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Monday, September 26, 2011

FC Tokyo 3-0 Yokohama FC

J2 Matchday 26

Hanyu goals, just like London buses
On a gloriously sunny Sunday afternoon at Kokuritsu, FC Tokyo locked horns with Yokohama FC for the first time since 2007, with The Gasmen knowing a win would take us back to the J2 summit following Sapporo's scoreless draw with Tokushima on Saturday.

Shuichi Gonda returned to the Tokyo XI for the first time since Matchday 10, and replaced the injured Hitoshi Shiota in the only change to the 18 from the thumping of Ehime FC. For the visitors, their response to a 7-2 battering on the same ground last weekend was to have 63 year old striker Kazuyoshi Miura make his first start in two months, lining up alongside Kaio in a 4-4-2. Miura's name was cheered by both sets of supporters before the game, definitely the first time we've heard the Tokyo end cheer an opposition player who has never worn the red and blue.

The opening exchanges were pretty much one way traffic as we controlled possession and probed for gaps, and thankfully our early nerves were settled by an 8th minute opener, the only surprise was the source...Casual's head. From Tatsuya Yazawa's outswinging corner from the right, Yohei Kajiyama held off his man and met the ball from about 8 yards, guiding in a header at the near post, with Yokohama 'keeper Kentaro Seki committing the goalkeeping cardinal sin of letting the ball in at his near stick.

I'd be here all day if I listed all the other chances we had in the first half, but to surmise: Lucas could've had a first half hat trick but blazed over or wide three times, Yazawa was guilty of almost as many misses, Sotan Tanabe had an attempt on target blocked out for a goal kick by Naotake Hanyu, and Yuhei Tokunaga fired off one of his trademark bullets that cannoned off the intersection of post and bar and bounced back off Seki's back for a corner; but the scoreline stayed at 1-0 until the break and while it remained that way we could never feel completely comfortable.

The visitors came out and controlled the opening 10 minutes of the second half, but never really threatened. We were impressed by their young central midfielder Kensuke Sato, and although Kaio had plenty of touches, he had to drop quite deep to receive the ball and was never close enough to goal to cause us any problems.

With things puttering along, Mr. Okuma decided to give Tanabe the hook just on the hour and introduced Naohiro Ishikawa, and within five minutes of his entrance Nao had another assist to his name as we took a 2-0 lead. A minute after Gonda was forced into a diving save from substitute Yosuke Nozaki that grazed the post on its way out for a corner, we countered and Nao broke down the right drawing two defenders, which left Hanyu in acres of space in the centre.

With Roswell screaming for the ball and most of the 21,330 in the crowd (yes! finally another win for me in #GuessTheCrowd!) screaming for him to play it across, Nao fed Roswell and the wee man controlled and took a touch before sending a fantastic strike across Seki and just inside the post to double our advantage.

Cheers big fella!
But, why is my eye full of blood?
Just like London buses, you wait eight weeks for a Hanyu goal, and three come in two games! Just two minutes after his wonder strike, Roswell was at it again, racing onto Lucas's excellent lay-off following a counter attack started when Casual robbed Franca.

Seki was again helpless as Roswell bore down on goal and fired across him again, effectively deciding the contest with 20 minutes to go. His first-ever brace as a professional footballer meant we could play out the remaining time with no pressure, and six minutes later he was replaced by Daisuke Sakata (maybe Roswell had to get his left eye sorted out, did anybody else notice it was completely bloody on FC Tokyo Damacy on Friday night?), while with ten minutes left Kazumasa Uesato came on for Yazawa.

At full time the home end sang happy birthday to both Tokunaga and Casual, and surprisingly Roswell was a picture of composure during the hero interview, although we were half expecting him to burst into tears again as he did after the Toyama game back in May.

Roswell will get the plaudits for his brace, and rightly so, but Casual deserves praise, not only for his goal but for the vital part he played in our other two. Elsewhere there were no weak links, Hideto Takahashi and Yazawa were all-action, and the defence was solid, but Tanabe was again good only in patches, and might be a candidate for rotation on Wednesday if the manager decides to freshen things up by giving Ishikawa a start.

We were unable to match the seven goals the dirty greens knocked in against the Sky Blues last weekend, but hopefully we've saved up a few for Kitakyushu, when we'll be out for revenge against the side who ended our 11-game unbeaten run back at the end of July. Three points banked, back to the top with a game in hand on the teams in second and third, happy days.

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