Tokyo lined up as expected with Hokuto Nakamura coming in at right back and Yuhei Tokunaga moving over to central defence in place of suspended captain Yasuyuki Konno, and after a cagey start it took until the 16th minute for us to have a meaningful shot on goal, with Yohei Kajiyama firing just over from the edge of the box.
The game opened up and we had a few hairy moments at the back with Oita posing a threat on the counter, but seven minutes later we went ahead in slightly comical circumstances after a cross from Naotake Hanyu found its way to Tatsuya Yazawa, who controlled and lashed it straight at the keeper, with the ball ricocheting off the keeper's legs, into a defender - who knew nothing about it - and into the net. The comical element of it was that Yazawa clearly brought the ball down with his left arm, defenders were calling handball right away, but the ref didn't spot it and it was 1-0 to the good guys.
The chances flowed as the half went on: Lucas fired just wide after great buildup play by the excellent Sotan Tanabe, and then straight at the keeper after being played in on the right; Hanyu curled a shot onto the roof of the net; and Yazawa fired across goal but just wide, but then with literally the last kick of the first half Fatty Junior Shunsuke Maeda (who pleasingly was jeered by the home end when the teams were announced) scored a stunning equalizer, hooking the ball over his shoulder from the edge of the box and out of reach of a diving Shuichi Gonda.
Our run of seven straight league clean sheets, a club record I had completely missed, was broken as we conceeded for the first time since Kyoto took the lead at Aji Sta last month. We had controlled things for almost the entire half, but the players headed for the sheds level, while we wondered if Maeda had read my preview or was reacting to the booing, because he was playing like a man with a point to prove.
The manager's stubbornness when it comes to changing the team also applies to his substitutions of course, and just nine minutes into the second half Tanabe, who had been our best and most creative player by a mile, was replaced by Naohiro Ishikawa, who got straight into the act, firing a shot off with almost his first touch. It was great to see Nao on so early, but why on earth it had to be Tanabe making way had us scratching our heads, when Yazawa had looked leggy and Hanyu had very little impact on the game.
We were scratching our heads again in the 62nd minute after a complete lack of awareness by Nakamura, who overlapped down the right and waited for a pass from Hanyu for about five seconds standing five yards offside. He could see right across the pitch that he was miles off, but by the time he walked back on Roswell had been closed down and the ball was deflected out. This was after Nakamura had dashed down the flank earlier in the half and looked in perfect position to cross before his legs couldn't keep up with his body and he fell flat on his face with no defender anywhere near him.
Roswell was replaced by Roberto Cesar right after that Hokuto offside cock-up, and just like Nao, The Salad fired off a shot with pretty much his first touch, but while we continued to enjoy more possession, things weren't clicking for us. Perhaps four games in 11 days had caught up with Hideto Takahashi, as he played lazy passes or lost the ball more times that we've seen from him all season, Yazawa looked like he was running on the spot at times he was so tired, while closer to goal Lucas was holding the ball up well but wasn't involved enough around the box.
When Yazawa was finally replaced by Genki Nagasato with six minutes left the game looked set to end in a draw... What we didn't count on though was the almost-forgotten picked-off-at-the-death routine that we 'perfected'/fell victim to so many times at home last season, and it came back in a big way deep into four minutes of stoppage time, when Hasegawa was released on an Oita break and picked his spot before firing past Gonda.
With barely enough time to restart that was that, Oita's smash-and-grab was successful, and Maeda (arguably man of the match) stuck it right up us as they handed us our first loss in ten games, since Toyama away almost exactly two months ago. With Sapporo winning at Tokushima (leaving our Magic Number at 10) the pipedream of clinching promotion with a win in the derby was out of the equation anyway, but the manner of this defeat gives us plenty to think about before Sunday.
One thing the manager obviously won't be thinking about though, despite the clear signs of tiredness displayed by Takahashi, Yazawa and Hanyu, among others, is changing the team, although we will be able to recall Konno for Nakamura. The Spews will come in full of confidence after a 4-2 win at Tochigi that almost certainly ended the hosts' promotion hopes while keeping their own alive, and it promises to be an absolute corker at Aji Sta, where, if the weather cooperates, we could see a crowd around 35,000.
Up the Gas!