The J. League YBC Levain Cup 3rd section against Vegalta Sendai, that they challenged for winning through the group stage. Since Cerezo Osaka had only 2 days interval from the last league match, they significantly changed the starter. Toshiyuki Takagi and Yuta Koike were the starters for the first time in this season, and Honoya Shoji played for the first time in this season and was starter for the first time. Taiga Maekawa also entered the bench and played from the second half, and so it was the fresh member lineup.
At the beginning although Cerezo received the Sendai’s attack from the side, they calmly dealt with it and gradually took their pace. When they grabbed the ball and Bruno Mendes and Takagi created a chance coming through from behind, they succeeded to score the opener in 13th minutes. After Takagi and Hiroaki Okuno made a pressure and stole the ball, Yoichiro Kakitani, who was playing on the right side half as starter, picked up the loose ball, cut in, and vividly shot with his left foot, and it shook the goal net.
Cerezo, who was able to carry the match with advantage, added an additional point in 33rd minutes. Kakitani, who received Shoji's pass in the center, left the opponent with a trap and started dribbling. He made a pass to Takagi who was running behind the opponent, and Takagi dribbled through DF and calmly made a shot, recording a goal in the second game after his return. In 45th minutes as well, Bruno Mendes, who came out to the pass of Matej Jonic, blew away the DF, ran alone, and scored the 3rd goal. They finished the first half with good content and results.
In the second half, the time they were attacked lasted for a while, but the CB combination of two from academy, Ayumu Seko, who replaced Matej Jonjić, and Shoji, bravely fought well. They kicked back the cross from the side and built a solid defense in front of the goal. They performed as Lotina head coach said "Let's finish with no lost point" in the half-time, and Shoji contributed to the complete game victory in his first game after returning to Cerezo.
As a result, Cerezo finished the group stage with winning all of three games. They advanced to the prime stage as 1st place in Group B. "We want to prepare for going to the finals and winning the championship as one team whoever plays in the game” Kakitani said in an interview after the match. In the final tournament as well, they will fight one by one game at a time with all their force, aiming for the crowning since 2017.
In addition, Hiroto Yamada, who has been transferred from Cerezo to Sendai for a loan deal, also played as starter in this game. Yamada was involved in the both of scoring chances that Cerezo gave to Sendai twice. In the first half, the shot that Yamada pushed in from the melee of CK hit the crossbar, and in the second half, when Yamada jumped into the cross, one more step did not meet it, and Cerezo got nothing. Yamada reflected upon his play after the match, but we hope he will continue to increase the participation opportunities and to grow steadily.