|Yaza you diamond!!!|
A 1-0 Christmas Eve quarter final win over the old enemy, Urawa, our first triumph over the Red Cubic Zirconias since the 2004 Nabisco Final, was followed by a victory on the 29th by the same scoreline over Cerezo Osaka, who resorted to volleyball tactics in second half stoppage time (you cheating twat Ryuji Bando) but were undone by Tatsuya Yazawa's 73rd minute belter from 20 yards.
And so tomorrow we will play in our first ever Emperor's Cup final, against Kyoto, who themselves have stunned the Japanese football world by making it an all-J2 final, the first time thats happened in the 91 years the competition has been going (though J2 has only been in existence for 13 years so thats pretty misleading!!!).
As we know, we completely bossed Kyoto in the league this season, winning 4-1 at their place in late May before smashing them 6-1 (after going a goal down) in early September, but they were a different team in the last two months of the season, and won eight of their last nine to finish the J2 season in seventh before beating Kashima, Shonan and then Yokohama to reach the final.
There's no secret to how we'll set up and try to play, as Naohiro Ishikawa has clearly supplanted Sotan Tanabe in Big Bear's preferred XI and the other ten pick themselves, so our thoughts turn to the 'hosts' (Kyoto, from the left side of the draw are the home team) and their dynamic young forwards Miyayoshi and Kubo.
Miyayoshi scored an excellent goal on the break in the Aji Sta clash so we know all about him, but Kubo is the ace up their sleeve, an 18 year old who was their top scorer in the league with ten goals. He's started the last three games on the bench but his fresh legs have changed games when he's come on, as Yokohama can attest to after Kubo bagged the match-winner on the 29th deep into the second half of extra time.
The other threat they have of course is our old 'friend' Dutra, who came back into favour (and form) towards the end of the season after not making a league start for almost three months. He netted the winner against Shonan in the quarter final and also scored in the semi, so we'll have to be mindful of him, meaning Konno, Morishige and the gang at the back will have their work cut out for them all afternoon.
But we pose a strong threat which they know all about as well of course, so this shapes as a belter of a game, which we should win if we have enough movement in their final third and take our chances when they come, along with restricting their chances to counter-attack. Another Yazawa winner would complete a brilliant season for him, but of course we'll take a goal from anyone.
I'd love to be there but might have to watch on telly as A) I don't have a ticket and B) the Mrs is stonewalling, saying we should spend our first New Years Day as a married couple with her family! F####K! Ah well, whether I'm there or not it'll be a great day for all Tokyo supporters, as we look to secure our first Emperor's Cup and spot in the Asian Champions League, which goes to the winner.
Come On You Gasmen! Up the Gas! Smash Kyoto!