J1 Matchday 15
The return of The Scorpion. Love it.Photo from FC Tokyo Official Website
All those injuries meant we were still without Naohiro Ishikawa, and reserve goalkeeper Hitoshi Shiota joined him in the treatment room after damaging his ankle at training, which meant Ryotaro Hironaga came into the squad, but there were two pieces of positive news, with Kenichi Kaga starting at centre back and Sotan Tanabe coming in on the left side of midfield, their first starts in over two months. Tanabe replaced Kazuma Watanabe, whose credit from his hat trick against Tosu ran out, with Lucas starting up front.
Cerezo had the better chances in the first half, but the usually efficient Kim Bo Kyung fluffed his lines when played clean through on the right on two seperate ocassions from around the half hour mark: firstly he crossed just out of the reach of Yoichiro Kakitani's lunge when a goal seemed certain; and then he made a right hash of trying to chip Shuichi Gonda, which allowed Masato Morishige to clear.
Just before halftime Kakitani, who we know well from his time with Tokushima in J2, set up defender Daisuke Takahashi on the left side of the box, but Gonda got out well and deflected the ball away with his left boot. We had two notable chances, Lucas screwed across the face of goal from Yuhei Tokunaga's excellent cut-back, and in the 43rd minute Kaga advanced and lashed goalwards, forcing the Cerezo 'keeper to palm the ball out for a corner.
As the second half got going we continued to struggle to really open up the visitors. Hideto Takahashi seemed to be doing the work of two people as his midfield partner Hasegawa spent another game on the fringes of the play, and the two wide players, Tanabe and Tatsuya Yazawa, were unable to influence proceedings.
The game turned in the 58th minute when Captain Casual was forced off with what appeared to be just cramp but may have ended up being a calf strain. That saw Takuji Yonemoto come on, with Hasegawa moving into the hole, where of course he had really struggled to impose himself on games earlier in the season. That was not to be the case on this night though, as in the 60th minute, after a determined run and pass from Tokunaga, Tanabe slipped the ball inside to Aria on the right side of the Cerezo box. Our number 8 cut onto his left foot, earned a yard of space and curled an absolute peach beyond the flailing 'keeper into the far corner to give us the lead.
Tanabe was again involved in the second goal on 76 minutes, when he dinked a pass through to Lucas from Takahashi's header forward, and the big Brazilian kept his nerve to fire home at the 'keeper's near post. That was pretty much job done, and Cerezo's chances really dried up until a couple right at the death, the first saw the return of The Gonda Scorpion when he flung out a leg, whilst almost lying on the floor, to deflect substitute Ryo Nagai's shot out for a corner - not as good as the one against Cho Young Cheol in the first game of the season but still impressive in its own right.
Two good goals and a fair performance saw us get Yokohama out of our system, but we may have lost Kajiyama AND Aria for tomorrow night against Kashiwa: the captain extremely doubtful and Aria also under a cloud after he was forced off with cramp in the 82nd minute. The squad is being stretched to the limit, but it should be a belter against the defending champions as we make up our game in hand.