Kashiwa Reysol gave Cerezo Osaka’s much-vaunted strike force a lesson in clinical finishing with a 2-1 win over the preseason J. League title favorites on Sunday.
Cerezo made global headlines when they signed star Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan in January for a reported $5.9 million a year, and the 2010 World Cup Golden Ball-winner started up front at Hitachi Stadium alongside Japan international Yoichiro Kakitani with a wealth of midfield talent behind them.
But goals either side of halftime from Junya Tanaka and Leandro were all a well-organized Kashiwa needed to capture the three points despite Yusuke Maruhashi’s late consolation effort, with Forlan and Kakitani looking like virtual strangers in a disjointed Cerezo attack.
“We were losing, and sometimes it’s not the best moment on the pitch but it’s normal,” said Forlan, who berated Kakitani at one point for misreading a pass, with the 24-year-old responding with a nonplussed shrug of the shoulders. “It’s not because of any frustration. It’s because we were losing, we weren’t creating chances and we didn’t score.
“We have had some good games. Today was not bad but they scored very early in the game and then it was difficult for us. We created some chances but sometimes you lose.”
Forlan has scored one goal in six J. League games since arriving from Brazilian side Internacional, and the former Manchester United, Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan forward knows Cerezo will have to work hard to live up to their preseason top billing.
“I think it’s very early to say,” said the 34-year-old. “It’s a good team with good young players but we need to keep going and win games. We drew the last game and now we lost and we need to start winning games. You need to get ahead of the other teams.”
Cerezo looked to impose themselves straight from the kickoff but instead it was the home side that took the lead in the sixth minute with its first attack of the game. Kaoru Takeyama retrieved the ball to send it back into the box after Leandro had failed to connect with a header, and Tanaka stuck out a leg to redirect the pass just inside the post.
Kakitani blasted a shot into the side-netting as Cerezo attepted to hit back, but with Kashiwa goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno in irrepressible form, the visitors’ frustration grew as the first half wore on.
Reysol continued to look dangerous on the break, and Leandro almost doubled their lead in the 41st minute before Masato Kudo flashed a header wide shortly after the interval.
Forlan unleashed a left-foot drive that Sugeno tipped over the bar in the 74th minute, but just as Cerezo looked like getting back in the game, Kashiwa cut them dead with a second goal. Tanaka swung in a corner, and Leandro met it at the near post with a glancing header that found the back of the net in the 76th minute.
Maruhashi blasted the ball over the line from close range in the 90th minute to pull a goal back for Cerezo, but it was not enough to prevent the visitors from crashing to their second defeat of the season.
“We were very motivated because this was a game we had to win to join the leading teams,” said Kashiwa manager Nelsinho, whose team moved up to ninth. “The players understood that and we started well. In the second half, I wanted us to defend more compactly, and the players delivered exactly what I asked of them.”
In the day’s other games, Kashima Antlers stayed on top of the table after a 2-0 win over Gamba Osaka, while champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima remained two points behind after coming from behind to beat Nagoya Grampus 5-2.
Early front-runners Yokohama F. Marinos’ spluttering recent form continued with a 0-0 draw away to Albirex Niigata, while Kawasaki Frontale thrashed Tokushima Vortis 4-0 to leave the promoted Shikoku side still waiting for its first league point.
Vissel Kobe moved into third after beating Omiya Ardija 3-0, Shun Nagasawa got on the scoresheet for the third straight game as Shimizu S-Pulse beat Ventforet Kofu 1-0, and FC Tokyo beat Sagan Tosu 2-1.
In the day’s late game, Urawa Reds thrashed Vegalta Sendai 4-0.