Kashiwa Reysol picked up their fourth straight J. League win after a fluke goal by Brazilian striker Cristiano handed them a 1-0 victory over Cerezo Osaka on Saturday.

Cerezo arrived at Hitachi Stadium riding an unbeaten streak stretching back to March 4, but the visitors gifted Kashiwa the lead when defender Yusuke Maruhashi’s attempted clearance cannoned against Cristiano and rebounded over the line in the 57th minute.

Reysol managed to keep Cerezo’s Japan internationals Hiroshi Kiyotake and Hotaru Yamaguchi quiet for the rest of the match to see out the win, and leapfrogged Cerezo to move up to fourth in the table.

“We had talked before the game about how the small details can make the difference,” said Kashiwa manager Takahiro Shimotaira.

“Things like making the effort to put pressure on the goalkeeper when the defender makes a back pass, these small things can all add up and make the difference. That’s how Cristiano scored his goal. It made a huge difference in a very difficult game.”

Reysol initially struggled to deal with Cerezo’s attacking pressure on a punishingly hot afternoon, but made the most of Cristiano’s lucky break to shut down the visitors’ attack and earn their third clean sheet in a row.

“It sounds simple, but everyone has become more aware of what they need to do in defense,” said Reysol defender Naoki Wako. “When you keep a clean sheet it breeds confidence, and I think that’s the reason why we’re not conceding any goals at the moment.”

Cerezo enjoyed by far the greater share of possession in the first half but failed to create any clear-cut chances until forward Kenyu Sugimoto forced a sharp save from Reysol goalkeeper Kosuke Nakamura a minute before the interval.

The visitors’ profligacy would come back to haunt them early in the second half when Reysol took the lead in farcical circumstances. Maruhashi had time to deal with the ball deep in Cerezo territory, but rashly chose to attempt a clearance that succeeded only in hitting Cristiano and rebounding into an empty net.

“It’s very difficult to take,” said Maruhashi. “If I had kept a cooler head, we could have avoided conceding that goal.”

Tatsuya Yamashita almost landed Cerezo in even deeper trouble when he tripped Ryuta Koike in the 70th minute to give Reysol a free kick on the edge of the box, only for goalkeeper Kim Jin-hyeon to tip Cristiano’s ferocious strike against the crossbar.

But Reysol needed a crucial intervention from their own goalkeeper to preserve the victory, as Nakamura brilliantly clawed a deflected Kiyotake shot over the bar in the final minute of the match.

“Neither team had many chances in the game, so I’m happy that we managed to keep a clean sheet and that led us to the win,” said Nakamura, who looked to have been beaten by the deflection only to adjust his body and clear the danger.

“Cerezo are a really good team, so for us to beat them is a big plus for us.”

Cerezo, who were promoted through last season’s J2 playoffs, would have moved level on points with second-place Urawa Reds and Gamba Osaka with a win, but manager Yoon Jong-hwan is pleased with his team’s progress despite Saturday’s defeat.

“I think we need more experience of playing at this level before we can get used to the first division,” said the South Korean. “What we have achieved so far this season isn’t important. What’s important is what we do from now on. We don’t want to be satisfied and we want to keep moving forward.”

Elsewhere in the J. League, Hiroki Miyazawa scored in the 58th minute as Consadole Sapporo beat Omiya Ardija 1-0.

In the day’s other game, Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Vissel Kobe drew 1-1.

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