Three goals in nine second-half minutes at the Yanmar Stadium from Ventforet Kofu dealt a potentially devastating blow to Cerezo Osaka’s hopes of avoiding relegation from J1.
Leading through veteran striker Cacau’s goal after 25 minutes, Cerezo were looking a reasonable bet to leapfrog their opponents and clamber out of the bottom three. Instead, let down by some calamitous defending, they imploded.
A horrendous mix-up at the back after 62 minutes, with goalkeeper Kim Jin-hyeon terribly exposed, allowed Kohei Morita to loop a header over the back-peddling Korean for the equaliser.
Morita clashed heads with Cerezo’s Kota Fujimoto in the process, the latter having to be carried off to get himself bandaged up. Ventforet scented more blood, though, and poured forward in search of further goals, which came their way courtesy of a Hideomi Yamamoto penalty and Kozunari Hosaka’s volley.
All three were preventable, and it was the manner of this defeat as much as anything that will concern Cerezo manager Yuji Okuma. He now faces the unenviable task of raising morale for their remaining three games.
Yet things had started relatively brightly for Cerezo, who were able to name Diego Forlan among their substitutes after the Uruguayan's recovery from injury.
Cacau was leading the line effectively alongside Kenyu Sugimoto and though Fujimoto should have done better with a header from Takahiro Ogihara’s early corner, Cerezo found themselves ahead after 25 minutes.
The ball fell kindly for Cacau but he still had plenty to do as he held off two defenders and finished smartly with a low right foot shot, from the edge of the area. It was his fourth goal in eight games.
If only Takumi Minamino had shown the same level of composure soon after that, he might have done better than fire over the bar. Cacau was certainly displeased with his effort.
Kofu had threatened briefly through Takuma Abe, who sent a shot narrowly wide of Jin-hyeon’s goal and the Korean was called on to deal tidily with Morita’s header from Shohei Abe’s teasing cross.
But Cerezo, who should have been buoyed by having taken four points from their previous two games, were lacking the intensity required.
Instead of building on their advantage after the interval, they gifted their opponents an equaliser. A deep ball in to the edge of the home box should have been dealt with comfortably but Jin-hyeon hesitated and Morita headed home.
Cacau screamed at his keeper, yet soon things got worse. Cerezo were fortunate to survive a penalty appeal when Yusuke Maruhashi appeared to tug at substitute Cristiano’s shirt.
The referee ignored the visitors’ furious claims for a spot-kick, but he didn’t miss the next infringement, when Fujimoto tripped Abe as he advanced with purpose inside the Cerezo area.
Jin-hyeon, keen to make amends for his earlier embarrassment, tried to put off Yamamoto but to no avail, his cleanly-struck penalty sending the keeper the wrong way.
Okuma responded by sending on Forlan, but his team fell further behind two minutes after the substitution when Abe fed Cristiano, who’s curling cross wasn’t cleared and Hosaka volleyed in from close range.