The J League YBC Levain Cup 2019 has now moved into the tournament stage. Cerezo Osaka who topped Group C faced FC Tokyo who came the 2nd in Group B at FC Tokyo’s home Ajinomoto Stadium for the 1st match of the play-offs.
Cerezo picked significantly different players from their league match choices as they did for the group stage too, had 8 different starting members compare to their latest league match against Kashima Antlers at the 15th round, and faced this match. For GK Kentaro Kakoi, it was the 1st match against his former club. And for Ayumu Seko, it was his 1st official match after coming back from the U-20 World Cup.
From the right beginning, the match was developed with FC Tokyo’s predominance. Just 1 minute into the game, Kakoi made a good save to the shot by Keigo Higashi from short distance, then in 2nd minute, Kakoi also saved a heading shot made by Kensuke Nagai from a CK. Cerezo kept their tenacious defence together with Kakoi’s hard work, and didn’t allow FC Tokyo to score a goal.
Having the inferiority beginning, Cerezo also struggled their offence and failed to take ball up to the opponent territory until the middle of the 1st half, however, in 24th minute, Takaki Fukumitsu received a sharp down the line pass from Ayumu Seko from middle of the pitch, and made a shot. This 1st shot became Cerezo’s 1st chance, and then in 28th minute, Yoichiro Kakitani dodged opponents by his skilful dribble and made a shot. Although both attempts were denied by Akihiro Hayashi, FC Tokyo’s GK, after that, Cerezo’s linking ball got smoother and started pushing back the flow.
Cerezo also reacted promptly to FC Tokyo’s counters, however in 43rd minute, they were shaken from side to side, defenders missed a marking, and lost a goal. Kensuke Nagai scored with his header to the cross from left. But immediately after that, in 45th minute, Cerezo had a big chance. Atomu Tanaka received a pass from Kakitani, made a cross to Toshiyuki Takagi who hit it with his head, however, it just missed the post.
In the 2nd half, Cerezo was “alerting FC Tokyo’s counters while aiming an away goal and attack”, having a difficult game but kept trying to go forward to seek a goal. In 55th minute, Takagi struck a powerful middle-range shot, then in 61st minute, Kakitani challenged to the goal by jumping into the cross sent by Riku Matsuda. It became like exchanges of counters, and in 63rd minute, FC Tokyo sent Diego Oliveira to the pitch. In 67th minute, FC Tokyo’s 2 tops and Nagai’s linking play gave a chance to Na Sang-ho to shoot, but Tatsuya Yamashita managed to block it by just his right leg. Cerezo was also attacked in the 74th minute and fell into a disadvantaged situation by numbers, but Matsuda stood firmly. He didn’t allow them to shoot.
Cerezo managed to avoid the 2nd goal loss, then in 75th minute, the substitute Hiroto Yamada ran through for the pass from Takagi and made a shot. Yamada also attempted another shot in 79th minute despite surrounded by a DF. In 85th minute, Matsuda sent a sharp cross to Tanaka at far side, but failed to link it to shoot, the one goal was so far to reach. Just before end of the game, in 90th minute, Diego Oliveira of FC Tokyo competed to get the ball kicked by GK Hayashi, then became unmarked in front of the goal and received a pass from Nagai. It was a really threatening scene for Cerezo, however Oliveira couldn’t hit the ball properly thus no goal.
The match ended as it was. Cerezo failed their missions of the cleansheet and away-goals, however, they showed their eager to challenge the goal in the difficult circumstances of going behind. They even managed to create chances by breaking up opponent in the 1st half. It wasn’t all the pessimistic content. The 2nd leg will be at home and that’ll decide the winner. Cerezo have more than enough chance to advance to the best 8 by coming from behind.