J2 Matchday 18
To (overly) simplify FC Tokyo's visit to Kitakyushu on Saturday, I give you the two biggest incidents, the first coming in the 22nd minute:
Yohei Kajiyama, who must have won penalty janken against Roberto Cesar and Tatsuya Yazawa, had his spot-kick saved as Yuya Sato guessed right in the Kitakyushu goal.
And now the second, in the 59th:
I mentioned in my preview last Friday that we hadn't conceeded in five games, equalling the club record, and while I feel sorry for Hitoshi Shiota that he wasn't able to set a new record here, you have to tip your hat to Tomoki Ikemoto, because that was an absolute peach of a strike.
In my preview I also pointed to Kitakyushu's improved defence as being one of the two big reasons for their massive improvement in this, just their second J2 season, and that was clear throughout here, as they scrapped and battled, and did just enough to keep us out. Our finishing was not what it was in the recent demolition jobs against Gifu and Kumamoto, but you just know things would've turned out much different if Casual had been able to slot away his pen...
There was one change to the Tokyo XI, and it was an enforced one as Takumi Abe came in for Hokuto Nakamura at left back after Hokuto picked up a minor injury against Kumamoto (I had thought he had just gone off to let Tomokazu Nagira make his debut and get a few minutes on the pitch). You can see in the Ikemoto goal video Abe was dragged out of position by their movement down the right, but I'm not blaming him at all, there wasn't enough help from Yazawa tracking back or the centre mids coming across to cover, plus it was just a fantastic hit by Ikemoto.
As I said, it's overly simplifying the 90 minutes to say we lost because we missed a pen and they scored a beautiful goal. In reality this was almost identical to our last trip to Kyushu three weeks ago, when we were held 0-0 by Oita (who we have to congratulate, as they beat The Spews 2-1 at a deserted Aji Sta yesterday). We dominated possession, had the better chances (outshooting them 17-8), but came away frustrated, albeit this time without a point whereas we took one away from Oita.
So our unbeaten run came to an end, but other results surprisingly went our way, meaning we only dropped one spot in the table, and we're now second, two points behind leaders Tokushima and above Chiba (who were held 1-1 by Yokohama FC) on goal difference. Tochigi SC stayed in fourth, now a point behind us, after a scoreless draw against Okayama.
Next Sunday we visit bottom club FC Gifu, the team we smashed 4-0 at Ajinomoto Stadium just three weeks ago, for what was originally a fixture in Matchday 3. Lets see if we can start a new unbeaten run against the cellar-dwellers, in the game that will mark the halfway point of the J2 season.