ACL vs Kitchee SC: Match Report

Confirmed to break through the group stage in 1st place even with the draw! Advanced to the ACL knockout stage for the first time in 7 years.

This AFC Champions League group stage was held intensively in Thailand for three weeks. Cerezo Osaka had digested the schedule of 6 consecutive games with 2 days interval for each, and this section was finally the last one. They had reached the final battle of the group stage. As a result so far, Cerezo's breakthrough in the group stage had already been confirmed, but this section was a battle for the breakthrough of Group J as 1st place. The starting lineup had replaced 10 players from the previous section against Guangzhou FC. Koji Toriumi, who was the first starter since Section 3, had entered the CB, and Adam Taggart had returned to the bench.

At the beginning, Kitchee, who needed to win by two points to break through in 1st place, showed an attitude to attack from the front line, but Cerezo surpassed without a hurry, immediately regained the initiative and created a chance. In the 5th minute, Yoshito Okubo made a shot from Hirotaka Tameda's cross, and in the 11th minute Tatsuhiro Sakamoto broke through vertically from the feint that he is good at, and fed the cross with his right foot. Hiroshi Kiyotake headed to it, but the shot was slightly out of the frame. They had another scoring chance in the 12th minute. Tameda set up and crossed. Okubo, who picked up a loose ball in front of the goal, had a chance, but the shot was blocked by GK. After that, Cerezo continued to take possession against the opponent who defended with the defensive line backwards, and in the 29th minute Riki Harakawa's FK hit the post directly.

Cerezo made a series of chances at the end of the first half. In the 35th minute, Harakawa and Sakamoto connected the ball, and Riki Matsuda who was entering the inside aimed for a goal with a critical middle shot, and in the 37th minute Okubo reacted to Yusuke Maruhashi’s cross with his header and got a chance, but it was blocked by GK’s good save here. In the 44th minute as well, as Hiroaki Okuno headed to Sakamoto's cross and aimed at a goal, Cerezo repeatedly attacked in the first half but could not score from Kitchee who solidified the defense, and they finished the first half.

In the second half, Cerezo replaced Ryuya Nishio with Tiago. Kitchee could not break through without winning, but this was their sixth match. The color of fatigue seemed also deep, and they did not come forward easily. For Cerezo, who could pass the group stage in 1st place even if it was a draw as it was, rather than forcibly attacking, they searched for the opponent's gap while connecting carefully. Even though it was a little bit of seesaw development, it was Cerezo who got a scoring chance. In the 61st minute, from Maruhashi’s CK Tiago jumped in it and had a chance, but this was blocked by a DF who was approaching his body. In the 62nd minute, Manager Levir Culpi sent Toshiyuki Takagi and Adam Taggart to aim for one goal to the last. However, Adam Taggart was forced to be substituted for getting injured in the 80th minute, and Mutsuki Kato, who scored two goals in the previous section, entered.

In the 88th minute, Takagi reacted Maruhashi's cross well, but the shot was slightly out of the frame. While they proceeded with the game without giving Kitchee any scoring chances so far, in the 90th minute, Dejan Damjanović, who scored a goal in the Section 2, came out and made them afraid for a second, but GK Kim Jin Hyeon blocked his shot and the judgement itself was also an offside. In the additional time of the second half, Riku Matsuda had a chance to shoot from Kiyotake's pass, but he was blocked by the DF and did not finish. The match ended with 0-0 as it was. Cerezo could not finish the final section with a victory, but the total winning points of the six games increased to "14", and the 1st place in Group J was confirmed. They finished the group stage with 4 wins and 2 draws without loss, and advanced to the ACL knockout stage for the first time in 7 years since 2014.