J2 Matchday 7
FC Tokyo welcomed last years fellow J1 dropouts Shonan Bellmare to Ajista on one of the weirdest days of weather I can remember. From sunbathing in the morning, to chattering teeth after the game, probably as a result of an absolute drenching I got on my bike as I cycled in from Mitaka. Somehow 15,000 squeezed into the undercover areas to watch the afternoon’s events.
We thought we might be in for a game when we noticed that Shonan were actually going to play TWO men up front, something as rare as hen’s teeth for opposition teams to do at Ajista in recent times. FC Tokyo themselves made some interesting changes, bringing in Soutan Tanabe to operate on the right of midfield and Hokuto to replace the rested or dropped (?) Abe. With only one recognised striker available (On the Gas does not recognise Tatsuya as a striker), Hanyu was asked to dry his eyes and play in the hole behind The Salad.
What? A goal? In the first minute!? How do you do the Wasshoi chant again?
How refreshing! After some good work by Soutan and Morishige the ball broke to Kajiyama who cleverly cut it back to Cesar Salad, who opened his body up beautifully and slotted it away past the keeper’s right glove. This was Tokyo, we were back. Perhaps because of Shonan’s unwise shredding of the blueprint of how to get points against FC Tokyo away, we were able to find much more space in the opposition half than usual. Casual was linking really well with those around him, the newly drafted in Soutan especially. Cesar Salad was turning into space and getting into good positions in the box. Hokuto was having some joy from his full back position. The opposition were even giving us the ball back. Chances were created. Clear cut chances! Casual and The Salad could easily have added to the scoreline.
Unfortunately though (you knew there was an unfortunately coming, didn’t you?), those missed chances came back to bite us on the backside in the second half. The beginning of the second period was flat, with Shonan seeming to sit a bit deeper and show little urgency despite being 1-0 down. Only a powerful shot from The Salad which the keeper could only fumble onto the post stopped me from nodding off into my beer as Tokyo struggled to produce any meaningful final ball.
And it was in the 78th minute when the Gasmen were caught out, a long ball finding their right back in acres of space where Hokuto should have been (the nearest defender was Cesar!). A perfect ball into the box was delivered for substitute Nakamura to head home, leading to an almost audible sigh of resignation amongst the home support. Shock but not surprise. The balance between attack and defence is something the team is still struggling with. While we should still have been pressing for a second as we were there was no reason for the defence to be so badly exposed when we were 1-0 up with 12 or so minutes to go. Tokyo were unable to rally after that and despite all the good work in the first half we were forced to settle for a point.
Hopefully we can build on the positives: much better passing and movement in the first half, encouraging signs from Soutan, better work by Casual and some sublime skill by The Salad. The plain facts however, are that we are 12th in J2 and not getting results, and judging by the mixed reaction of the fans to the team at the end there will be little relief of the pressure on Big Bear after this one.