J2 Matchday 22
I've started writing a semi-regular J2 update piece for Asian Football Feast, and my next installment is due later today, in which I'll talk about how wonderfully unpredictable the league has been this season, with Matchday 22 a perfect example as none of the top six won.
For the neutral, league leaders FC Tokyo travelling to 19th-placed Toyama and losing 1-0 is a fantastic story, and in truth Toyama do deserve enormous credit for their dogged performance in what was the upset of the year, but we're Gasmen-centric here so neutrals can shove it up their ar$e$, this was without doubt one of the darkest days in our history.
We should be running away with this league, and while the loss to Tochigi was somewhat excusable, as they are definite contenders for promotion and have had good results against the other teams in the top half, this was an unmitigated disaster, a disgraceful performance that will completely remove the fear factor that other teams have had when they've played us so far.
Tatsuya Yazawa was unavailable through suspension, and Roberto Cesar missed his second straight game game with his calf injury, so Tatsuya Suzuki came in for Yaza and started up front, with Lucas, continuing in the XI in The Salad's absence, withdrawn in the hole and Naotake Hanyu moved back to the wing.
All you need to know about how those moves worked out is that Tatsuya was hauled off at half time after a very poor first half that saw him unable to get a sniff of goal, let alone a shot off. Naohiro Ishikawa, who if he was fit should've started on the wing, entered the fray and looked to change things but had too little help from our central midfield, which has looked woeful in the past two games after being a strength of the team during our unbeaten run.
Casual is having a nightmare stretch and should probably be benched, but that definitely won't happen this weekend in the return match against Tochigi as captain Yasuyuki Konno will be away and the manager won't want to be without Casual as well...though he'd better fire a rocket up him because Casual is making a mockery of his nickname with his recent performances (perhaps we should change it to Comatose).
What do you need to know about the game? Toyama defended resolutely after Teruaki Kurobe's 34th minute goal, we were uselessly ineffective, Daisuke Sakata (for Hanyu in the 70th min) and Genki Nagasato (for Sotan Tanabe in the 78th) came on for their debuts, we were shit, the whistle blew and we were a f#cking disgrace.
Look, upsets happen in football, its a funny old game, a game of two halves blah blah f#cking blah how the hell did we lose to these? On a massive weekend of upsets, somehow we stayed top but its impossible to have much confidence that we'll stay there. In my intro to Kitakyushu away, the first of the stretch of four of five away that ended at Toyama I said "if we can tread water and at least stay in the top three during this stretch then our promotion push will be set up nicely." but the pathetic way we rolled over here has me doubting the logic of that.
Ah well, I'm about to start walking to Kumagaya. See ya there.