A draw with tenacity in the last play. The difference in the number of away goals decides the advancement to semifinals.
Cerezo Osaka challenged the second leg of the J.League YBC Levain Cup quarterfinals against Kawasaki Frontale. It was the 4th game of 5 consecutive official games in the middle of summer, and also it was after a three days interval from the most recent league game. In the match that the team's overall strength was tested, it had a dramatic ending with the last play. The second leg ended in a draw following the first leg, but Cerezo qualified for the semifinals due to the difference in the number of away goals.
After finishing the first leg at home with a score of 1-1, Cerezo went into the second leg under the condition that a win or a draw with at least two goals would have determined the advancement. At the beginning, Kawasaki took possession, and the difficult development continued. However, after Cerezo endured without allowing the opponents to break through the center in front of the goal, they started to approach Kawasaki's goal with the starting point on the side from around the 10th minute. Then, in the 30th minute, Cerezo had the first scoring chance of the game for both teams. When Ryosuke Yamanaka sent a sharp cross to the right, Riku Matsuda received it on the opposite side without a mark and shot from the trap. Hiroaki Okuno picked up the ball that was repelled by the GK and provided it horizontally, and Hirotaka Tameda made an accurate shot. However, it hit the crossbar and did not become a goal. Cerezo missed to score the opener and then conceded a goal in the 40th minute. Kawasaki broke the center for the first time in this match, and Ryuya Nishio cleared Leandro Damiao’s shot, but at the end Marcinho pushed it in the goal.
Although the content was close to even, they started the second half with one point behind. For Cerezo, Mutsuki Kato entered the pitch on behalf of Adam Taggart. Cerezo focused on moving forward in order to return a goal, but they were repeatedly counter-attacked, and in the 53rd minute, Marcinho scored the second goal and widened their lead. In the 61st minute, a coach Daisuke Takahashi sent Hiroto Yamada, Jean Patric, and Sota Kitano as substitutes at the same time, and also put Hikaru Nakahara in as the fifth substitute in the 68th minute, using up all of the substitution slots. Cerezo attacked with Tokuma Suzuki as an anchor and increased the number of attacking players, but it was not enough to break Kawasaki's defense. In the 81st and the 84th minute, Kato shot in a row, but as he said, “I was not relaxed in playing, and since I shot by force I aimed too much”, both did not meet.
They avoided the third goal, but the time was passing, and it was about to enter the additional time of the second half, then in the 90th minute. Cerezo returned one point that breathed back. Nakahara, Nishio, and Koji Toriumi calmly connected the pass, and Toriumi fed it to Yamanaka on the left side, and Yamanaka received it without a mark and sent a well-aimed cross into the near side. And it was Kato who jumped in here. “I was able to get in front of the opponent, anticipating that it would come to the near side, and I was able to match it well.'' He caught the ball in front of the opponent DF and squeezed it to the goal with his header.
With this one point, the atmosphere of the stadium changed completely. With just one more point, Cerezo would be eligible for the advancement by the difference in the number of away goals, while Kawasaki would be defeated. Perhaps due to the influence of each other's psychological states, there was a feeling that "something is about to happen". When Cerezo showed their tenacity to make the score tie, such as GK Kim Jin Hyeon also joined the attacking in the CK, a miracle happened in the last one play.
Nishio, who moved up to play to the front line, competed for Riku Matsuda’s cross, and Jean Patric picked up the loose ball and fed the return pass to the inside. Then Toriumi, who also moved up to the front line, jumped in, and Kato threw his body to the loose ball and made it their own ball. From here, to Nakahara's highly accurate cross with his left foot, it was Nishio, who tenaciously made a return pass to inside from the far side. At the end, Yamada, who reacted faster than anyone else, pushed in with his header to the cross that flew up.
The moment the goal was scored, the players on the pitch, the players watching from the bench, the staff, and the supporters who dyed a corner of the stadium in pink erupted in joy, echoing with wordless shouts. The game ended immediately after the goal. The ball that nobody gave up to connect. Yamada, who pushed it in, said clearly "We want to connect this goal to the championship." Aiming for their first victory since 2017, Cerezo advanced to the semifinals with a dramatic victory.