05
Nov
17

Cerezo beat Frontale to first big title

My report from the 2017 Levain Cup final, where Cerezo Osaka beat Kawasaki Frontale to a first major title…

The Japan News, 5th November, 2017

SAITAMA – Goals at the very beginning and very end of a closely fought Levain Cup final delivered a first major honor for Cerezo Osaka on Saturday, as they beat Kawasaki Frontale 2-0 at Saitama Stadium.

Kenyu Sugimoto got the ball rolling for Cerezo after just 47 seconds – capitalizing on a mistake by Kawasaki defender Eduardo before beating Jung Sung Ryong – and Brazilian Souza added the gloss in stoppage time, rounding Jung and nudging home from close range.

While Kawasaki reacted well to going behind so early and had the bulk of possession over the 90 minutes they struggled to penetrate Cerezo’s well-drilled defense and made few clear chances.

“We managed to win this title without losing a single game, and I want to thank my players for such an outstanding achievement,” manager Yoon Jong Hwan said of Cerezo’s 13-game unbeaten run to the trophy.

“Today we created new history for Cerezo. The players know what they have to do to keep sailing smoothly forwards. If we are able to do that we can become a team to be feared.”

Neither Cerezo or Kawasaki had picked up any silverware as top flight clubs since the J.League began in 1993, but Sugimoto wasted no time drawing first blood for his side in front of 53,452 fans.

Yoichiro Kakitani flicked on a Yusuke Maruhashi throw-in from the left, which it looked like Kawasaki centerback Eduardo would have no problem clearing to safety.

However, the Brazilian got his footwork all wrong, miscuing completely and allowing the ball to bounce through for Sugimoto to coolly convert from inside the area.

The Japan News, Sunday 5th November, 2017

The Japan striker’s goal against his former side meant Cerezo were then under no obligation to force the issue, and while Kawasaki built attacks tidily they found clear chances hard to come by.

Koji Miyoshi was positive on the left wing and kept Cerezo fullback Riku Matsuda on his toes, but all too often found himself crowded out once in or around the penalty area.

Meanwhile, Shogo Taniguchi had a half chance in the 40th minute but headed over from inside the six yard box, and Kengo Nakamura was similarly inaccurate from close range two minutes later as he screwed an effort wide of Kim Jin Hyeon’s right-hand upright.

The flow of the game was largely unchanged after the break with Kawasaki almost constantly in possession but unable to break Cerezo down, although Yu Kobayashi drew some oohs from the crowd in the 56th minute as he acrobatically volleyed an Akihiro Ienaga cross off target.

Substitute Tatsuya Hasegawa curled an effort wide from 25 yards just past the hour mark as Kawasaki began to throw greater caution to the wind, but Hiroyuki Abe sent their final effort high and wide from outside the area in the 87th minute.

Five minutes later Souza wrapped up the win in style for Cerezo, rounding off a quick counter after an unselfish assist from Kota Mizunuma.

For Frontale manager Toru Oniki – a player in the first of Frontale’s three previous League Cup final defeats in 2000 – there was more regret as Kawasaki yet again finished as the bridesmaid.

“In the beginning we conceded after a mistake but after that I feel we controlled the game well,” he said.

“However, we continued to make passing mistakes and so on and never quite solved the problem of how to break through.”


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