Sometimes your stars lead your attack, and other times you have to turn to your bench for some help. In the last two matches, Cerezo Osaka have had to turn to their reinforcements and it’s been Riki Matsuda who has delivered.
The forward was substituted on in the second leg of the Osaka Derby J.LEAGUE YBC Levain CUP quarter-final and found the back of the net, helping Cerezo advance to the semi-finals and then followed it up with a goal off the bench in their 3-0 victory over Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo last weekend.
Now, the substitute sparkplug has himself a goalscoring streak, and Cerezo have themselves a crucial contributor.
That Matsuda has turned into an indispensable part of this Cerezo run is surprising and not entirely because he’s coming off the bench. He also spent the last five years playing in the J2 League.
But, with his help, Cerezo are winners of three of their last four in the league, a run that has them up to 11th. They’ve also toppled rivals Gamba not just in the top flight, but in the cup over the last month and, as mentioned, are among the final four in the competition. This has been the best the Cherry Blossoms have looked all season, and it has them primed to turn a campaign that started slowly into a potentially successful one.
For Cerezo to be making this surge with Matsuda at the heart of it is fitting not just because of the surprising nature of it or his recent rise back to the top flight. Matsuda is also an Osaka native who is playing in his hometown for the first time in his eight-year professional career.
Can Matsuda continue his dream run in Osaka? We’ll find out this weekend when Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo visit Yodoko Sakura Stadium.