|Well in Kazuma!|
The Tokyo XI showed three changes from the 2-2 draw with Ulsan on the Tuesday, and that meant that the same XI that started the previous league match against Nagoya were called on here, with Aria Hasegawa, Naotake Hanyu and Lucas all reclaiming their starting spots.
The Gasmen started out on the front foot and we probably should've gone ahead in the third minute, but Hasegawa scuffed his shot somewhat after surging into the box following an interception by Hanyu and a cushioned ball from Lucas. The three players coming back into the XI combining for a goal would've made Mr. Popovic look a genius, but Aria couldn't finish and the Kobe 'keeper parried out for a corner.
Kobe got a foothold in the game and then began to look the more threatening side, with that little weasel Yoshito Okubo buzzing around and looking to stretch our backline. He set up the chance of the first half hour too, when he got to the byline on the left and crossed for his captain Takayuki Yoshida about nine yards out, but luckily for us Shuichi Gionda was up to the task and got down low to save Yoshida's shot on the turn.
With Kobe looking by far the better team, The Gasmen turned back the clock three years and took the lead with a goal that would've brought a tear to the eye of Hiroshi Jofuku... a headed clearance from our box (by Kosuke Ota), Yohei Kajiyama collects the loose ball and releases Ishikawa down the right, then receives the return pass from Nao, holds off his man and plays in Lucas on the left side of the box, the big man spots Nao ghosting in unmarked on the right, belts a cross across the box and Nao smashes home on the half volley... yep, change Ota for Nagatomo and Lucas for Cabore and thats how it used to work for us under Jofuku back in '09, at least until Cabore took the oil money and ran in September...
We now had a lead to protect, and there was a surprise at half time when Oh Captain, My Captain Casual didn't come out for the second 45 minutes, as he was replaced by Tatsuya Yazawa for what must have been an injury. That didn't really impact on how we set up though, as Roswell could slide over into the hole with Yaza slotting in on the left.
Kobe continued to make most of the play, as you'd expect with them chasing the game, but we did well enough to restrict them, although they had definitely left their shooting boots at home, Hideo Tanaka guilty of probably the worst miss when he blazed over after we failed to clear a corner.
All in all it had been a fairly drab performance from Tokyo, with the players #excuse alert!# perhaps feeling the effects of their sixth game in three weeks, and things looked ropey with five minutes to go when Aria left his foot in in a challenge around the centre circle and was shown his second yellow card.
But despite the hosts pouring forward late on (and not just after Aria's sending-off) we held firm, and after they had a penalty shouted waved away by the ref in second half stoppage time, Gonda sent a long punt upfield to Watanabe, who headed away from his man, raced in on goal and slotted through the legs of Kenta Tokushige from the edge of the box to seal the win.
This was the sort of game we would've capitulated in two years ago, but on Saturday we saw a new resilience in The Gasmen, with the defence sturdy enough and, despite carrying a few passengers in midfield (Hasegawa was overall fairly poor again, and will probably enjoy his week off; and Nao, despite his goal, wasn't at his sharpest), we did enough to beat a fellow unbeaten, leaving us in second, goal difference behind Sendai. Job done, Hiroshima are the visitors to Aji Sta on Saturday afternoon.
On the Gas Man of the Match: Hideto Takahashi
(No, you're right, I didn't mention him at all in the report, but he was our best player.)