Match Report: Mito HollyHock vs Cerezo Osaka

Manager's Comments

HALF TIME
・Balance breaks through the middle and side attacks
・Let’s finish our attacks on either a shot or a cross
・Be aware of opponent counter attacks

FULL TIME
"Our performance today consisted of us dropping too far back after taking the lead. This is one aspect of our game that we need to consider correcting. After taking the lead, we had to connect the ball in the opposition’s half of the pitch if we wanted to score a second time. However, as we were unable to do that, our opponent’s had an easy time defending their side of the field, which made their side more volatile."

Q: In recent games it appears that your players slow down quicker than the opponent toward the end of the match.
"I think it is related to the physical problems our players face on the field. However, the thing I would like to fix the most is our not connecting the ball in the opposition’s half after we’ve taken the lead. If we cannot do that as a team, then as soon as we steal the ball it will be stolen back by the other team – forcing us to completely commit to defending. The heavier that burden becomes the more physical energy we consume. Once the other team tied with us, we moved the ball into the opposition’s side of the pitch a greater number of times. However, that is something we should have been doing from the moment we were leading."

Q: What were your thoughts about an attack without Forlan or Cacau?
"It’s too soon to make any evaluations on that today. Even in the case of Forlan and Cacau, I cannot properly evaluate their performance as strikers without giving them more time. This however, is the second game we have played without them. Since we have players with very different player traits in their place, it will take some time to get them to function effectively on the squad."

Q: This was Mito’s first game since their change of manager. What did you see as the most threatening characteristic?
"Of course, I would like to show my respect to our opponents, and pray for our continued active roles in the footballing world. Going into today’s game, we wanted to put all our energies into playing some good football. We did not especially guard against or consciously stress over anything a change in manager might have brought about."

Players' Comments

■ Keiji Tamada
“(Let’s look back on the penalty kick that gave you the lead.) Sure. We had already decided as a team that I would take the penalty – and I really did want to take the shot (laughs). However, there is no point in scoring a goal if your team does not win. There were plenty of moments where we our opponents were attacking. Sure, we had some good minutes on the pitch. However, it is tough producing results without creating more time for ourselves [to pass and kick the ball]. Overall, Mito set the pace of the game – and we needed to finish on a win whilst still in the lead.
(With Forlan and Cacau removed from attack, there seems to be a need to recreate your offense. Do you think that will take a bit more time to do?) I’m not sure if it will take more time. However, I don’t think we can waste more time pondering over that, as our games do not wait for us. In order to erase such opinions, we need to produce results as a team.”

■ Kenta Tanno
“The problems we faced had a lot to do with the way we played after we took the lead. We have a lot work on, including our ideas of how Yuzo (Tashiro) should be played on the field, now that he’s part of the line-up. Even on the individual level, we have to reflect on our performance and ensure that we do not fumble about as a team toward the end of the match.”

■ Takahiro Ohgihara
“We played well until the moment we gained the lead. After that the game proceeded according to our opponent’s pace. We waited in defence for too long after scoring; our side has a habit of receiving our opponent’s advances…. During those moments we should have worked harder to keep the ball in our possession and move the ball around to keep the other side from pressing up the field. Our opponents saw that if they pressed up the field we would kick the ball, which made it extremely easy for them to play [on their own terms]. From now on, if we do not fix such tactics, we will never make winning a habit. It stands as a problem for the team as a whole.”

■ Yuta Someya
“(Was it somewhat difficult starting the game as a left sideback?) No, I didn’t feel that way about it. However, when the other team was a awarded a foul, I felt like saying ‘that wasn’t a foul, was it?’ That, however, was for the referee to decide – and that’s just how football is.
(In your case, the team conceded a goal after you were substituted out of the game. In your opinion, did the team have any problems carrying the game after it took the lead?) Absolutely. It would have been great to have been able to create time for our players to use their skills on the field. However, our opponents do not always let things go our way. In the future we have to work on how to create our own time on the field under such conditions.”

■ Teruyuki Moniwa
“We’ve returned to our habit of conceding a goal during the difficult moments in the game. One thing we all discussed after the end of the game was ‘making sure we carry the game a bit better after we’ve taken the lead’. It shouldn’t be about each player making himself comfortable. It’s about how much you can sacrifice for your team. I think we played according to the circumstances. However, we have to make sure that, toward the end of the game, we really step up a gear and stretch ourselves to the limit. That is a thing we need to work on during training. As for today, I do not think we performed that well. We have all thoroughly discovered how difficult it is to play in the J2 League, and our team members already have ideas about how to win their way back. However, the question is: how do we organise all of those ideas as team? Our best foreign players are leaving the side, and the time has come for our team to come together and play as one. So, we have keep our heads up and make the one point we earned today count.”

■ Yuzo Tashiro
“Since our team conceded after I came into the game, I believe I could have done a few things differently. There was some distance – a gap – between myself and the other players. I have to close that up and maintain a good distance between myself and the other players. There were a number of occasions where we lost the ball, only to be on the receiving end of a counterattack. And the other side also managed to collect the loose balls – which fell in places that were advantageous to them. Was the problem in our slow pace? The distance we kept between ourselves and the other side? I think it was a mixture of both, and we have to work on keeping the long balls and support our teammates so that they can push up the pitch. Though I encountered difficulties today as this was my first game, I now have a better understanding of what the team requires of me. I would like to go into the next game with in better form.”

Postscript

The 18th sec. of the Meiji Yasuda Life J2 League brought a hopeful Cerezo – who had aimed to win back-to-back – to Mito, to face the side in an away match. Though Paulo Autuori has talked of the side experiencing their “best week yet. We want to end this week with a result in this match,” the end result was a 1-1 draw. Unable to attain the three points they desired, the team settled on a bitter draw.

In the first half of their their last match against Ehime FC, Cerezo displayed some excellent attacking. On the other hand, this match the side was unable to effectively break the opponent when in possession of the ball, resulting in a first half void of hope for a goal. With Hotaru Yamaguchi away with the Japanese national squad, Takahiro Ohgihara filled those boots by playing anchor where Yamaguchi normally would – in a 4-3-3- formation. With Yusuke Maruhashi playing on left inside half and Yuta Someya playing left side-back, one could not have said this “emergency measure [line-up] only for this game” (manager Autuori) functioned. Without wasting time, Mito HollyHock wasted no time, with Cerezo having to defend against a swift frontal assault which saw some threatening moments in the 37th and 45th minutes. The first opportunity lacked finish. However, the latter was deemed an offside – lucky for Cerezo, who struggled to end the first half on a 0-0 score.

Despite the flow of the game in the second half being on Mito’s side, Cerezo managed to take the lead. In the 55th minute, Kusukami was awarded a penalty kick after being toppled by a Mito defender as he was running to receive a cross kicked from the right side by Sakemoto. Keiji Tamada took the shot. This one in a million chance was taken in complete calm by the number 20 player, and after scoring showed his satisfaction by putting on an ‘aeroplane celebration’ – signature move of Hiroaki Morishima, famous footballer who was being celebrated the day of the game.
Manager Autuori decided to seize the chance to start attacking from that very moment. He substituted Someya off for Yoshino and returned Maruhashi to left side-back. Having taken the lead and restored to its original line-up, the team assumed dominancy of the game over the coming few minutes. From the 67th minute onward, some short passes on the right side allowed Cerezo to open up the field as they have been known to do, and find Tama for a shot which scratched the side of the right goal post.

Moments later, manager Autuori sent Yuzo Tashiro into the game in the 68th minute. Tashiro, making his debut with Cerezo in this game, has exhibited skills as a honed post player with fantastic air time and heading capabilities. However, as his frustrated comments after the game showed – “There was some distance – a gap – between myself and the other players. I have to close that up and maintain a good distance between myself and the other players.” – he was unable to maintain the ball, which was mired by scenes of him losing the ball.
The 81st minute saw Cerezo painfully concede a goal, which came about from a wave of counterattacks caused by the team’s inability to pass the ball whilst the opposition was attacking. “Since our team conceded after I came into the game, I believe I could have done a few things differently.” Though Tashiro claimed responsibility for the draw, the fact is that it would illogical to place the responsibility of the day’s results on him alone. As Ohgihara notioned – “We waited in defence for too long after scoring; our side has a habit of receiving our opponent’s advances” – the stance the side assumed as a team resembled that of the second half of the last game. To add to that, the side was outrun by their opponents toward the end of the game. Losing a goal to an attack from the side and a goal from a cross is a pattern we have seen time and time again this season.
Mito mounted an even more ferocious attack after the score became 1-1, and in the 85th minute the Cerezo goal was seriously threatened four times, with Kenta Tanno, Tatsuya Yamashita and Teruyuki Moniwa putting their bodies on the line in order to prevent the tables from turning.

“There were plenty of moments where we our opponents were attacking,” said Tamada. “As for today, I do not think we performed that well,” said Moniwa. After the game the players gathered to reflect: Cerezo was unable to outclass the quality and mental strength of the team that manager Tetsuji Hashiratani had created with his blood and sweat. The banner of “not letting former coach Hashitaratani’s four and a half years go to waste” certainly resonated with the eleven players on the Mito squad, whose will to produce results underpinned the goal they scored. The concentrated efforts they made for the whole 90 minutes of the game were realised in that one moment.
Squandering their chance to rise in the rankings by speeding up the counterattacks they had grasped in the last game rekindled old problems yet to be resolved. “We have all thoroughly discovered how difficult it is to play in the J2 League, and our team members already have ideas about how to win their way back. However, the question is: how do we organise all of those ideas as team? Our best foreign players are leaving the side, and the time has come for our team to come together and play as one” (Moniwa). Forced into such predicaments again, the team ended the day on a bittersweet note.

Written by Hisashi Oda