Tuesday, 16 September 2014

New manager Okuma keeps his 100% record: Cerezo Osaka 2 - 0 Kashiwa Reysol

Okuma kept faith with Nagai and Sugimoto up front and they repaid him with a goal apiece. Our first win in the league since May 3rd! The players clearly weren't up for working with Marco Pezzaiuloi or Popovic for that matter. I wonder if we'll get any Rio Ferdinand style revelations about why, but none of our players have a book to sell so maybe not. New, undoubtedly well paid, signing Cacau is injured along with our captain Yamaguchi who was linked with a move to Serie A before the World Cup. Ogihara looks to have regained some form now and Kusukami too looks to be reveling in finally being given a chance at a run in the team. As for the two chaps up front, great stuff which should see them both keeping hold of their places for the foreseeable future. Forlan made a cameo appearance after the game was settled. Sugimoto scored a header from Sakemoto's free kick and it was nice but huge questions marks over the Reysol defending as he wasn't really challenged despite three players being around him. Ryo Nagai scored in the second half. A very similar goal to the last one he scored in the cup as he was going away from goal but swiveled back to score, this one took a deflection on the way though. Be positive stay positive and win in Suita and we can start forgetting about the money Cerezo have spunked away this season and our current league position. A healthy 22491 in Yanmar Stadium thanks largely to the club giving away an enormous amount of tickets to the Osaka primary school kids affiliated to a local or school football club.

"Play Dirty Go Hard" and "We're Kashiwa Stupid" two of my picks from the Kashima Kashiwa banners

Indirect free kick so close to the 6 yard box, a rarity, always looks exciting but usually disappoints and this was no exception

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Thursday, 11 September 2014

We are in the draw for the next round of the Emperor's Cup! Cerezo 2 - 0 Jubilo Iwata

New manager Yuji Okuma started with a win against Jubilo Iwata who are 3rd in J2 and as we are currently 3rd from bottom in J1 that should make us pretty evenly matched right? Just over 4000 people turned up for this in a stadium that was used in a World Cup so you can imagine it looked a bit odd. Kusukami started and showed what he can bring to the team by setting up Minamino who finished well for the first. Ryo Nagai worked tirelessly all night and was rewarded with a goal he took thanks to his speedy footwork and thinking. Our injured captain Yamaguchi wasn't missed as we got our first meaningful win in a long time. Everyone put a decent shift in tonight compared to our performances in the league. I'm hoping Okuma doesn't feel pressured to bring back any big names, match-fit or not, for the next game on Saturday against 6th place Kashiwa Reysol. Kagawa has returned to Dortmund recently but in bigger news Mitch Nichols quietly joined Perth Glory on loan after a ridiculously wasted (first?) spell in Osaka. 

The unusually sparsely populated I4
This is what a world cup stadium looks like for a dry Wednesday night Emperor's Cup game in Osaka
Someone's sitting there mate
The acoustics are great in Yanmar Stadium so their efforts were heard
Lonely jobs, all of them, cameraman (or woman?), manager and linesman (or woman or assistant referee?) 
New gaffer Yuji Okuma gets nervous as he is surrounded...by drink bottles lined up and ready to spring the offside trap

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Kansai Derby ends 1- 2 as Vissel Kobe leave with 3 points

It's the hope isn't it? For so so long we looked comfortable especially after Minamino's deflected effort gave us the lead. Then Jin-Hyeon was called upon a couple of times to keep us in it. But eventually new boy Cacau, who had shown some nice touches, lost the ball for the move that led to old boy Simplicio (why did we let him go?) equalizing before we were finished off in injury time with Morioka slotting home despite an army of pink shirts around him. Changes in the management structure loom while I have to put up with Gamba fans remembering my insults as they slipped down to J2 and fellow Cerezo fans just worried, furrowed brows everywhere.

They left happy but they would have been disappointed not to leave without 3 points against relegation candidates
The scoreboard indicates why the Kobe fans were happy leaving behind so many disappointed fans in Osaka

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Pezzaiuoli's first J1 game in charge ends in defeat 1 - 2 Kawasaki Frontale

World Cup returnees Yamaguchi, Kakitani, Forlan and Okubo were presented with flowers before the game at which point I realised that Kakitani wouldn't be starting his last game before joining FC Basel and Forlan would be a spectator. This game was sold out and fans got to see the new gaffer play a 4-1-4-1 formation and give Minamino the responsibility of starting in central midfield. Never one to shy away from a scrap Takumi was shown a straight red. It wouldn't be a red in most other leagues but the ref could argue he kicked Oshima's arse then got up and shoved him after a bit of a tussle. A well worked goal with a tidy finish from the otherwise ineffectual Ando saw us take the lead before a soft penalty conceded by Fujimoto let Okubo equalise and sub Kanakubo ensured Frontale left with 3 points with an opportunistic shot. Kakitani came on for a cameo and there was the standard ceremony Cerezo fans are used to as he now leaves for FC Basel. He has promised to return as a better player but I don't want to think about that. He's gone now so until he comes back I don't care. The club stuck by Kakitani when we loaned him out instead of getting rid of him and he then promised to stay with Cerezo and win a title here. Perhaps I'm a tad jaded after seeing us turn into a feeder club with no trophies to show for all our young talent. Still, as always, things will be interesting here as Pezzaiuoli looks to reshape our team for the future.    

The fans behind the goal were in amazing form that the team couldn't quite match

Standard German manager's fashion style overshadowed by a banner about Kakitani and a coach with a schoolboy approach to bench use. The first kanji character means to charm or bewitch.

Do I not like that red card, although there is yet another impressive banner in the background.
Ryo Nagai prepares to come on

Emperor's Cup extra time victory 4 - 2 vs Veertien Kuwana

A very exciting but annoying game due to the fact that we should have walked this but the players weren't bothered to impress new manager Marco Pezzaiuoli and made hard work of knocking Veertien Kuwana out. Yamaguchi started after returning from the World Cup. It looked like Veertien would pull off an upset for large periods but I wonder how good they really are or whether we were just poor on the day. Jin-Hyeon was lucky not to see red and give away a penalty even though the Veertien player was looking for it. U18 player Masaki Sakamoto replaced Sakemoto at half time and saved us with two goals in extra time. For anyone wondering "Veertien" means 14 in Dutch. The Kuwana kit is similar to the Oranje one so is their name Cruyff inspired? Partly, it could also be because there are 11 players plus 3 subs and additionally Kuwana has a population of 140,000. So plenty of good reasons there then. To be fair a look their fixture list shows them facing a team called "Black Kitty". This win means we will face Kataller Toyama in the next round in August so I'll let you know what Kataller means then.

Kincho is no longer "Awaycist" as we have added proper seats to the grassy knoll that used to welcome visitors
In good spirits as usual despite a frustrating evening

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Victory with 10 men in Nagoya followed by a footballing lesson from Lippi's Evergrande

Yamashita got sent off but with both Forlan and Kakitani now looking increasingly dangerous in the J. League we left Nagoya with three points, excellent result. Later that day Spurs would lose to West Ham after Kaboul got sent off in an eerily similar fashion to Yamashita but Spurs showed no fight or confidence at all. I want the Premier League season to finish soon, which it will on Sunday, West Ham have beaten us three times this season.

A proper footballing lesson here. Everything Guangzhou Evergrande did was so much better than us. Amazing to see Marcelo Lippi in Yanmar Stadium but that was pretty depressing to watch. Particularly as I realised one of their best players on the night, Alessandro Diamanti, is ex-West Ham.

This is the AFC Champions League!

Incredible number of away fans

A big flag for a big occasion

Elkeson's penalty

Popovic and Lippi

Final Score

We should have known we were in trouble when a World Cup winning manager looks on!

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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Cerezo Osaka 1 - 1 Omiya Ardija

This was played on the public holiday now known as Showa day (my previous post was wrong, apologies, Greenery Day is now May 4th) which encourages reflection on Emperor Hirohito's reign while also giving those on the extreme right an excuse to blast anything they like from the loudspeakers in their usually black vans in various places around Japan. So Omiya Ardija, despite the poor showing in their last home game, could have left with three points were it not for an injury time equaliser from Kenyu Sugimoto. Takeda started in place of Jin-Hyeon and he was given no help from his defense for the goal we conceded from a corner. An odd game, but again the type we should be winning to live up to our (unwarranted in my opinion) hype. It should have been a nice game to try something different, aside from the keeper change, but at least we got a point which is better than the same fixture last season. The superb Toyota Stadium in Nagoya awaits next, no predictions from me, and I have to mention for those in Japan once again J Sports has a feast of Premier League football on Saturday with Spurs vs West Ham first, followed by a chance to see Ryan Giggs as Shinji Kagawa's manager, and then the highest paid sports team in the world AKA Man City. Until then please watch the goals from yesterday as many times as you can. I think you can get to at least double figures if you are committed. I should have known better to be confident about the game yesterday as the squirrels usually seem to enjoy playing against us. The fact that some of our fans booed (again) at the end was mentioned in the Japanese media. Cheer up and enjoy the ride! Unless we get relegated...

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Sunday, 27 April 2014

Kansai Derby: Vissel Kobe 2 - 2 Cerezo Osaka

This Kansai Derby is always a highlight of our footballing calendar (when Vissel Kobe and Cerezo are in the same division) and this didn't disappoint as we put in a really good performance against an in-form side in the lovely Noevir Stadium. Another brace from Forlan so if you like you can enjoy a video of all his touches from the game. Otherwise the second video has your standard highlights omitting some key non-Forlan related moments. Apparently our next opponents, Omiya Ardija, were poor today so we can look forward to our encounter on "Greenery Day" the public holiday to appreciate nature but which the squirrels might not enjoy. 

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Friday, 25 April 2014

Shandong Luneng 1 - 2 Cerezo Osaka

Love didn't conquer all, although he did score the first after a ridiculous penalty decision. So, however unlikely it seems, we made it through!Sakemoto was dropped and our formation was altered but ultimately I don't think that made a huge difference as two nice finishes from two players we expect to produce the goods got us the points we needed to squeeze through to the knockout stage. Jin-Hyeon gave us a scare as he fell very awkwardly but played on and he and the rest of the defense proved too strong for Shandong to get back in the game. Enjoy the video and happy days! Marcelo Lippi's Guangzhou Evergrande awaits us in early May. A Kansai Derby awaits us tomorrow back in J1.

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Sunday, 20 April 2014

FC Tokyo 2 - 0 Cerezo Osaka

This was sold out as I believe was last season's fixture at Ajinomoto Stadium. Last time we came away with three points, despite a goal from Hasegawa (now of Cerezo), Minamino and Kakitani scored in November last year. Sadly it was not to be today as our defence was easily breached. I feel Sakemoto will bear the brunt of Popovic's (who brought Hasegawa with him from FC Tokyo this year) wrath again after a poor defensive display. Both FC Tokyo goals came from his side of the defense as well another great chance to score sandwiched in between the two goals. We had chances but nothing is going consistently well for Kakitani or Forlan so far this season as they don't look like a strike partnership capable of rescuing us from our defensive frailties. Time will tell, there are glimpses of a footballing understanding between them interspersed with shrugs and complaints. If we can't defend we need to score more, pretty simple. We can't even use the excuse of being in the ACL as we have a pretty big squad compared to previous years with lots of opportunity for rotation of which we have seen very little. Two massive games coming up (with us in poor form) in China against Shandong Luneng to determine who will qualify from our ACL group followed by a trip to current league leaders Vissel Kobe for Kansai bragging rights.

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Thursday, 17 April 2014

We can still qualify! Cerezo Osaka 0 - 2 Pohang Steelers

Jun Ando started in defense today, another of our new signings this season from Kyoto Purple Sanga. We had a couple of half chances before disarray at the back let Pohang Steelers take the lead. Forlan got booked before Minamino got a straight red for a dangerous tackle whether or not it was intentional. Popovic soon lost it berating the fourth official and then the ref which led to his ejection. Forlan looked miffed on the bench after being taken off for the second half as Someya stepped in to shield the back four. The energetic Nagai was also brought on to replace Kakitani and Kusukami made his regular sub appearance coming on for Hasegawa who didn't cope well against Pohang. We didn't do too badly with 10 men but inevitably Pohang finished the game with a goal on the counter. No boos at the end, perhaps the red helped in this aspect, our fans were in good voice throughout. It didn't turn out to be a must win game either as Buriram's surprise win over Shandong has all 3 teams below Pohang level on 5 points. One game in China is left that could still see us progress to the knockout stages.

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Sunday, 13 April 2014

Cerezo Osaka 2 - 2 Gamba Suita

Expectations were really high for this game which is one reason for the booing at the end from our fans but you have to give credit to Gamba and wonder why some fans thought this would be easy. This didn't help! Popovic lost patience with Jin-Hyeon's erratic keeping in this game and he was subbed after an hour. I don't think I've ever seen a keeper subbed because of their performance before but Takeda,signed as a backup this year, pulled off a great save towards the end of the match to keep things level. Wednesday's game against Pohang is a must win and it looks like Jin-Hyeon won't be starting. A crowd of 42723 (our third highest attendance ever) saw a brace each from Abe and Forlan. I have no complaints about the result, and it was a good game to watch, but we could do with more support during the game, Gamba fans were great throughout, and no booing after the game, did the players really deserve that today?

Related Articles:

Forlan the star in Osaka Derby (MARCA)

2014 J.League Round 7 Wrap-Up: Forlan and Abe shine in Osaka Derby draw (Goal.com)

Monday, 7 April 2014

Kashiwa Reysol 2 - 1 Cerezo Osaka

Kakitani couldn't convert our best chances as we went back to looking like a team that needs more time to gel. Forlan dropped back into midfield too much for my liking where he couldn't really do any damage with his long passing. His best work comes from being closer to the last defenders and finding space which he isn't doing often enough at the moment. We have always needed an old head to calm and inspire our young team as Simplicio did last season. Forlan however just got angry on a couple of occasions instead of leading when our heads were down. His quote later to the AFP that "They don't have to listen if they don't want to be part of it" seems like an odd way to express leadership though. Ogihara has gone backwards, much like his passing in this game, in terms of his development which is highlighted by Hasegawa making it to the Japan team training session while he has been left behind. I don't think Popovic likes how Ogihara plays and on this form he doesn't deserve to be anywhere near the first team. This was not the best preparation for the next game which happens to be the Osaka Derby in Yanmar stadium on Saturday. Kashiwa Reysol's goals came from Tanaka early on and ex-Gamba forward Leandro later in the 2nd half. Maruhashi got our consolation goal in the dying minutes of the game.

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Kashima beats Gamba to maintain lead in J-League (FresnoBee.com)

Sunday, 6 April 2014

ACL: Buriram United 2 - 2 Cerezo Osaka

We could have had 3 points but for spurning a number of good chances. Buriram's first goal was a nice free kick but the second was due to a Jin-Hyeon blunder, let's hope it's the only one this season. Yamashita scored two headers from set pieces with the second bouncing back out after crossing the line. Yamashita,Hasegawa and Minamino, all uncapped, have been invited to the next national team training camp. Popovic accused some players of not taking the game seriously enough while at the same time allowing Forlan a break for this game.

Buriram United shop in the centre of town

Phanom Rung, shown below on the club badge, was spectacular

2010- (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Thunder Castle/I-Mobile Stadium

Employees from Yanmar in Thailand helped fill the away supporters' section

Increased ticket prices for ACL games meant a lower attendance from home fans than usual

GU12 supporters in the centre where the team owner's wife was leading the singing

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2014 F1 Malaysia Grand Prix

Prior to the ACL game against Buriram thanks to some cheap Air Asia tickets I had the chance to go to the F1 in Kuala Lumpur. The sound from the new engines was different from previous incarnations, still very loud and exciting but not quite as much as I remember. Spectators enjoyed a Mercedes one-two podium finish and a Lewis Hamilton victory. Before the race a minutes silence was held for flight MH370 and Hamilton's victory was dedicated to those affected.

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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

ACL: Cerezo Osaka 4 - 0 Buriram United

Surprisingly Popovic made only one change yesterday with Yuta Someya, signed this season from Kyoto Purple Sanga where he was captain, making his first start at centre back. This showed how much we needed to win this game but Buriram United proved to be less of a test than Shandong on the day. Fairplay to them, the Cerezo players didn't look tired despite playing a higher tempo passing and pressing game than we are used to. The hard work paid off and we made it look easy in the end as Diego Forlan got his first goal for us with the last kick of the game. Kakitani scored the first and was named man of the match but 19 year old Minamino put in the most eye-catching display with 2 goals and a stunning all-round performance. I'm not used to posting about Cerezo without saying something negative so...it rained yesterday, that's it. You can see the full 90mins with English commentary by clicking here!

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Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Cerezo Osaka 4 - 1 Shimizu S-Pulse

The first half was exciting and either team could have been winning at the break. Fortunately for us S-Pulse couldn't finish off their best chances. The second half was a different story. It looked like Popovic told the players "Look, you can't defend so this is a dangerous scoreline, go out and don't stop attacking until the game is won." Who knows what he actually said but that's what it looked like. A great 45 minutes of attacking football followed and we created lots of chances. Forlan failed to find the back of the net but was getting into good positions. Happily Sugimoto got his name on the scoresheet with the 4th goal after his clumsy challenge gave Shimizu a penalty in the first half. Left back Maruhashi got our second and also hit the bar with a rocket of a shot. Our first and third goals game courtesy of our centre backs Yamashita and Kacar from set pieces. Ogihara was dropped today and Aria moved into the centre of midfield where his performance was much improved. Very promising performance particularly in the second half but we should expect a bit of rotation for our next game against Buriram United of Thailand in the ACL. Our second home game this season saw 20,323 compared to 37,079 two weeks ago which is worrying for the club as we have planned for consistently higher gate receipts this season.

Still not sure who that is on the flag. Any help?

Omae sends Jin-Hyeon the wrong way

Packed behind the goal but lots of empty seats visible elsewhere

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Cerezo Osaka 1 - 3 Shandong Luneng

How annoying was that game? We were outplayed at home, had no cohesion and couldn't cope with Shandong at all. First goal was offside but if we want to prove we belong in competitions like this, or are title contenders, some days you have to beat the opposition and the ref. Vagner Love cost Shandong 12 million Euros and he scored two on the night. The Shandong players were on a 3 million yen win bonus for this match too. Playing two up top leaves us vulnerable and requires both Yamaguchi and Ogihara to be on the top of their game but they were overrun on Tuesday. Aria again looked like he hasn't added much to our squad but hopefully just needs more time. At least Popovic seems to recognise the quality of Kusukami whose stepover was as important to assist Kakitani's strike as Nicols's pass. Oh the timewasting. I haven't felt so annoyed at a team in such a long time purely because that level of timewasting, by their keeper in particular, is an anachronism in today's game but the ref couldn't assert any kind authority. Another worrying performance, going to Shandong will be tough if play like this again. We can still get out the group so the booing from our fans was unwarranted, the team need to get used to playing the way Popovic wants and that will take some time, more patience is needed.

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Sunday, 9 March 2014

Tokushima Vortis 0 - 2 Cerezo Osaka

Glad we got the points obviously but this was a poor quality game at the Pocari Sweat Stadium. Thanks to a great free kick from Yamaguchi and an own goal by Chiyotanda we came away from Tokushima with 3 points. This was Tokushima's first home game in J1 and they may struggle to stay up based on this performance. Cerezo will also need to find another gear when we come up against better teams. Fans were treated to an Awa Odori show at halftime showcasing Tokushima's famous festival of dance. Serbian Gojko Kacar started his first game at centre-back and looked comfortable. On Tuesday we face Shandong Luneng in the ACL.

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Sunday, 2 March 2014

The season opener is as damp as the weather for Cerezo

A crowd of 37079 were in the renamed Yanmar Stadium yesterday to watch the J1 season opener against reigning champions Hiroshima. Our fans were a bit impatient throughout perhaps expecting immediate results despite a new manager and a few new signings. Ogihara was disappointing but having more competition for places this season means he will be forced to perform with greater consistency. Hasegawa didn't contribute much either hopefully he just needs a few games to settle in. Forlan wasn't fully match fit but showed glimpses of how his link up play with Kakitani could lead to a fair few goals. Ultimately this was the kind of performance and result you would expect against Sanfrecce. Our defending, as ever, never looked solid enough to inspire confidence while we were having one of those days when our attacking play wasn't clicking either. Shiotani scored an unchallenged volley from Chiba's pass who despite being surrounded by pink kits was allowed to find his man. Sugimoto was brought on for Forlan but it would have been nice to see Ryo Nagai who is more direct and arguably more of a goal threat. Interesting to see his development after being loaned out to Perth Glory. Ogihara was eventually subbed for Serbian loanee Kacar. Hasegawa came off for Kusukami and he immediately injected some urgency into our attacking play. Notsuda missed a great opportunity to make it two for the visitors but one goal was enough to bring us back to reality. I fear that a lot of our support were expecting too much too soon especially considering this was our first game in the league and it was against the defending champions. Although there wasn't a huge difference in terms of quality with Cerezo and J1 all predictions for this season are out of the window although considering Yanmar's considerable investment this season it would be nice to improve upon our 4th place last year. New manager Popovic will be looking to introduce some of our new signings for a full 90 minutes especially as we have a busy few weeks ahead with our Asian Champions League group matches. It will be interesting to see how Popovic utilises the likes of Mitch Nichols and Gojko Kacar. We have to get used to not having Simplicio's midfield presence too. Last week we did well to get a point away in an ill-tempered game in Korea against Pohang Steelers with Kakitani scoring another beauty (video below).

The pink ponchos were out in force on a rainy day

Bad boys, bad boys, watcha gonna do? Leave with 3 points thank you

Kacar's positions according to Football Manager

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