J2 Matchday 17
Well, firstly, I have to apologise. I made a shocking error in my predictions in my preview on Friday. One that will take me a long time to live down... But how was I to know we were going to make history?!
I said that this game wouldn't be "as easy" as our 4-0 demolition of FC Gifu a week ago on Sunday, but luckily for everyone in the home end of Kokuritsu I was wildly mistaken, as a combination of our outstanding play and their ineptness meant we scored the biggest home win in our J.League history.
After their Brazilian midfielder Edmilson shot over in the 2nd minute, we then totally controlled the next 88, dominating proceedings on a level I've never seen from us before.
First things first, though, and Gasmen supporters got a bit of a shock as we were making our way to Kokuritsu, with news breaking via twitter (where else?) that our captain Yasuyuki Konno seems set to go on trial with French first division club Dijon this week. If he impresses, as he no doubt will, then there's a good chance he'll be offered a deal by the newly promoted club, and therefore last night may have been his final appearance in the red and blue. If it was, he was certainly sent off in style...
After Edmilson's shot we got straight into the groove, with Sotan Tanabe having a pop on the volley from the edge of the box in the 3rd minute following a headed flick-on by Roberto Cesar, but their keeper Minami was able to parry it out for a corner.
The Salad then got in on the act with two great chances, the first he created himself, cutting in from the left touchline and firing low to the near post, the second was the result of a flowing move that ended with Naotake Hanyu's brilliant one-touch flicked ball that sent The Salad clean through on the keeper, but he dragged his shot across goal when he really should've scored.
Look if I list every chance we had I'll be here all day, but Hanyu came agonisingly close to scoring in the 20th minute as we broke and he led the way, dribbling more than half the length of the pitch before picking his spot in the top corner and forcing a brilliant save from Minami. The chances came thick and fast as we completely nullified Kumamoto's ability to counter with our aggressive pressing, and we were doing an excellent job of keeping our width and spreading the ball to the flanks.
The breakthrough seemed inevitable, but we had to wait until the 44th minute, when The Salad fired home a penalty after Tatsuya Yazawa was fouled, with the ref, Robert Madley, sending off Kumamoto's influential midfielder Shingo Nejime. That effectively ended the game as a contest, as a man down and playing terribly, there was no way back for the Kyushu side. Well thats what I thought, anyway, as I went out to relieve myself after the goal, apparently missing their best chance of the half, a free header straight at Hitoshi Shiota just before the half time whistle.
Just as the floodgates opened against Gifu, we resumed total control as the second half kicked off and had to wait only three minutes for the second, and it was nice to see Hanyu finally notch his second of the season, the only surprising thing was that it was Konno supplying the cross from the edge of the box on the right. The captain's ball was right on the button, and Roswell couldn't miss from three yards.
We were well and truly on the showboat, toying with the visitors as we played the ball around the pitch, and their decision to make two substitutions in the 55th minute, going to three at the back with Edmilson pushed back into the centre, changed absolutely nothing, although they did see slightly more of the ball.
The pace slowed somewhat, and at 2-0 I guess we weren't completely home and dry, even against ten men, but Yazawa put any doubt to bed with a penalty after he was fouled in the 67th minute. There were comedic scenes after the spot kick was awarded, as The Salad obviously thought he was going to take it, having converted his last two, but Yazawa was insistent, and fired home confidently, even though the keeper guessed the right way.
Lucas made his entrance, replacing Hanyu, in the 72nd minute, which revved the crowd up once again, but we were out of our seats a minute later as Yuhei Tokunaga, clearly buoyed by his first goal in three years last week and invited on by some horrific marking, decided to let fly from the edge of the area, and the ball fizzed into the top corner at the keeper's near post. Kenta Mukuhara then replaced Tokunaga, three minutes after his goal.
At 4-0 the only interest left in the game was if we could manage our fifth straight clean sheet and if Lucas could get on the scoresheet, and with the former a nailed-on lock with the visitors creating nothing (three shots all game), the players looked determined to set the big man up for his goal.
Tomokazu Nagira came on for his FC Tokyo debut, replacing Hokuto Nakamura with five minutes left, and then two minutes later the crowd of 18,195 (the second best of the season) got what they came for as Lucas scored in the red and blue for the first time since December 2007, brilliantly controlling Yohei Kajiyama's lofted ball and firing through the keeper with the outside of his right foot.
A fantastic goal to round off a thoroughly dominant display, with no weak links in a total team effort. It was only our second-ever 5-0 win in the league, the other coming in August 2007, away at Hiroshima.
Thats right, last night was our first 5-0 home win in our history!
Choosing a man of the match is extremely difficult, with Tanabe, The Salad, Hanyu and Yazawa all excellent, the entire backline rock solid and the two centre mids steady and creative. My learned colleague Mathew went with Sotan, but for me I guess The Salad just shaded it, though I'd have no arguments with any of them you yourself would choose.
At the end of the day, while we stayed top, all we did was hold serve, as Chiba and Tochigi SC both won on Saturday, and Tokushima also took home all three points in an earlier Sunday kickoff, but the quality of that performance hopefully sent shivers down the spines of the other contenders, as if we play like that on a consistent basis then they'll all be battling for second and third.
Next Saturday evening we head back to Kyushu for our first-ever meeting with Kitakyushu, who have done brilliantly in just their second J2 season, and took Kumamoto's fifth spot after their 2-1 win at Yokohama FC yesterday.