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2017.10.11

Levain Cup Semi-Final Report

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Cerezo Osaka 2-2 Gamba Osaka
Gamba Osaka 1-2 Cerezo Osaka
(aggregate score Gamba Osaka 3-4 Cerezo Osaka)

Consider this: in the 2nd leg of this tie Gamba Osaka were missing Masaaki Higashiguchi, Yosuke Ideguchi, Shu Kurata, Oh Jae-suk and Hwang Ui-jo to national team duties. Added to this already unsatisfactory state of affairs - yet again rendering any real meaning to the Levain Cup meaningless - the team were missing Fabio, Jungya Kim, Jungo Fujimoto and Ademilson to injury. Of course the injuries can't be helped and affect all teams, eventually, but how can a competition be taken seriously when half a starting XI is missing to international call-ups?

Then take a look at this statistic: the Cerezo Osaka bench had players with 100 starts in J.League Cup matches under their belts... Gamba's bench? Wait for it.... TWO starts. TWO starting games in the Cup between all seven subs.

In a nutshell, Gamba scored two away goals in the 1st leg to come home with an advantage. The goalscorers were players who have rarely even been on Gamba's bench this season - Shuhei Akasaki and 80th minute substitute Haruya Ide, and just 21,800 fans - including a very healthy chunk of Gamba fans were in attendance... and so to Suita Football Stadium for the big 2nd leg.

Cerezo took an early lead against the run of play through Yoichiro Kakitani, who shot across Yosuke Fujigaya in the 15th minute, taking advantage of a lucky ricochet in the area after Gamba had seemed like a goal was theirs any minute. Cerezo then got their tails up a little but the Gamba defence did its job and held the pink (well, white, actually!) horde at bay and got back into the game on the hour mark after great passing work had worked its way through the defence and a wicked far post cross was volleyed home by Jin Izumisawa.

Gamba came close to sealing the game - not least through Shun Nagasawa - while Cerezo sent in long ball after long ball, an aerial bombardment of the defence that appeared to be coping with the threat as the final seconds ticked away. A goal then, of course would have switched to tie from Gamba going through on away goals to Cerezo making it to the final. And that goal did indeed come, not from another aimless lob into the box but from a killer right wing cross that was headed home from close range by Yasuki KImoto, sening the pink block behind the goal wild in ecstacy!

Anyway... congratulations to Cerezo, who have the chance to win their first-ever trophy since the J.League began (unless you count the J2 Championship?!) but I wonder if the J.League would consider insisting that teams playing the final can not use the players that were away on national team duty for the semi-final, and other rounds? It would only be fair to the players that got their teams that far!

Something else to note, this 2nd leg attracted over 31,000 fans, 50% more than at the home of Cerezo. Enough said there?


1st Leg team - Fujigaya, Hatsuse, Miura, Konno, Fujiharu, Nakahara (Ide, 80), Endo, Ichimaru, Izumisawa (Yonekura, 60), Akasaki (Goya, 86), Nagasawa

Goals:
16' Shuhei AKASAKI
86' Haruya IDE

2nd leg team - Fujigaya, Hatsuse, Miura, Konno, Fujiharu, Nakahara, Endo, Yonekura (Ide, 75), Izumisawa (Noda, 78), Akasaki (Hirao, 90+1), Nagasawa

Goal:
60' Jin IZUMISAWA