FC Tokyo 3-2 Gamba Osaka
J1 Matchday 17
Doink!Photo from Tokyo Chunichi Sports website
The first instance of comedy defending came in just the third minute, when Hokuto Nakamura, making his first start of the season at left back, made a determined run into the box on the left, got to the byline, saw his attempted cross deflected back into his path and then slotted through the 'keeper's legs for 1-0.
In the 17th minute Lucas made it 2-0 after a 30 yard shot swerved slightly in the air and went straight through the keeper, a sweet goal for the big man against his former club. Gamba got a lifeline after Shuichi Gonda charged off his line and upended Hiroyuki Abe, allowing Yasuhito Endo to score from the spot for 2-1, but Lucas had the last laugh of the first half and made it 3-1 at the break after he took down an excellent ball over the top from Sotan Tanabe and poked home despite the attentions of two defenders and the keeper trying to close him down.
We knew that probably wasn't going to be the last of the goals though, and in the 62nd minute Gamba got it back to 3-2 after a miscommunication between Masato Morishige and Gonda allowed Akihiro Sato to nip in between and poke home a cross from the Gamba left.
That meant we had half an hour to hang on, or try and kick on and extend our lead again, but it was pretty much all the former, as Gamba dominated possession for the last third of the game, and we went home relieved after a Sato airswing in the final seconds of second half stoppage time let us off the hook after Gonda had come to punch at a free kick. If Sato had made any contact and got the ball on target he almost certainly would've scored, but luckily for us he hit air rather than ball and the ref blew up after we had scrambled the ball away.
The result left us fifth at the halfway mark, a highly satisfactory result in our first season back in the top flight considering our many distractions (A.C.L., huge injury list etc.).
Tosu 1-0 FC Tokyo
J1 Matchday 18Note: I did not see this game live.
Mr. Popovic was able to welcome back Naohiro Ishikawa to the matchday squad, and Nao took a spot on the bench, his first involvement since the home draw with Urawa at the end of May. He took Kentaro Shigematsu's spot in the squad after the young striker was loaned to J2 Kofu for the rest of the year.
The starting XI was the same as the Gamba game, which meant, pleasingly, that Tanabe continued in the hole behind Lucas, where hopefully he will establish himself before Casual returns from injury in a month or so. Tosu were of course looking for revenge from our 3-2 win at Aji Sta on the 20th of May, and they had lost just once at home in the first half of the year, a brilliant return in their first-ever J1 season.
The hosts looked well up for it in the first ten minutes, but then we were able to pen them back for most of the rest of the first half, with Tanabe prominent. He had a couple of near misses and wasn't shy to shoot, a really promising sign of his increasing confidence.
The closest we came to a goal all game was a delicate free kick from the edge of the Tosu box by Morishige in the 52nd minute, the ball floating over the wall and coming back off the post, then just bouncing above the head of the on-rushing Takuji Yonemoto, who was alert to the rebound.
The game was decided with just three minutes left, when Tosu won a free kick out on their right, the captain Fujita swung the ball in and Tozin, under great pressure from Morishige, made just enough contact on the ball from around the penalty spot and the ball crept in at Gonda's right-hand post.
There were a couple of late chances: Ishikawa, on for the last 20 minutes, drew a save from a fierce drive and then right at the death Morishige headed Nao's free kick high over the bar and that was it, another frustrating 1-0 loss as we slipped back to 7th.