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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Kawasaki 0-1 FC Tokyo

J1 Matchday 5


(Photo from Tokyo Chunichi Sports)
Following our midweek A.C.L. exertions in China, FC Tokyo returned to domestic action on Sunday with a visit to Kawasaki. This 19th league "Tamagawa Classico" was the perfect chance for us to get back on track after the disappointing loss to Hiroshima and keep track with leaders Sendai, who drew at home to Iwata on Saturday.

Mr Popovic made two changes from the loss at Aji Sta the previous Saturday, with Aria Hasegawa returning from suspension to replace Sotan Tanabe, and Jang Hyun Soo coming in for the injured Kenichi Kaga. Kaga went off in the first ten minutes of the draw with Beijing and Jang slotted in effectively, so it was pleasing to see the South Korean handed his first league start here, whereas we all know what Mr Okuma would've done (play Yuhei Tokunaga at centre half).

An excellent crowd of over 20,000 piled into Todoroki, and they saw a first half fairly low on incident that we controlled early on. The hosts came into things more as the half progressed, but there was no sign of the fireworks to come in the second half.

Things got interesting in the 48th minute, when Hasegawa, who had had another game on the fringes of the play, threatened to become the big story after he foolishly lunged in on Kengo Nakamura and was shown his second yellow card of the game. That meant he became the first FC Tokyo player ever to be sent off in consecutive league appearances (this is probably true), and left us a man down for the final 40-odd minutes. Takuji Yonemoto replaced Naotake Hanyu in a tactical switch soon after the sending off, and Yone's energy was to prove important as we looked to restrict the hosts.

Kawasaki naturally saw more of the ball now, and it needed some acrobatics in goal by Shuichi Gonda to keep us on level terms. Despite the best efforts of our back line, with Tokunaga especially impressive, we were fighting a rearguard battle, and we were struggling to keep the ball, with Hideto Takahashi strangely off colour.

As time ticked down it looked like we'd have to settle for a character-building point, but with three minutes left Takahashi belted a long drive goalwards, forcing a fingertip save from Yohei Nishibe. With the away end bouncing, Naohiro Ishikawa waved us into a frenzy as he came over to take the corner, and then curled in a peach of a dead ball that Masato Morishige met perfectly, thumping a header from around the penalty spot into the top corner at the near post to send us absolutely mental. I've never jumped around like that after a Tokyo goal, and though there were some hairy moments from Kawasaki set pieces through SIX MINUTES of stoppage time, we held on for a momentous win, with Mr Popovic coming over to give the sha-sha-shaaa's a go.

We stayed third after the weekend then, and welcome Kashima to Aji Sta this Saturday lunchtime.

On the Gas Man of the Match: Shuichi Gonda

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