The Tokyo XI showed just two changes from the 2-0 win over Brisbane in the A.C.L. last Tuesday, with Naohiro Ishikawa and Kazuma Watanabe replaced by captain Yohei Kajiyama and Lucas, which meant that Aria Hasegawa, so impressive in a deeper role against the Roar, started in the hole, while Naotake Hanyu moved out to the right wing.
After all the build-up to our J1 return, we should've been behind after just 20 seconds, when Kenichi Kaga dawdled on the ball, Keigo Higashi pinched it and strode in on Gonda. Luckily for us though the big number 20 was on his game from the start, and saved low to his right.
We lacked rhythm in the early stages, and as in the Super Cup, the game seemed to be happening around Aria as the hosts looked the more threatening. We were indebted to Gonda again in the 22nd minute, after a sensational double save to deny Omiya's ex-Niigata midfielder Cho Young Cheol. Higashi broke away down the right and fired a perfect low cross along the box for a sliding Cho to meet at the far post.
The South Korean international made good contact but again Gonda got down well, but when Cho was first to the loose ball he looked certain to score from a tight angle, only for our keeper, while still lying on the floor, to flick his right leg up scorpion-style and batter the ball away to safety. Truly remarkable, and that sentence didn't do it justice in the slightest.
With nothing happening for us it took a positional switch from the manager, that saw Casual move up behind Lucas with Aria dropping back alongside Hideto Takahashi, for us to look more like ourselves, but there were still some sloppy errors, #excuse alert# perhaps due to fatigue after the 40-hour round trip to Australia, with even the reliable Takahashi giving the ball away a few times.
In attack Lucas couldn't get in the game and our best chance of the first hour fell to Tatsuya Yazawa, who was slipped in by a delightful through ball from Takahashi, only to screw wastefully wide with his left foot.
The goal came from a decent spell of pressure, and was the result of some intricate passing just outside the box, and a sublime piece of skill from the big Brazilian. Hanyu, Hasegawa and Kajiyama were all involved, and when the ball came to Lucas on the edge of the box he still had a ton to do, but he made the ball sit up with the sole of his boot, before swivelling and lashing home past a helpless Takashi Kitano.
Harsh on the hosts perhaps, but a goal to grace any game was suddenly the difference, and while Omiya continued to press, and were unlucky to have an equalizing goal chalked off for a debateable handball decision, we were able to keep them at arms length in the last half hour and complete a superb week for the club. First up wins in the A.C.L and J1 have the squad and supporters buzzing, but a big test looms on the horizon, with the home opener against league title contenders Nagoya to come on Saturday night.
On the Gas Man of the Match: Shuichi Gonda