|Yaza slides in to open the scoring.|
A complete team performance, highlighted by dominant displays by central midfielders Hideto Takahashi and Aria Hasegawa, gave new manager Ranko Popovic his first win in charge of The Gasmen, and delighted the boistrous travelling Tokyo fans, who drew praise from their Australian counterparts for their passionate support of the team.
With Lucas and new captain Yohei Kajiyama left back in Japan, Popovic's starting lineup showed a total of four changes from the Super Cup, with Kazuma Watanabe replacing Lucas as the lone striker, Naotake Hanyu effectively replacing Kajiyama and playing in the hole as Hasegawa moved back alongside Takahashi, Kenichi Kaga coming in for Kenta Mukuhara for his first Tokyo appearance with Yuhei Tokunaga switching to full back, and Shuichi Gonda reclaiming his place between the sticks as Hitoshi Shiota moved back to the bench.
The teams felt each other out at first, and it took until the fourth minute for Watanabe to fire off the game's first shot, but a general pattern began to emerge early on that Tokyo's collective pressing was having an effect on Brisbane's trademark fluid passing game. The home side, whether suffering from debut-A.C.L. nerves or not, misplayed several seemingly easy passes, and Tokyo looked a threat on the counter down both flanks.
With Takahashi and Hasegawa both affording little space to Brisbane's key playmaker Thomas Broich, and the entire Tokyo XI pressing as a group, the home side found it difficult to mount sustained periods of attack, and it became clear throughout the first half that The Gasmen's fierce pressing of Kashiwa in the opening 25 minutes of the Super Cup had simply been a dress rehearsal for this game.
The only thing missing from a superb team display in the first half was a goal, but that man Tatsuya Yazawa proved he's the man for any occasion with a priceless goal right on the stroke of half time. Brisbane supporters perhaps felt the way it was conceeded was rather unlucky, but when a Naohiro Ishikawa pass was deflected into the path of Tokunaga, the fullback still had a lot to do. Tokunaga kept his cool and played a perfect ball across the face of the six yard box for Yazawa to slide in ahead of Sayed Mohamed Adnan and tap home past a stranded Michael Theoklitos.
Buoyed by the goal and safe in the knowledge we had something to sit on, Tokyo began the second half in a similar rhythm to the first, as the home team continued to labour. It was plain to see they are capable of some very attractive football, and their commitment to playing the ball out from the back is/was admirable, but with captain-for-the-night Masato Morishige doing a brilliant job on A-League leading scorer Besart Berisha, chances were few and far between for Brisbane.
|2 in 2 for Aria!|
Hideto Takahashi played a sublime ball from the left touchline over the top to Hanyu, who just managed to stay onside and raced into the box with the home defence floundering. With only Theoklitos to beat, Roswell tried a curler that the 'keeper parried, only for the ball to deflect off Matt Smith and sit up invitingly for Hasegawa to fire home from six yards. Full credit to Aria for continuing his run into the box, and his second goal in as many games for the club meant this game was safely put to bed.
There were a few nervy moments as Brisbane mounted some sustained pressure for the first time all game, but Broich and Berisha were well shackled, and they still had to be wary of our potency on the counter attack, best highlighted when substitute Sotan Tanabe (on for Hanyu in the 76th minute) released Ishikawa with a superb through ball, only for Nao to fire straight at Theoklitos.
There were two other late changes, with Jang Hyun Soo coming on for his Tokyo debut in place of fellow newcomer Kaga (cramp), and Hiroki Kawano replacing Ishikawa in the second minute of stoppage time (and I'm pretty sure he never touched the ball), but as the away fans celebrated there was jubilation at the final whistle, with a brilliant display capped with three points.
There's little time for the players to celebrate, as preparations will already be underway for Saturday's trip to Omiya, but everyone associated with the club can be proud of the flying start we've made in our first foray into Asia.
On the Gas Man of the Match: Aria Hasegawa.