Match Report: Cerezo Osaka vs Tokushima Vortis

Manager's Comments

HALF TIME
・Let’s be active in inserting a wedge between players and quickly supporting our teammates
・Be more dynamic and quick-paced when in possession of the ball
・Let’s finish our attacking with a shot

FULL TIME
“This was a game where I wish we had scored a second goal during the second half, as our performance had improved by then.
That said, we carried this game well: the keeper did not need to make any saves, and our defense was stable. If I were to be greedy and idealistic, I would have wanted our team to top its great performance with a second goal.
I would like to praise the players for their hard work.”

Q: Was the team able to fix any of the problems they encountered in the last match by the way the team played in the second half?
“Football is a very mental sport, and, as I have mentioned in the past, our team’s mental weakness – falling too far back into a defensive position – was seen in the last two matches. However, watching the players on the field today, I could see that they were conscious of their mental strength, and that changed the way in which they played and carried the game. They were able to play the second half with a forceful aggressiveness in our opponent’s field.”

Q: You have almost reached the halfway mark. Do you think your team will be able to climb in the rankings?
“Absolutely. Our team still has a lot of room for development, and we also have many corrections to make. That is exactly why I can tell you without doubt that our team will grow and achieve promotion.
There are a number of teams in the top rankings who have already played the best they will ever play this season. In our case, since we have plenty of room to develop remaining, I would like us to fix what we can and begin by ending our last three games of the first half of this season with three back to back wins.
It is important to think about the finish line – where will be at the end of the season, instead of what place we’re in at the moment. We will continue making the necessary adjustments with the end of the season in our sights.
A moment ago I praised the players for the effort they made. Here I would also like to praise Cerezo’s fans and supporters for allowing us to use this space. I send you all an ‘arigato’ from the bottom of my heart. Cerezo’s supporters have always been a fantastic presence that – I rediscovered today – is there to support the team. I would like to thank them for being there for us.”

Q: What legacy do you think Forlan has left with the team?
“Any manager in the world of football – not myself only – would feel privileged to have worked with a true professional like Forlan. He did not lounge around a single day; he constantly put in his best effort and tirelessly gave his all to the team. He is technically advanced player, and as a player was able to produce unparalleled performances. He not only contributed to his team, but he was a player with a great personality. I wish him the best in his career.”

Players' Comments

■ Hotaru Yamaguchi
"(Tell us about the vertical pass that led to Ariajasuru Hasegawa scoring the critical point of the game.) At first I thought about passing the ball to Shake (Sakemoto). However, that became difficult to do as a lot of players were gaining on him. So, instead I made a flash decision to pass the ball to Aria (Hasegawa). It was a very hard pass, which Aria managed to stop and shoot with all his might. So, I think he deserves credit for the way he received my pass and shot the ball – instead of you praising my pass."

■ Ariajasuru Hasegawa
"(Did we get a glimpse of the real Hasegawa emerge in the decider you scored?) I visualized the vertical pass that Hotaru (Yamaguchi) made, did not turn back to stop the ball, and by the time I had changed my position and looked in front of me [I had scored]. Though the timing was usually off, I imagined the scenario numerous times. However, today I was able to head for the goal and when I shot the ball I realized that I wouldn’t be able to score without kicking the ball. Being able to shoot the ball then and there changed my perspective.
(Looking back on the game) You can never predict what might happen next if the team has only scored one goal. We had the chance to score, including in the second half. We have to play for two or three goals, since the J2 (team we’re playing) is quick at counterattacking. It is essential that we play our best to the very end. With that in mind, it is important that we drew, drew, won and drew – and won points without losing. Since we won today, it is vital that we win our next match. I would like to prep myself to make sure I am in prime condition for the next game.
(Tell us how you felt about sending Forlan, a good friend of yours, off with the goal you scored) Diego did a great service for the team, and being able to send him off with a win before his farewell ceremony was an extra feather in our caps."

■ Yuzo Tashiro
"(Comment on you performance in today’s game) Today’s game developed as it had in the last match we played [with a 1-0 lead for our side]. So, I told myself that I had to play the best football I could. Going into today’s game, I believe I put into practice the lessons I learnt from our last match. Everybody worked really hard, which made today’s victory a really important one. Our season begins here. It is on us to continue winning and to narrow the gap between us and those above us – to end the first half of the season a good note. My condition on the pitch has improved, and I want to start scoring soon, and striving to show everyone my skills as a footballer. However, I believe that everyone has started to understand my skills as a player. So, I am sure I will get better balls in future games – as the team gradually figures out how to use me on the pitch.
(You finished the match with a very consistent performance) Yes, we did. Though we did not have much time left to play, I felt the urge to score. However, since we all knew that we needed three points, we did not force ourselves to attack; instead we used our time as best as we could and attacked if we had the chance. In that respect, whole team was of one mind. Though I truly wanted to score a goal, our side worked hard to defend our lead, which worked out well, as it resulted in a superb victory."

■ Takahiro Ohgihara
"We had agreed to fully control the ball and move into attack. I think we managed to achieve that to some extent. We certainly did better than we did in our last game, and the more we can create time for our side to move around the pitch, the further up the field we [the midfielders] can go. Slowly but surely we corrected all the mistakes we had made during the last match. That was one factor that helped in midfield and in our joining the offensives. Though Aria scored today’s goal, I believe that if the midfielders had been more involved in offense, the team would have been able to move up the field. That [the result] was what made today so great.
(Looking back on Forlan’s year and a half at the team) Forlan is a magnificent player, and holding a special celebration like today’s farewell ceremony proves that. He was loved by the team’s supporters and is respected by all his teammates. There was so much to learn from him. I wanted to spend more time playing by his side. However, since we cannot do that, I would like the team to use what they have learnt from playing with Diego. The significance of Diego’s coming to this team will come to life through our growth as a side – thanks to the things he taught us – and that is something we have to continue to draw on going into the future."

■ Noriyuki Sakemoto
"In the past two or three matches we have always been attacked after scoring a goal. Finding a solution to fix this was something we all discussed as a team. The players that came onto the pitch half way into the match also understood well what needed to be done. It really felt like we played as a team – and that was hugely important.
(It seemed as if you had more variety in attack) We had players who had returned from injuries, and we have a lot of forwards with unique skills. I suppose each player was conscious of how they were playing, and played in a way that allowed them to successively put their distinct qualities into play.
(Looking back on Forlan’s year and a half at the team) I learnt a lot from him. I doubt that I will ever be able to forget playing with a world class player like Forlan. I myself feel that I need to understand and absorb his terrific attributes as a footballer, and, where possible, will try to pass that on [to the next generation]."

■ Yusuke Maruhashi
"Since we had many men in defense, we did not struggle that much during the game, which makes me think that we could have scored more if we wanted. We need to increase the vitality of our football.
(Thinking back on your cross to Tashiro for example, you showed plenty of variety in attack) Yes, that’s true – we did. We were able to generate some chances from the sides and shoot the ball thanks to some subtle passing. When Yuzo entered the game he gave our side the height we needed and our variation increased.
(Over the past year and a half, what have you gained from Forlan’s presence on the team ?) He was very aware of the shots he could make and scored lots of goals. So, I saw him as a player we could really rely on. He showed us how to play as a professional – even during training – which is something I need to implement a bit more in my career."

■ Tatsuya Yamashita
"(You finished the match with a very consistent performance) We were a bit scared of the power play. However, it never felt as if the other side would seriously threaten us, thanks to the great positions on the pitch held by our players. I doubt that we would lose many games if we played with the concentration we did today. It’s something I would like to see continue.
(Did the build up from behind make you think of passing vertically to drive a wedge into the other side?) Linking the ball from behind was something the whole team joined together to do – and it was a challenge we all met.
(Looking back on Forlan’s year and a half with the squad, what do you feel you have gained?) As a defender, I have learnt that if you are not careful marking him, he will fire an amazing shot. He is the type of player that has made that important step in becoming a world class footballer. He approaches every challenge in dead seriousness, and truly is a professional football player."

■ Jumpei Kusukami
"We were able to carry out a solid offensive thanks to the defense's efforts to keep the other side from scoring.
(The defensive strategy the team has adopted in the last half of the second half seems to have improved) We played after having a discussion about how much of a 'disadvantage it is to be attacked by the other side, as we need to be in control when we play.' Kicking the ball away always ends with us coming under attack. Since I was substituted into the game, it was good to play with everyone speaking up and communicating with each other. As our journey has only just started, we need win one game after the other.
(We wanted an extra goal) Of course we wanted to score an additional goal. However, as winning is our priority, it meant a lot to be able to win 1-0."

■ Kunimitsu Sekiguchi
"We performed consistently from the first half, and started the game extremely well. I am glad we were able to score during that stage in the match. Though we may have to be a be critical about our inability to steal another goal during the game, there are many football matches that are won 1-0, and being able to win here was extremely important for the team.
When I entered the game I gave up attacking from the centre and decided to put pressure on our opponent when the ball was on the outside, since the distancing and the teamwork was great. I believe we were able to organize ourselves really well during the game.
(What lessons have you learnt from today’s game?) I think we need to retain our accuracy when we start getting tired, as well as commit more players to getting the ball. Doing so would have given us more options, and being able to play with those options would have put the other side in an uncomfortable place – and could have possibly given us a goal.
We weren’t ourselves against Omiya and we lost to Jubilo. However, as we still have over half a season to play, we have to continue winning in order to make something of today’s victory. We have to do our best to win the next two games. We want a winning streak in order to put pressure on the teams in the top of the tables, and to secure the chance of promotion."

■ Kim Jin-Hyeon
"At first the other side came at us head-on with all they had. Though they put pressure on our side and we lost the ball unnecessarily, the difficulties we faced slowly disappeared halfway into the game. Then we scored, which made things even better for us, and although we faced some trying moments, I am grateful to everyone for consciously defending our side of the pitch and finishing the game on a clean slate.
We made some silly mistakes in the first half. The more we rush our game the worse our mistakes. It’s fine if you cannot make that play – just keep calm and pass the ball on to someone else. Playing that way kept us from losing the ball too many times in the second half. That then enabled us to connect the ball to each other. All that’s left to think about is our scoring capability.
(Are you satisfied to have kept a clean slate in goal?) This is my second game in a row without conceding a goal! I would like us to keep winning 1-0 games, as this was the first time this year that I managed to keep a clean slate for two games in a row. Before we would normally have the tables turned on us whilst we were in the lead. However, I am a lot more confident now, as all the players are aware of the defensive side of the game. We are sure to have a lot more matches without conceding a goal.
(Does this help your chances of playing on the Korean national team?) I cannot help but think that it will. However, I want to think about doing my best for this team before thinking about that."

Postscript

The 19th sec. of the Meiji Yasuda Life J2 League pitted Cerezo Osaka against Tokushima Vortis in a home game at Kincho Stadium, in which the victors Cerezo won 1-0. Finally clasping 30 points on the league tables has drawn Cerezo only a point away from playoff contenders Avispa Fukuoka, and places the Osaka side in seventh. There is now a six point difference between 2nd and 3rd place teams Zweigen Kanazawa and Jubilo Iwata, both of which are on 36 points.

On the 15th June it was announced that Forlan’s contract with the team would conclude on the 22nd of June. This match marked the last game in which the side would play with the number 10 world class striker, who has been with the team for nearly a year and a half. Forlan was excluded from the bench and watched his teammates play from the stands. Those very same teammates fought to deliver a victory for Forlan.

Though the start of the match some threaten scenes, such as some mid-range shots, quick attacking, and a number of set pieces, in the 12th minute a long feed from Yuta Someya to Jumpei Kusukami, who had run to receive the ball, created a decisive opportunity for the side. On the back of this opportunity, the pace of the game now moved in Cerezo’s favor. Then, in the 24th minute, the side scored the goal that was to give them the lead. Hotaru Yamaguchi, who had recently returned from some games with the Japanese national team, sent an exquisite pass through the middle of the opponents. The ball was picked up by Ariajasuru Hasegawa right in front of the penalty box, an area in which he “thrives.” Evading the defenders, he was “able to head for the goal” for a mid-range shot which brushed past a defender as it made its way into the back of the net.

After that Cerezo seemed desperate to score another goal. However, just as in games past, the team was unable to maintain the initiative, and toward the end of the first half we even saw scenes in which the side was threatened by an attacking Tokushima. The team managed overcome the assault, and when sides were swapped after ending the first half on a score of 1-0, the team found itself attacking toward its fans’ stands, keeping Tokushima from making a single shot during that half.

Especially noteworthy were the significant contributions substitutes made to the team as they entered the pitch. Kunimitsu Sekiguchi, with his innate hard working attitude, returned from an injury to invigorate the side, and Yuzo Tashiro’s first game at home saw his formidable performance in mid-air and post play tactics notch the forwards up a gear. Beginning with these two players, the offense displayed an unimpeded concentrated attack that, although resulted in no goals, kept Tokushima at bay and gave the side a 1-0 victory without conceding a goal.

Despite bringing his team a victory, the hero of the day Hasegawa remained undistracted from the reality of the situation, making the following remark: “You can never predict what might happen next if the team has only scored one goal. We had the chance to score, including in the second half. We have to play for two or three goals.” Whilst buckling up for the upcoming rebound – “since we won today, it is vital that we win our next match” – Hasegawa expressed relief at being able to “send him [Diego Forlan] off with a win before his farewell ceremony,” mentioning that it “was an extra feather in our caps.”

During the post-match ceremony, Forlan made his feelings about the team clear: “I am extremely sad to be leaving a team I have really come to love. I will continue to pray for my teammates’ promotion [into the J1 League]. And I look forward to coming back to Japan one day to meet everyone. Thank you for everything you have done for me so far! Till we meet again (in Japanese).” After being thrown into the air eight times by his teammates, Forlan made a lap around the field to the anguish of his supporters, saying farewell to the cherry blossom colored uniform. Forlan, this season and last season’s top scorer, played to the very end for the side, and for that I would like to express my gratitude to this great striker. Though the testing matches that face Cerezo continue, one hopes that the team makes the very most of his achievements.