley shot against Jubilo Iwata at 23rd round, and the fantastic dribble shot after clearing 2 defenders against Sagan Tosu at 29th round, he made the supporters very excited by so many fantastic & attractive goals. He may lost the chance to become the ‘No.1’ that he was longing for, but the value of the 22 goals he scored would never fade away. After the match, he just accepted the reality, and talk out his straight thought. And swore to become better, driven by the frustration.
Let’s go back to talk about the team, Cerezo has completed their league matches of the season by this game, and reached a total of 63 winning points. They ended at 3rd, 9 points behind the top Kawasaki Frontale and the 2nd Kashima Antlers. Though they left some concerns like the winning ratio of away games and stalling in summer, their strength of the home games were remarkable, and also broken up some jinx like earning 3 winning points at the stadiums where used be very difficult to win. These are great achievements. “This whole 1 year, all the players worked so very hard. And we got the great result.” the manager Yoon Jung-Hwan sent the words of appreciation. Well, the season is not over yet. After a little rest, the Cherry Blossom Warriors will challenge their last battle for the Emperor’s Cup.