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Sunday, November 27, 2011

FC Tokyo 1-0 Chiba

J2 Matchday 37
Lucas: "That's me only one goal behind you now Mr. Salad!"
The Salad: "Oh shit, you're right!"
A wins a win, but the final home game of the season never came close to hitting the heights the crowd of 24,241 expected. Apart from Lucas' well-taken winner in the 77th minute, arguably the best moment of the night came when Dorompa Hiramatsu addressed the fans following the game, giving his critique of the goal celebrations of Naohiro Ishikawa and Tatsuya Yazawa, among other nuggets of wisdom.

We had set up fairly attacking, with Naotake Hanyu back in central midfield in place of the injured Casual, and Nao over his sniffles reclaiming his spot on the right with Yazawa in the hole behind Lucas. But yet again, we were very slow (too patient?) to get going in a frankly boring first half that saw the first meaningful chance fall to the visitors in the 22nd minute. From that Hitoshi Shiota saved with the ball going out for a corner, and after that was cleared we broke and Roswell shot from distance earning us a corner of our own, but nothing came from that either.

Masaki Fukai looked to be clean through for them later in the half but fired over as defensive pressure arrived just in time, and the rest of the first 45 was fairly pedestrian as we enjoyed more possession but lacked any sort of cutting edge, an all-too-familiar story this year. There was a half chance for Yazawa (who seemed a bit lost playing centrally) created by good work on the left from Sotan Tanabe and Kenta Mukuhara, but that was about as good as it got for The Gasmen.

There were no personnel changes at half time, but Big Bear switched Lucas and Yazawa around, and we were instantly miles better as the big fella was more involved in the withdrawn role. He can still get forward from there of course, as evidenced by his goal, but his deeper-lying brief played a role in chances in the first two minutes of the half for Ishikawa and Tanabe, both spurned but hints of a brighter Tokyo.

Chiba really went into their shells and were clearly second best, but it took until the 32nd minute of the second half, two minutes after Chiba midfielder Yamaguchi had been sent off for his second yellow, before we made our dominance count and found a way through. The Salad set it up, slipping an excellent ball through to Lucas, who belted it past the Chiba 'keeper with a minimum of fuss. That makes it nine goals for the year for No. 49, an outstanding return and more than we could've expected when he returned to the club in late June.

That set the stage for a barrage in the last ten minutes, we thought, but despite huffing and puffing we failed to add any more goals, and the game petered out with our boys fairly content to play out time. No question who the better team was, just slightly disappointing that wasn't more accurately reflected in the scoreline.

Afterwards Yasuyuki Konno got to raise the ridiculous serving platter that passes for the J2 league trophy, Dorompa Hiramatsu addressed the crowd, Mr Okuma said a brief goodbye, the squad and staff wandered around for their bows (cheers, Jade), and then made a right hash of a victory toss for our departing manager. Big Bear was coaxed into a round of sha-sha-shaaas by the Tokyo Kop though, which I thought was great, and also the right time to call it a night. He's done his job, has Big Bear, but if the next manager was watching tonight, he knows he's got a lot of work ahead of him if he's going to turn that team into a decent J1 outfit.

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