‘We want to connect our play at Levain Cup to a league match.’
This was the same thought throughout all the players of Cerezo Osaka when they stood on the pitch for this match, this word included the terms of “play as a team” and “play as an individual”, and they showed the strength of the thought in their play immediately.
After 50 second of kick-off, Cerezo started their game by Kota Mizunuma stole the ball at the front, and they overwhelmed Kobe in the 1st half. It was the same 11 players from the last Levain Cup match against Nagoya Grampus, and from a compact 4-4-2 formation, they brought up fast attacks down the line. In 11th minute, from the ball captured by Atomu Tanaka, Bruno Mendes who ran through to the space at right side had a chance. Although his shot couldn’t meet, Cerezo managed to create the first chance, then in 22nd minute, they moved the score.
Mizunuma made through by one-two with Toshiyuki Takagi and sent a cross, that earned CK that’s taken by Naoyuki Fujita. Although it was cleared by DF once, Tanaka received the ball by his chest at far side, made a spinning drive shot with his left foot, the ball drew a stunning arc and struck into the far side of the goal. As he expressed by himself in an interview after the match ‘it felt like the time’s stopped’, the artistic goal made the stadium filled with great cheers.
Cerezo did not loosen their attack even after that. In 25th minute, Bruno Mendes popped out to the pass that Tanaka dropped in a clear space, and entered into in front of the goal by beaten an opponent DF. Mendes’ pass was received by Takagi who dodged DF calmly and sent the ball to Fujita, then Fujita attacked GK by shooting a powerful shot. Also in 33rd minute, Kakeru Funaki diverted Fujita’s CK to far side, and Yamashita attempted heading shot. Although it just missed over the bar, it was a decisive moment.
Cerezo’s defence was functioning well in the 1st half too, as there was no shot on the target from the opponent. They all kept nice distance each other, surrounded the opponent quickly when they had the ball, and didn’t give enough time to Kobe to link.
Apart from that they couldn’t get an additional goal, their 1st half was almost perfect, however, into the 2nd half, the situation taking a new turn, and Cerezo was threaten by Kobe’s offence. From the beginning of 2nd half, Takayuki Yoshida, the manager of Kobe put Wellington as a substitute, and by Wellington’s pressure, everyone was pushed back, then that made Cerezo’s formation dull compare to their 1st half. Also Kobe substituted Ryo Hatsuse for his injury, and put Daigo Nishi in their right side back, that made Cerezo’s situation worsened at this side too.
However, it was CB Tatsuya Yamashita and GK Kakoi Kentaro who stood against Kobe in this situation. Yamashita kept bouncing back Kobe’s cross from side, and Kakoki challenged bravely against high ball to save the goal. In 62nd minute, Miguel Lotina sent Eiichi Katayama as a substitute to Takagi, and shifted the system to 3 backs. That thickened Cerezo’s bottom line. In 69th minute, they had a scoring chance from FK, but Bruno Mendes’ header missed the target at this additional goal opportunity. However, Cerezo managed to keep their concentration on defence until the end, and won the match with clean-sheet 1-0.
2 years ago, it was the struggle of the players who were reserves for the league matches, gave the driving force to the club to bring the 1st ever title. Today’s victory after the fierce battle reminded us that “Our Levain”, and this back to back victory made Cerezo winning points total 7 that made the team at top in Group C.