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Friday, 7 May 2010

Cerezo 2-1 Antlers (The rose-tinted view)

cerezoosaka-s.gifCerezo Pete is back again with his take on his team's surprisingly comfortable win over Kashima the other day. OK, they need some help from Sogahata for both goals, but they were worthy winners of this contest.

In his post-match comments, Cerezo manager Culpi stated that this was a game that both sides tried to win, and it made for a very open game. I’m sure he was right, but you have to say, in that case, Cerezo played it very cool against the reigning champions. Especially in the first half, Cerezo played a lot of possession football, almost as though they had a lead and were playing out time; obviously, it was Culpi’s intention not to repeat the mistake against Nagoya Grampus and allow Kashima Antlers too much possession. Against this, the Antlers seemed to be lacking a little energy after their exertions in the Asian Champions League on April 28 and in J1 away at Yokohama F Marinos on April 24 and at home to Gamba Osaka on May 1. The consequence was that the game between newly promoted Cerezo and champions the Antlers was a very even one, with, for once, the breaks and the better finishing going Cerezo’s way. Cerezo also had Kim in goal.

Cerezo started playing a lot of possession football as though they would be happy with a 0-0 draw, and perhaps they would not have been too disappointed if it had ended that way. But waiting patiently for their chances, Cerezo gradually grew in confidence as they realized they would not be outplayed by the Antlers. Perhaps that was part of Culpi’s plan. The result was that the only meaningful Cerezo attempt on goal until the 26th minute was an Amaral free-kick along the ground blocked by the wall in the 10th. At this point in the game Cerezo were dominating possession so the Antlers too find chances hard to come by, although in the 4th minute Koroki was only narrowly wide with a right-foot shot. In the 16th a tall Antlers player, I think Jung-Soo Lee, nearly scored as he got behind the Cerezo defence from an Ogasawara free kick on the Antlers' left but only managed to touch the ball with his hair, and Cerezo were awarded a goal kick. In the 19th Nozawa tried a speculative left-foot shot in the right channel from about 40 metres that was only just over the bar near Kim's left-hand post, but probably the keeper had it covered. Also from the right channel, in the 20th Ogasawara was a little bit further over and slightly wide of the same corner with his right foot from about 25 metres. In the 28th Cerezo nearly scored as, following some neat football between Kagawa and Inui, Ienaga was found in space on the right; his beautiful hanging cross was challenged for by Adriano and Antlers' goalie Sogahata, with the ball going straight up in the air, and when it came down the incoming Kagawa and defender Iwamasa went for the ball with Kagawa getting in a header that bobbled towards the goal but Iwamasa managed to clear it off the line, although the ref belatedly blew for a free kick to the Antlers for Adriano's challenge on Sogahata which had resulted in Adriano getting a punch above the eye and Sogahata going down. It took Adriano a minute or two to recover from that punch. Soon after the resulting short free-kick, Amaral got in to intercept the ball but shot well wide with his right foot from about 40 metres. On 42 minutes the Brazilian midfielder tried another hopeful right-foot shot from about 25 metres which went well wide of Sogahata's right post, when, perhaps, Amaral had better options. On 45 minutes Inui found Adriano out on the left level with the edge of the penalty area and he came in, beat a defender and got in a right-foot shot which was comfortably saved by Sogahata. 0-0 at half-time--rather a Brazilian affair with lots of probing by both sides, but not many clear-cut goalscoring opportunities; apart from Kagawa's header after the ref had blown for a free-kick, I counted six attempts on goal--three for the Antlers from the 4th to the 20th minute and three to Cerezo between the 29th and 45th.


In the 47th minute Ienaga had a terrific dribble after which he got in a left-foot shot from the right channel which was not so far wide of Sogahata's right-hand post. In the 44th the Antlers had a superb multiple-passes move which ended with a cross from the right that was headed out for a corner by a Cerezo defender. From this corner, Cerezo had a let-off as Kim flapped and Lee headed over the open goal in the 50th minute. In the 53rd, after a brilliant throw-out by Kim and a neat one-two between Kagawa and Ienaga, Ienaga finished with a weak left-shot straight at the goalie from the edge of the box. In the 56th minute a powerful right-foot free-kick by Amaral from the right channel brought a good save from Sogahata diving to his left. Two minutes later Amaral tried another optimistic 40-metre shot which sailed well over the bar. The 60th minute saw a superb save by Kim from a looping Koroki header. Less than a minute later Nozawa saw another left-foot shot straight in front of the goal just clear the bar after he took one touch from a headed clearance by a Cerezo defender. Soon after Adriano was limping after a challenge with an Antlers defender for the ball about one metre in front of the junction of the six-yard box and the goal line. A minute later, for the Antlers Nakata was substituted by Aoki. In the 63rd, after a beautiful cross from Takahashi from Cerezo's right, Inui glanced just wide of the far post. A minute after that, Komatsu came on as a substitute for Adriano. In the 64th, after a clever one-two down the Antlers right, Araiba got in a brilliant cross which was hit by Kuroki with his shin about a metre out from goal bringing a point-blank save by Kim. Kim then rolled the ball out to Inui and from the resulting attack Cerezo took the lead. Cerezo had a good passing movement intercepted by Felype Gabriel stretching with his leg but the ball bounced back to Inui who fed Kagawa unmarked out on the left. The Antlers defence seemed to be concentrating on trying to catch Ienaga offside. Kagawa came into the penalty area dummied his man and curled a lovely curling right-foot shot from 13 metres just inside the far post--almost a video replay of his winning goal against Bellmare. Five minutes later Felype Gabriel made way for the young Yasushi Endo. Two minutes after that, after a good move down the Antlers' left and a precise cross, Marquinhos got in a strong header that was brilliantly parried by Kim, but Nozawa following up was able to bang the ball into the net with his left foot from three metres. In the 77th minute, Sogahata rolled a ball out towards Nozawa, but Ogasawara also moved in and Nozawa left it for him, but Amaral nipped in from behind Ogasawara, intercepted the ball, took one touche and banged it low into the right corner of Sogahata's net while the goalie was still off balance. In the 82nd minute Culpi replaced Inui with Kiyotake and in the 84th Koroki was out for the Antlers and the 19-year-old striker Osako was in. However, after their second goal Cerezo closed the game down and, although the Antlers pressed, clear-cut chances were almost non-existent, with the only shot on goal coming from Marquinhos on the edge of the penalty area in the 88th minute, but this was blocked by a Cerezo defender only about five metres, if that, in front of the Antlers' striker. For most of the last two minutes of injury time Kagawa and Ienaga did a terrific job of keeping possession in the Antlers' corners and when an Antlers player eventually got a foot on the ball it went straight to Amaral, who tried yet another long shot which went well wide of Sogahata's right-hand post thus returning possession to the Antlers. But by that time only twenty seconds were remaining.


One outstanding statistic of this game was that there were no yellow cards. Perhaps players were on their best behaviour in front of Japan national team manager Okada. Perhaps Cerezo were willing to play patiently and perhaps the Antlers were a little fatigued; certainly, after Cerezo went ahead for the second time, the Antlers seemed to lack the energy to make a final assault on the Cerezo penalty area. Despite this slight lack of intensity, the spectators were treated to a fine display of Brazilian soccer from both sides.

Stats:
Cerezo > Antlers
Shots: 11 > 10
GKs: 8 > 14
CKs: 1 > 7
FKs: 18 > 18
Poss.: 48% > 52%

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