Yoichiro Kakitani deservedly equalised in the first minute of stoppage time to save Hiroshi Kiyotake from the least enjoyable of departures. With former Cerezo great and recent Manchester United signing Shinji Kagawa an interested observer at the Nagai Stadium, Kiyotake left the field in the 81st minute to rapturous applause, frustrated at having been unable to help his teammates level the scores. Cerezo had been the match of an Urawa Red Diamonds team which began the day eleven places ahead, but it was a flurry of late substitutions from Sérgio Soares which finally produced the merited equitable outcome in the game’s final minutes, most particularly that of Branquinho who replaced the FC Nuremberg-bound midfielder in the 81st minute.
A crowd of 36,723 had gathered in heavy rain to bid farewell to the 22-year old Japan international, their highest of the season and 6,000 more than had been present for the Osaka derby earlier in the year, and in hope of a victory which would assuage growing concerns about Cerezo’s ability to remain in Japanese football’s top flight. The home support would have welcomed the promising start, Takahiro Ogihara testing Nobuhiro Kato inside three minutes with a skidding shot from the edge of the penalty area following a strong challenge by Hotaru Yamaguchi and good play from Kempes, the Reds keeper saving well to his left, while Yusuke Maruhashi performed very capably on the left side of defence, Kiyotake unable to make an impression early on and absenting himself from supporting the full-back as Tadaaki Hirakawa was played in behind the midfielder.
Promising beginnings, however, gave way to familiar failings, the first period seeing Cerezo’s season encapsulated in miniature form. First Marcio Richardes, whose influence grew as the game passed the ten minute mark and as the space between the home side’s defensive line and midfield four grew ever larger, exchanged passes quickly before steering a low, swerving shot that Kim Jin-Hyun was grateful to see edge past the right upright having come close to bundling it into his own net, and from the resulting corner Yusuke Kashiwagi’s outswinging delivery was met by an umarked Mitsuru Nagata, unable to direct a straightforward header under Kim’s crossbar.
A further warning was posted on seventeen minutes, Keisuke Tsuboi’s long, angled pass diverted perfectly into the path of Richardes through a clever flick off Genki Haraguchi’s chest, and the Brazilian midfielder’s pass between Cerezo’s centre-back pairing of Kota Fujimoto and Teruyuki Moniwa was a fraction too strong for Kashiwagi, unable to find enough power on his sliding effort to place it beyond Kim.
Cerezo continued to pay no heed to the freedom afforded to Richardes and his teammates, exemplified by Tsukasa Umesaki being allowed to wander all of thirty yards into the heart of Cerezo’s midfield unchallenged, and they were punished for their inability to press and close down the opposition three minutes later. Tomoaki Makino, stepping inside from the left flank, swept a pass to Genki Haraguchi twenty-five yards from goal, who delicately turned the ball to Keita Suzuki. Returning the ball to Haraguchi, the midfielder’s run into the penalty area was immediately spotted, and he clipped a finish from the return pass to the right of the advancing Kim to give Urawa the goal they had been threatening.
The home side’s ongoing defensive frailties having been exposed, their creative players then provided further evidence for a goalscoring rate which barely exceeds more than one per game. As the half-hour mark was reached, Kiyotake delivered a superb cross for Yoichiro Kakitani, but his fierce first-time volley was too close to Nobuhiro Hato, who tipped the ball behind for a corner. Minutes later, Kiyotake then sent an exquisite pass to the touchline for Kempes, whose pull back was met by Kakitani, but again little adjustment was required of the Reds goalkeeper, the forward’s shot with the outside of his right boot easily saved.
Shortly before the break Cerezo had Kim to thank for keeping the deficit to a single goal. Richardes, collecting a pass infield, laid the ball off to Yuki Abe whose drive was heading for the top corner until the 24-year old South Korean pushed the ball behind for a corner. From the resulting set piece, Abe headed goalwards with Moniwa derelict in his marking duties, and Kim’s excellent reactions prevented what appeared an almost certain 2-0 lead.
A more controlled display was required after the interval from Soares’s players, and they were a team transformed as they began the second-half, Kiyotake prominent as he utilised the width of the pitch, demanding possession from his teammates and desperate to make his mark in his final match. Kim Bo-Kyung, Yusuke Maruhashi, Kota Fujimoto, Kempes and Takahiro Ogihara all came close within fifteen minutes of the restart, a combination of Nobuhiro Kato’s competence and players snatching at shots all that came between Cerezo and an equaliser.
Unable to convert twenty minutes of sustained pressure into a more telling output, the visitors sensed the opportunity to put matters beyond reach, and the introduction of Tomoya Ugajin for Keisuke Tsuboi nearly paid dividends. Involved in the build-up for a Kashiwagi strike correctly ruled out for offside, two superb crosses could have ended the affair had they met with the finish they deserved. The first came from the byline which narrowly evaded three awaiting Urawa players, then fellow substitute Ranko Despotovic missed an open goal after the defender had beaten Moniwa and pulled the ball back across the six-yard area, the Serbian forward mistiming his slide and failing to connect properly with Kim well beaten.
Nonetheless, with 90 minutes played, it appeared as if Kiyotake’s time in Osaka would play out under the gloomiest of skies and moods and Urawa end the day in third place in the table. That was until Kim Bo-Kyung’s low shot was only parried away by Kato, and Kakitani was the first to react to tuck the rebound under the goalkeeper, a delighted Kiyotake immersing himself in Cerezo’s celebrations one last time and lifting the spirits of supporters if not the clouds.
|Cerezo Osaka||1||Urawa Red Diamonds||1|
|Match Statistics||Match Statistics|
|Yoichiro Kakitani||90′+1||Keita Suzuki||20′|