Match Report: Tochigi SC vs Cerezo Osaka

Manager's Comments

HALF TIME
・Pick up attacking speed after changing sides
・Increase the amount of running we do behind the lines, and shoot mid-range shots more proactively

FULL TIME
“I believe we deserved today’s victory, since we performed well from the start of the game. I would like to praise the players and the supporters from the bottom of my heart. We saw some truly sensational performances this match. In order to answer our supporters’ expectations, we will aim to win as we did today and play with all our might to win our upcoming games. We want to continue down this track. Today’s game was not only about winning, but proved that we are on the right path. Though we are in the midst of creating the foundations of our team, the various work we had done so far showed itself in today’s match.”

Q: With Forlan leaving the club, do you think today’s match showcased the strikers’ backbone?
“I understand the reason why you might ask that. However, you must understand that backbone is irrelevant in some cases. That said, if I were to put it in different terms, the strikers reassured me of my faith in them. I will not talk about players that have left the team. However, if you pressured me into giving you an opinion (on Forlan), I would tell you that he was a special presence on this side. Losing that type of player certainly hurt the team. However, his message to the team was continuously ‘I believe in the players on this team’. The players today certainly lived up to the confidence that had been placed in them.”

Q: In the last game you said that you would have “liked an extra goal – if I could ask for anything more.” In this match you were able to score two, three extra goals. The number of goals you concede has also decreased, and the balance of your attack has also improved. Any comments?
“This is all part of the process. Within our process [of team building], we have without doubt progressed a step forward in today’s game. The reason for that is, as you said, in the improvements to our balance in attack. This game allowed us to experience the result of such an improvement. In our games and during training I constantly tell the players about ‘the importance of looking ahead of the game, and building their experience. Let’s focus on winning whilst building on our skills’. Today’s game saw us meet that expectation. In defence, the two centre backs showed an exemplary performance which was reflected in both the growth of team’s defence and in the team as a whole. I would like here, once again, to praise the developments we have seen in the two centre backs. We’re getting positive responses due to our moving in the right track and going through the team building process.”

Players' Comments

■ Pablo
“(Q: Great goal!) Thanks!
(Q: Have it been difficult to cope with the gap in performance you experienced after the second goal you scored this season?) I have been continually strict and demanding of myself. I told myself that I could do better. I felt responsible for not scoring under such circumstances. However, it feels as if today’s game has changed everything. It’s my birthday this week, and for that reason it’s a special week for me. However, I have to push myself to shoot more and with higher accuracy. I have always desired to contribute to this team. I want to score more and more often.
(Q: With Forlan and Cacau no longer on the team, do you feel more compelled to perform?) Since I arrived in Japan, I realised that I would be here as a support player, and in order to fulfil my responsibilities, I have to try my best to get a hold of the ball. Up until now I have managed to answer the team’s demands by scoring goals. However, today’s goals came about with everyone’s support and help. The first goal was thanks to a great ball from Tama (Keiji Tamada). The second goal came from a wonderful pass from Maru (Yusuke Maruhashi). They are both fantastic teammates. Today we were able to connect the ball well, and place pressure on the opposition in order to create some crucial chances. The results and our performance combined to give us a win.
(Q: You seemed very composed when you scored the second goal in the border of the goal. Do you think the first goal helped relieve you of the pressure of scoring?) Yes, I do. These few games I have constantly demanded a lot of myself. However, the first goal I scored today gave me an excuse to relax, and I was able to meet the ball in the second goal with complete confidence. I would like to thank Maru for an amazing ball. Hotaru (Yamaguchi) was also there during that moment, and he played very coolly. There are very few players who have a set vision for the game like Hotaru. His through pass freed me up, and allowed me to score an effortless goal. That said, it would all go to waste if we did not continue playing this way. If we can play a better defence, our team will improve as a whole.
(Q: What were Forlan and Cacau’s last words before they parted with the team?) They are both individuals who I will continue to be friends with for the rest of my life. They both told me that they would ‘always support you and the team’. They also said that ‘if you continued to hold high principles and play a calmer game, you will become a noticeable player’. Then ‘you will become a player that can produce results’. They both support not just myself but the whole team – with all of their hearts. They are both praying for our promotion to the J1 league. They were very passionate when they spoke about those things.
(Q: Have the two goals you scored today instilled any confidence in your performance in future games?) It has made me confident and has encouraged the team. It is important that we continue to show confidence in ourselves. We have set the J1 as a team goal. Therefore, we cannot simply be satisfied with back to back wins; we must continually play with higher ideals.”

■ Keiji Tamada
“I think we were able to play a consistent match today. Producing three goals allowed us to carry the game in a more relaxed way. The second goal was particularly important today, as we unable to score a second goal after taking the lead in the past.
(Q: The second goal came when the opposition was continually attacking. When you kept the ball and brought it down with your heel on the side, it was good that you then moved the ball to the other side of the pitch.) That was what gave us the goal (laughs). Well, I wanted to buy the team more time with that play. And Pablo was able to score when the game moved to the other side of the pitch. It was a great play.
(Q: Do you think things would have been somewhat harder if you hadn’t created more time beforehand?) When the other side picks up the balls we clear – and we do not connect with the clearances – the front and back lines become very exhausted. Especially in the second half.
(Q: The team’s third goal gave you your 100th goal in the J League. Congratulations.) Thank you (laughs). I was fortunate to be able to score in my own time.
(Q: Were you conscious of the fact that this would be your 100th goal?) Not really. I did not give it much thought. However, we did talk about it over lunch today. I got the time wrong and was late for lunch. Aria (Ariajasuru Hasegawa) told me that ‘you tend to score when you’re late’. After the game he said ‘I told you so’ (laughs). That said my aim is not just to score, but to get our team into the J1 League. Winning today was a big deal, and the fact that the teams above us lost means that the light at the end of the tunnel is becoming visible. From hereon we should not worry too much about who we play. Instead we should focus our efforts on winning.”

■ Hotaru Yamaguchi
“It was great that we could score three goals. And though we had some rushed moments, if we improve those parts of our playing we will be able to carry games better than we ever have.”

■ Yusuke Maruhashi
"(Q: Your positive contribution to the team in offense from the beginning of the game stood out.) Yes. There was plenty of open space on the pitch, and I was able to receive the ball whilst I was unmarked. That made me want to cross the ball into the box.
(Q: Were you able to make the assist for the second goal without worrying too much about what was going on around you?) I made that pass easily as I was completely free once I got the ball through my opponent’s legs. As both Hotaru (Yamaguchi) and Pablo were available, all I had to do was pass.
(Q: Did you feel as if the team showed a balanced attack and defence?) Yes. Since we scored three goals this game, I would like us to continue to play without conceding any goals – continue winning to fight our way to the top of the ranks.”

■ Kim Jin-Hyeon
“(Q: Do you believe the first two saves you made in the first half made a big difference to the outcome of the game?) Yes. If we had conceded a goal in that way in the opening of the first half it would have been a lot harder to win. I’m glad I was able to concentrate and stop the other side from scoring.
(Q: Do you think another clean slate means the defence is showing an increased improvements in performance?) We have become more aware of our duties in defence, and my job is simply stopping the ball and keeping the other team’s score at zero. On the whole, our defenders have become more disciplined.”

Postscript

The 20th sec. of the Meiji Yasuda Life J2 League. Osaka Cerezo beat opponents Tochigi SC 3-0 away. The side scored multiple goals for the first time since their match against Giravanz Kitakyushu, and the defence achieved their second clean slate in a row. In offense, the team secured a complete victory with a performance that exhibited heightened team strength and performance.

Thanks partly to Tochigi’s lack of pressing in the front lines, Cerezo was able to move the ball around relatively stress free in the first half. This increased the speed of their pass work, and gave the team the chance to threaten the goal with some combined efforts in the centre. Yusuke Maruhashi, in a high position on the sides, actively involved himself in the game, and used the ‘depth and width’ (manager Autuori) to attack Tochigi. Cerezo quickly switched into defensive when losing the ball, and uprooted any attempts by Tochigi to mount a concerted counterattack.
Though they were unable to steal any goals, the side remained in constant control in the first half, before finally witnessing the moment of joy in the opening moments of the second half. In the 52nd minute, a highly accurate free kick by Keiji Tamada slotted through the gaps of the Tochigi defenders to meet the head of Pablo, who successfully gave Cerezo the lead.

Just as in the last game and the game before that, the team was put to the test after they scored their first goal. In the few minutes after scoring, Tochigi upped their game and attacked Cerezo with everything they had. Yuta Someya displayed some excellent football skills during these moments. When Tochigi came head to head with the Cerezo keeper in the 58th minute, he made a brilliant tackle against the Tochigi forward. This denied the side the critical chance of the game. Following this threatening development, the side was unable to connect their clearances to players the field – allowing Tochigi to mount a second and third attack. In the 64th minute, however, a much anticipated second goal was born.
Using his heel, Tamada dropped the ball to Takahiro Ohgihara on the right side, who then connected the ball to Pablo and Hotaru Yamaguchi, who moved the ball to Maruhashi on the left side of the pitch. A cool shot by Pablo after a single touch (“the first goal I scored today gave me an excuse to relax”) gave the team their second goal. After the blow of the whistle Tamada said that the “The second goal was particularly important today, as we unable to score a second goal after taking the lead in the past,” making it a vital additional goal for the Cerezo side.

After gasping for breath on the loss of two goals, the 78th minute saw a goal kick from Kim Jin-Hyeon make its way to Pablo’s chest. The ball was then moved to Ariajasuru Hasegawa and Ohgihara, who made a through pass to Tamada who made scored the game’s finisher. This marked a memorable occasion for Tamada, as it marked his 100th goal in the J league. The end of the game saw Tochigi make a desperate last attempt in attack. However, Cerezo walked away without conceding a single goal. With hopes of continuing their positive play and aiming for a progressive performance after their 1-0 win against Tokushima Vortis in their last game, the side certainly showed the world that the side “without doubt progressed a step forward in today’s game” (manager Autuori).

“It was great that we could score three goals. And though we had some rushed moments, if we improve those parts of our playing we will be able to carry games better than we ever have.” Though the team carried the game astoundingly well – the high ideals mentioned by captain Yamaguchi when the team won – it means the team needs to tighten its belts. The results allow manager Autuori to boast in pride that the side: “we’re getting positive responses due to our moving in the right track and going through the team building process.” This saw the team accomplish their second consecutive win, and at the end of the match temporarily (Consadole Sapporo has yet to play on the 29th) brought them into fourth place in the rankings.