After the era name renewed to “ Reiwa”, the first official game was held at the home of Matsumoto Yamaga FC. Cerezo Osaka’s starting XI was significantly changed from the last game against Oita Trinita, the 9th match. For this game, Cerezo manager Lotina deployed Ken Tokura and Bruno Mendes as the 2 uptop and brought on Hiroaki Okuno and Naoyuki Fujita as anchors. Ayumu Seko, who had never experienced in J1, was selected for centre half. With this, Cerezo started in 4-4-2. All the tickets were sold. A single corner of the away stadium was painted in cherry blossom colour by the anticipating Cerezo supporters. In this fantastic atmosphere, the referee blew the whistle for kick-off.
Cerezo were in control from the beginning. Hiroshi Kiyotake first blasted a shot in the 2nd minute, dribbled and shot a ball from Tokura who received it from Seko in the 9th minute. In the 17th minute, Fujita cut in from a high line, then, Bruno Mendes hit a shot, which went over the crossbar. It looked like a sign for an opener coming soon. In the 21st minute, Matej Jonjic’s pass created a chance to take the lead. Kota Mizunuma, Riku Matsuda and Tokura broke down the right flank, Bruno Mendes met Mizunuma’s lobbed pass with his header, which went near the goal line. Okuno dashed onto the touchline and twisted his waist to return the ball to Blunomendos whose powerful header did the last job, which hit the back of the net. The goalkeeper had no chance to save it.
Late on, the game was more Cerezo sided, despite no other goals. The first half was over with a brilliant result that Cerezo expected.
In the second half, Matsumoto pressed forward in a high line. Manager Yasuharu Sorimachi must have inserted an attack mind into his lads during half-time. They put Cerezo under pressure quite a long time. Against many dangerous set pieces, Cerezo somehow survived the onslaught, putting out a defensive side with goalkeeper Kim Jin Heyon. After 60 minutes, Cerezo took a chance for a counter-attack.
In the 59th minute, Kiyotake broke down the left flank, cut in, and fired a shot, In the 67th minute, Kiyotake feigned the opponents with his brilliant technique and passed the ball to Mizunuma on the right flank. Bruno Mendes met Okuno’s cross with his header which bombed the ball down to Mizunuma, but it narrowly went wide.
The winner was scored in the 83rd minute. Tokura sent Riku Matsuda’s diagonal pass to Mizunuma. When he was tackled by the defenders, Bruno Mendes picked up the loose ball and blasted a shot with his left foot. Shortly after the goalkeeper parried it, Okuno dashed to prod home.
The Cerezo bench and their supporters were jubilant with that final shot.
Before the game, manager Lotina said: “ It is crucial to improve on our play to score goals with solid defence.” Cerezo did not allow Matsumoto to take any chance, and the twin tower of Bruno Mendes and Tokura did a great job as the top 2. To exploit space, Kiyotake, Okuno and Fujita played the central roles. The team played with a high line and made the Matsumoto defence sit deep. Seko also helped both attacking and defending to keep a clean sheet. The game was fruitful.
Kiyotake commented: “ It will bring us strength as we won the game in which many substitutes were involved.” The players who fight at the Luvian cup made a good result at the league game, which will intensify the competitiveness in the team. In May, I hope that Cerezo makes a great comeback. The victory of the first game pushed them up to 11th in the league table.