Cerezo Osaka were up for this game on the back of a game that finished in roller coaster fashion against Shonan Bellmare the week before. Cerezo had almost thrown away the points when Tahara was allowed to equalize in injury time. Then Kagawa pulled one out of the hat with a winner in the 5th minute of added time for the three points. But, today, the lost time winner went to the away team, but I am getting ahead of myself!
It was a beautiful day. The sun streamed onto the fans, the beer sellers were doing a roaring trade, the players looked relaxed in their pre-game rituals. The imposing figure of goalkeeper Kim listened to some "toons" on his iPod, while three Cerezo players played keepy-up awaiting the pre-game get-together.
Cerezo were without Adriano and Martinez, but more than covered in the forms of Ienaga and Bando. Nagoya's notable absentee was Josh Kennedy, so the Cerezo back three were hoping for an easier ride against the diminutive Magnum and Tamada and their cohorts.
And so, the game began ... Magnum was first to register an attempt on the goal, his 2nd minute half volley screamed low across the goal and fired a warning to the Cerezo defence but it was Cerezo who opened the better side, with Kagawa, Inui and Ienaga spraying short passes around the field and creating numerous openings, with Inui having his first shot blocked in the 4th minute. But the early signs were good for Cerezo.
In the 6th minute Magnum went down unchallenged and was carried off, but his replacement was the more than capable Ogawa, so it hardly made a difference to the game as far as the home team were concerned. Cerezo continued to pass their way up the field, while Nagoya looked for the long ball and quick break. Burzanovic found himself in the area in the 13th and made the most of a challenge, hoping for a PK. Instead he picked up a yellow card for his dissent.
In the 17th Ienaga finished off another fine move with a shot that the keeper smothered and in the next move, Ienaga robbed Alex in midfield - much to the consternation of the Nagoya defence - and slipped a pass to Kagawa, who couldn't quite find the target, but it looked only a matter of time.
IN the 26th Burzanovic sent a free kick over the bar from 30 yards, but the defence were on high alert after his two free kick goals in previous games.
Cerezo keeper Kim was using his range with long kicks, unfortunately, since the targets were Bando, Inui and Kagawa - not the biggest players on the field - this writer was wondering why he was not giving shorter passes to start moves from the back. Bando finally got in on the act after a fine cut back low cross from Ienaga found the ex-Gamba striker able to send in a 20 yard blast, but it was too close to the keeper.
Cerezo came closest to opening the scoring in the 38th minute, although it was from a stroke of luck in the end as Amaral mis-hit a shot, which bounced off Bando and into the path of Kagawa, whose excellent side-footed volley almost placed the ball in the net, but the fans saw the ball roll agonisingly wide of the post. And so the teams went in for the break scoreless, but Cerezo will have been the more disappointed of the two sides.
The 2nd half was much of the same, with the Cerezo youngsters spraying the ball with confidence and speed, but no finishing touch was forthcoming. Takahashi headed weakly into the keeper's arms from a good position from an Omata corner in the 62nd minute, Bando fed Kagawa for a superb - but just off target chip - in the 63rd, and Amaral stung the keeper's fingers with a 25 yarder after Ienaga had created the space.
In the 77th Amaral hot another blast at Narazaki, who failed to hold it, but the advancing Inui and Komatsu - on for Bando minutes earlier - were judged offside as they followed in.
Into the final 10 minutes and the chances had not been taken, would Cerezo drop the points from lax finishing? It seemed that way when Tamada was given too much space on the left and his cross was almost turned in by Maki. The Nagoya striker was foiled by Kim, although the Korean paid the price in pain as Maki caught him in the challenge.
In the 86th Komatsu wriggled past three challenges but lost control of the ball as he prepared to pull the trigger and minutes later Inui came close as his shot screamed in, Narazaki forced into a save, and a corner. And then, sure enough, into injury time and a needless free kick given away on the right wing was blasted in by Tamada. His wicked inswinger hitting the back of the net of a defender's head.
Cerezo 0-1 Nagoya Grampus, and Cerezo had only themselves to blame. On this form, relegation would not be a problem, but the chances will have to be taken, if that is to be the case!