Saturday, September 27, 2008

R38 - Up against the Champions

Cerezo Osaka Sanfrecce Hiroshima

For Cerezo, no news since the last match against Avispa, and they are still missing GK Yamamoto, left-backs Omata and Hirajima as well as Ale in midfield. Aizawa is just as good as Yamamoto though in goal, and on the left-back position they got Gilton, a new signing from Brazil that will step in as well as Niwa in back-up. Instead of Ale, former Nagoya-player Aoyama will start. All those injuries will weaken the squad a bit, but Cerezo got many players to choose to from so they should be well-covered..Sanfrecce are missing a few regulars, but they are well-covered all places so it shouldn’t affect the team’s performance in any way. Both teams are likely to field the same squads as last round according to Yahoo.

Cerezo suffered a huge blow when they lost the match vs Avispa last round with 2 conceded goals in the dying minutes. Before that their form were really good. They played quite good against Avispa too, and lead until only 5 minutes remained. So playing-wise, they seem just as strong as earlier. On the last 6 at home Cerezo only got 2-1-3. Sanfrecce secured the J2 title last round, and doesn’t need to take any more points now really. But that doesn’t mean that they will take the last matches lightly, as they are bound for breaking records if they keep it up like this. They’ve won 5 of the last 6 matches, and away they got 3-1-2 on the last 6. All previous meetings gives us 2-2-4, and earlier this season Sanfrecce won both meetings.

Cerezo got everything to play for, Sanfrecce only records and glory. Therefore the motivation should be alot higher in the home team’s camp. But Sanfrecce is stronger, and ruin Cerezo’s hopes of promotion with a win here. I think it will be close, but the fact that Sanfrecce are already in J1 probably makes them ease down a bit, and that could be the chance Cerezo needs.
MUST WIN game.
Match starts at 13.00 ( Nagai Stadium)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

R37 - Cerezo mess it up - again

Kazuya Maeda and the rest of the players have every reason to feel down about themselves...

Avispa Fukuoka Cerezo Osaka 3-2
A: Okubo 69’,90’, Tanaka 85’
C: Kaio 22’, Kagawa 71’

Cerezo lineup:
GK: Aizawa
DF: Yanagisawa, Maeda, Ezoe, Gilton
MF: Inui,Aoyama,Germano,Kagawa
FW: Kaio, Komatsu

Kaio --> Haneda 71'
Komatsu --> Furuhashi 89'

Up until 5 minutes remaining, things looked great for Cerezo who were up 2-1. but 2 late goals from the home team turned the match around, and for Cerezo’s sake it must have been one of the most bitter defeats this season. The loss means Cerezo are falling further behind the other teams battling fo a top 3 finish, but there are still plenty of points to play for so everything isn’t lost yet.

Cerezo got off to a good start, and put Avispa under pressure immediately. They attacked mainly down the wing, and set up Kaio for several chances. In the 22nd minute, the talented brazilian met a cross from Yanagisawa to make it 1-0. Perhaps he should have scored on one of his other chances as well, but by half-time Cerezo were 1-0 up. Avispa looked a bit more lively after the break, and started creating chances on their own. Their topscorer and prolific striker Okubo equalized in the 69th minute only to see Kagawa take the visitors back into the lead a few minutes later. The end to the match were dramatic, and within the last 5 minutes Avispa turned the match around to take all 3 points. First a goal from Tanaka, before Okubo scored his 2nd of the day with a precise header in injury-time.

All in all the teams were very evenly contested, with 15 shots on goal each. Cerezo were best before the break, but Avispa took more and more over in the 2nd half. Credit to Avispa for coming from behind to take the win, but at the same time it’s disappointing from Cerezo’s side to let it happen in such an important match. Perhaps that’s one of their main problems, not being able to win they need it the most. It happened in 2005, when they lost the title on the last day, and then in 2006 when they got relegated. At the end of last year as well they only needed to win their last 2 matches to get promoted, but also then they messed it up.

Monday, September 22, 2008

R37 - Trip to Fukuoka (preview)

Avispa Fukuoka Cerezo Osaka

Not too many injury problems for Avispa at the moment, who are only missing DF Rudan of any importance. He’s been out for most of the season though, so not the biggest loss. For Cerezo, no news since the last match, and they are still missing GK Yamamoto, left-backs Omata and Hirajima as well as Ale in midfield. Aizawa is just as good as Yamamoto though in goal, and on the left-back position they got Gilton, a new signing from Brazil that will step in as well as Niwa. For Ale, former Nagoya-player Aoyama will start. Both teams are likely to field the same squads as last round according to Yahoo.

Avispa aren’t in the best of forms, with only 1-4--2 on the last 7 matches.They are placed in the middle of nowhere in 9th, and doesn’t have that much to play for. Their home form is quite good though, with 3-3-0 on the last 6. Cerezo got 3-2-0 on the last 5, and seems to be in quite good form at the moment. They’ve impressed play-wise atleast, and should be on roll now. They don’t have the best away record though, with only 2-2-2 on the last 6. Cerezo are currenty in 5th, 3 points behind promotion and the pressure is on for them to get a win. Cerezo got a great record against Avispa, with 5 straight wins. Overall record is 1-2-5, and Avispa’s win came in 2006 when both teams were in J1.

In other words, Cerezo are favorites here, and should be able to win. Avispa are not bad though, and more than good enough to cause problem for Cerezo. It’s just a few days since the last match, and both teams will probably struggle with tired players, as they don’t seem to be making any chances. Cerezo got a better player material, so they should atleast be able to avoid defeat. I think we'll win though.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

R36 - Germano goal saved a point

Germano with another PK goal against Montedio

Cerezo Osaka Montedio Yamagata 2-2
C: Kagawa 22’, Germano 64’
M: Toyoda 33’, 45’

Cerezo lineup:
GK: Aizawa
DF: Yanagisawa, Maeda,Ezoe, Gilton
MF: Inui,Aoyama,Germano,Kagawa
FW: Kaio,Furuhashi

Furuhashi --> Komatsu 55'
Aoyama --> Haneda 69'
Kaio --> Kakitani 79'

Cerezo took on 2nd placed Montedio in a thrilling and evenly-played match this round, and the teams ended up sharing the spoils in a 2-2 draw. The match always seemed to have a big nerve in it, and although we didn’t see too many chances it was never a dull moment. Cerezo’s wonderkid Shinji Kagawa gave the hosts the lead after 22 minutes, when Cerezo came up with sone impressive one-touch passing counter-attack that Kagawa coolly finished. But 11 minutes later found Kitamura U-23 NT Striker Toyoda with a cross, and the compact striker did well to equalize. Just before the break Toyoda were on target once again, after Aizawa in Cerezo’s goal failed to hold on to a shot from Miyazawa.

10 minutes into the 2nd half Cerezo changed their topscorer Komatsu in for Furuhashi, and that gave a new spark to Cerezo’s play. A few minutes after that Cerezo were awarded a penalty-kick when Shogo Kobara committed a fould inside the box. Germano converted the PK as usual, and the teams were on level terms again. With a 1-man advantage, Cerezo were suddenly in control of the match, but despite several chances and some offensive substitutions near the end they couldn’t find the winning-goal. Cerezo had 9 shots to Montedio’s 10, and in the end a draw seemed a fair result. Montedio will be most happy about it though, but drawing 2-2 against the 2nd placed team is not something Cerezo can be unhappy with either.

Over 20 000 had met up for this match, which only fellow J2 team Sagan Tosu as well as Kawasaki Frontale managed to beat in the whole J.League this round. It’s quite strange that two of the highest 3 attendances this weekend were J2 matches. Gilton made his debut for Cerezo here, as he stepped in as left-back with both Omata and Hirajima out with injury. Gilton is on-loan from brazilian club Joinville, and he did quite well in his debut match according to reports.
Among the teams chasing promotion, only Vegalta managed to win, so overall the weekend for Cerezo weren't too bad after all despite only managing a point here.
Pictures from the stadium:

Friday, September 19, 2008

R36 - Tough match vs the Mountain Kings ( Preview)

Cerezo Osaka Montedio Yamagata
Cerezo’s injury list are growing again, and now MF Ale is ruled out. From before, DF Omata and Hirajima are out, as well as GK Yamamoto. Omata and Hirajima are both left-backs though, and Cerezo got Niwa in back-up so they should be covered. Ale is harder to replace, but it’s likely Hamada or Sakemoto will take his place in midfield. Hamada is the more defensive type, so probably it will be him. He’s done well in the past, but isn’t as good as Ale. Montedio are only missing DF Kimura, who’s been out for months with a long-term injury.

Cerezo are back on track with 10 points on the last 4 matches. That has taken them up to 4th, just 6 points behind 2nd placed Montedio with a game in hand. That means if they win this one, they could be on level terms with them if they win the game in hand as well. On the last 6 at home they only got 2-0-4, but they’ve won the latest 2.The last match were probably Cerezo’s best all season, when they won 6-0 away vs Gifu. Montedio finally lost again after going 7 matches unbeaten when they met Sanfrecce last round, and 0-4 at home surely affects the morale and confidence of the players. Meeting a strong side like Cerezo might not be the best then after such a heavy defeat. On the last 6 away Montedio got 3-1-2. All previous meetings gives us 4-0-2, and earlier this season both teams won a match each.

Considering the results last round, Cerezo are small favorites here, especially since they seem to be back on the right track again. Player by player they seem stronger than Montedio as well. Ale will be missed though, but the covering player are good as well, so they shouldn’t be too weakened. A very important match for Cerezo, and only a win is good enough.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My trip to Nagai

I've just arrived back from Japan, where I attended the Cerezo - Tokushima match on August the 30th. It was my first time in Nagai since 2006, and it was great to experience the stadium and live J-football again.
I met up with a few Cerezofriends, Heichi, who I've had email contact with for about a year and who's kindly given me updates about Cerezo among other things, and his friend Riki. Outside of the stadium we bumped into MR.Cerezo, Hiroaki Morishima. Talk about luck! I had a little chat with Mr.Morishima, and he kindly signed my newly-bought Cerezo-shirt ( see picture).

Then it were off to buy tickets, and and time to get ready for the match. On the way around the stadium we also got a glimpse of Shinji Kagawa, who were suspended for this match, busy signing autographs for some members of the official Cerezo supporter club.
The giant stadium were by no means full, and only a mere 5000 attended this match. That's a bit disappointing, but that's a part of the not-so-glamorous J2 life I guess.

With Cerezo being a bit off the pace, a win against Tokushima were very important. Cerezo got off to a good start, and already after 3 minutes were they 1-0 up thanks to a goal from Ale. Ale were later announced as the Man of the Match. Cerezo looked to be in control of the match without really dominating, so therefore it was important with the 2nd goal which came through Tatsuya Furuhashi. Furuhashi has had an injury-struck season, and hasn't been anywhere near as good as he was last year. He curled in a free-kick some 16-20 yards out ( see picture).

With that Cerezo could go to half-time with a comfortable 2-0 lead. Here's a picture of me and Heichi taken in the stadium:

Soon after the 2nd half started, and we were soon about to see Cerezo score their 3rd goal of the evening. Germano stepped up to take a PK, but did his usual stop'n go twist. Apparently this referee didn't approve that, so it had to be retaken. Germano did exactly the same once more, and the referee ordered it to be retaken again. Germano refused to change his way, and repeated it again. Now the referee allowed it, although it looked exactly the same as the 2 other attempts. Strange. Here's a picture of it:

As you can see the goalkeeper has already gone down which makes it easy for Germano to place it in the open goal. Im not sure if this is allowed or not, but it happened earlier in the season too, against Kofu. With 3 goals up, Cerezo took the foot off the gas-pedal, and allowed Tokushima to get back into the match with 2 quick goals. That made for a nervous finish to the game, but in the end Cerezo held out for the win. All of us were happy with the result, but the finish to the game were crap.

After the game it was off to buy some more Cerezo-accessories, and then grab something to eat at a local izukaya. On the way out of it we ran into some nice Tokushima-fans ( pictured), who after some chatting gave me a Tokushima-scarf.

More pictures from the game will be uploaded later.

R35 - Cerezo puts 6 behind Gifu

Kaio with 3 goals against Gifu

FC Gifu Cerezo Osaka 0-6
C: Kaio 12’,15’90’, Kagawa 60’,Furuhashi 64’, Komatsu 90’

Cerezo went berserk in Gifu for the 2nd time this season, and didn’t stop before they had put 6 goals behind Gifu’s goalkeeper. A huge boost for Cerezo, who proved they are back in the form we expect them to be in. Cerezo’s brazilian forward Kaio got somewhat of a breakthrough here, scoring 3 goals and being a constant threat to Gifu. Already after 15 minutes played had Kaio found the net twice. The early lead made the Cerezo-players relax, and Gifu were forced to play catch-up early on. That was a job they didn’t feel comfortable with at all, and they were never a real threat for the visitors.

Shinji Kagawa, who returned to the squad here after being suspended last round once again turned in a marvellous performance. He scored the 3-0 goal in the 60th minute, and just minutes later added Furuhashi a 4th after picking up a spill ball. The win were already secured at that point, but in injury-time Komatsu and Kaio added 2 more to complete the humiliation of Gifu. Last time Cerezo were in Gifu they won 5-0, so clearly it’s one of their lucky stadiums. Gifu had 6 shots to Cerezo’s 15.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

R35 - Ahead of Gifu - Cerezo

FC Gifu Cerezo Osaka

Gifu doesn’t have an injuries at the moment and can field their best possible lineup. They seem to opt for a defensive 4-5-1 formation though, with just a single forward up front. Usually Katayama and Katagiri pair up, but Katagiri are likely to be sidelined for the 2nd match in a row here. Probably to strengthen the defence, but it didn’t really help last round when they were hammered 1-7 by Hiroshima. For Cerezo their 2 best left-backs are out, as both Omata and Hirajima will sit this one out. But Niwa is available, and he’s done quite well earlier this season on several occasions. GK Yamamoto is also out, but Aizawa is regarded as better anyway so it’s not really a big loss. In other words can Cerezo field a very strong lineup here. Up front topscorer Komatsu are expected to be rested though, which means Furuhashi and Kaio will start. A bit surprising, but coach Culpi seems to have big faith in his compatriot Kaio, although the speedy brazilian are yet to score after 6 matches.

Gifu’s form is pretty bad, and they’ve played 9 matches without winning now. They got 3 straight losses as well and have fallen a few places in the table cause of that. At home they got 1-2-3 on the last 6. For Cerezo things are starting to get better now, with 7 points on their last 3 matches. That means they are still very much in contention for a top 3 finish and promotion, but still trailing the other teams by a few points. A win here could take them on level points with the 3rd placed team though. On the last 6 away they got 2-2-2. Cerezo won both previous meetings this season, including a whopping 5-0 away win.

Cerezo are big favorites here, and anything but an away win would be surprising. Cerezo’s form are on the up, and they rested last round as well which means the players should be in good condition. The big loss against Sanfrecce last round certainly wont help on Gifu’s confidence, who were poor even before that match. Cerezo controlled the last match against Tokushima, only to lose focus in the 2nd half which resulted in 2 goals against and a nervous finish to the match. But they seem to be in good form, and here Kagawa returns as well which only makes it better.
A Must-win game.