Cerezo who had relished a run of two consecutive wins took on Gamba Osaka with the hope for three successive victories in the first Osaka derby this season. However, the 0-1 defeat sadly drained their hope. In the last eight derby games, Cerezo have never won against the local rivals.
As for the starting XI, Toshiyuki Takagi was deployed as one of the top 2, a replacement for Ken Tokura who got injured in the last game and is expected to be back in 8 months. Yasuo Kimoto also played as a centre back for Aymu Sako, the Japan Under-20 International.
In the first half, a good chance fell to Cerezo in the 10th minute, Takagi met one on one against the Gamba goalkeeper after receiving Matej Jonjic’s pass and attempted to dribble through the defenders to shoot, but it was saved by the goalkeeper, Masaaki Higashiguchi. Three minutes later, in their half of the pitch, Hwang Ui Jo exploited Matej Jonjic’s poor back pass which caused a dangerous one on one, but Cerezo’s Guardian, Kim Jin Heyon’s fine save denied his shot.
Both teams missed a chance for an opening goal. Cerezo, who played in the same formation 4-4-2 as the last two games, showed solid play against Gamba who had tactically changed their line-up and formation from their previous match. Even when the foes possessed the ball, Cerezo never gave away any chances to Gamba. Naoyuki Fujita commented after the game: “Our defence was excellent.” Matej Jonjic and Kimoto well shielded the Gamba’s formidable top 2, Hwang Ui Jo and Ademilson. The first half ended goalless.
In the second half, Manager Lotina changed the formation to 3-4-2-1 and deployed Bruno Mendes up top, and Hiroshi Kiyotake and Takagi as anchors. In the 50th minute, Lotina brought on Souza for Takagi to change the flow of the game. That said, who took advantage first was Gamba. Despite having a back 5, the opponents capitalised on space when they sat deep. After Gamba stretched the play, Shu Kurata cut through the defensive line and thumped it in.
The away fans sent loud cheers to the pitch. Cerezo were desperate for two goals to win. For top 2, Lotina brought on Yoichiro Kakitani for Fujita. Just before that, Cerezo’s defensive line was already changed to a back 4. In the 77th minute, a big chance fell to Cerezo. Yusuke Maruhashi chested Souza’s pass and sent the ball to Kiyotake who dropped it to Kakitani, whose shot was saved by Higashiguchi. In the 80th minute, Matej Jonjic, who took advantage of the chaos caused just after a free kick, prodded home but it was cleared by the defenders.
Late in the second half, Cerezo chased the game to level with the foes, but Gamba outworked them and continued with numerous attacks. However, Cerezo never allowed them to extend their lead. The crosstown rivals struggled to score a decisive winner, but their poor finishing were on Cerezo’s side. During additional time, Souza tried to score a goal, taking advantage of successive chances, but his shots went wide. The game was over.
If Cerezo won the game, they would have reached 8th on the league table. Unfortunately, Gamba’s fortress was tough. Next week, Cerezo fight in the J League YBC Levain Cup and J1 League at home. The opponents are FC Tokyo who are top in the L 1 league table. I hope that they have a fresh start and play in-form at the up and coming games.