Review: Cerezo Osaka 1-1 Urawa Reds (Levain Cup SF 1st Leg)

Despite scoring the opener by Uejo’s Golazo, being caught up in the second half and a draw. The settlement will be made in the second match away.


The J.League YBC Levain Cup semi-final Leg 1 against Urawa Red Diamonds, which was the same pairing as the semi-final of last year's tournament. Cerezo Osaka's starting line-up was changed for seven players from the latest Meiji Yasuda J1 League Section 30 against Jubilo Iwata. Mutsuki Kato and Satoki Uejo entered as two FWs on behalf of Adam Taggart, who was absent due to being selected for the Australian national team.

The game suddenly moved. In the 2nd minute, Hiroaki Okuno picked up the ball that Matej Jonic bounced back and threw a vertical pass to Uejo, and he successfully received it, looked forward and shot with a right foot kick from outside the penalty area. As he said "Since it's my specialty, it was exactly as I aimed," a non-rotating shot went to the goal net, and Cerezo succeeded in scoring the opener. The stadium got filled with joy, but in the 5th minute, Matej Jonic received the press of Yoshio Koizumi and lost the ball, and it became a pinch of a one-on-one with the GK. However, GK Keisuke Shimizu made a big save here. He blocked the shot with his right foot to avoid conceding. Then, in the 10th minute, this time on Cerezo’s side, Okuno and Hirotaka Tameda sandwiched the opponent and stole the ball at a high position, and Kato ran behind the opponents to catch Tameda’s pass and made a shot. It was close to a scoring chance, but unfortunately it was out of the frame. In the game that moved a lot from the beginning, Urawa had more time to take possession after the 15th minute, but Cerezo's defense remained strong. They quickly counterattacked after stealing. With sharp attacks from both sides, they made several attempts to score the second goal. The first half finished as it was with Cerezo’s one point lead.

In the second half, against Cerezo, who entered from defense, Urawa, who struggled to attack in the first half, changed the way they carried the ball forward in the second half. An anchor Ken Iwao was placed down between the CBs, and both SBs took high positions. As Okuno said after the match, “In the second half, the opponents also put the long balls to make a numerical advantage on the sides”, Iwao and CB Takuya Iwanami used long feeds to the players on the sides, who took the high position. Cerezo somehow managed to slide and respond to it, but the space was used by Urawa with the situation that four back DFs spread out. Then, in the 53rd minute, the right side was broken through and they conceded a goal. Urawa's left SB Takahiro Akimoto entered the deep position and fed a return pass, and Atsugi Ito shot. GK Shimizu repelled it but Koizumo pushed it into the goal. Urawa gained momentum to attack further from here, but Cerezo also had a scoring chance in the 59th minute. Uejo met a cross from Seiya Maikuma, who came out on the right side from the counterattack, on the far side, but his shot was blocked by a DF. In the following 66th minute, they had another scoring chance. This time, Kato met with his volley to a cross of Hiroshi Kiyotake who was substituted from midway, but unfortunately it went over the crossbar.

In the last 15 minutes, they faced a fierce attack of Urawa again, but Cerezo managed to endure with good saves by Shimizu and clears by Matej Jonic. In the 90th minute, Urawa almost scored directly from CK, but Maikuma worked hard to clear it before the goal line. They never allowed the reversal. In the end, Cerezo managed to block Urawa’s attack, and the match ended with 1-1. Although they allowed an away goal, they finished the first round with the score, "We have enough chances to advance" (Okuno) for the second round. “If everyone prepares well, I think we will definitely be able to move forward. We all have a strong desire to go to the final. We just keep believing in ourselves and playing,” said Uejo. To advance to the final for the second consecutive year following last year. They show all the power they have at the moment at away ground.