First things first, and there were plenty of positives to come out of the trip to Shizuoka.
Shimizu 1-1 FC Tokyo
J1 Matchday 25This was the first league game in two weeks, and after the Emperor's Cup embarrassment against Yokogawa Musashino we hoped to regain the J1 momentum we'd picked up in successive wins over Hiroshima and Yokohama. We were forced into one change, with Aria Hasegawa suspended after his fourth yellow card of the season (just as well his two reds weren't included!) and replaced by Yuichi Maruyama, which meant a return to 4-4-2 in the league with Kenichi Kaga in the centre and Hideto Takahashi in central midfield, while the manager brought Naohiro Ishikawa back in place of Kenta Mukuhara.
And it was Nao who had our best chance of the first half after Yuhei Tokunaga played the ball forward to Lucas, and the big Brazilian's first-time lay-off was placed perfectly for our flying winger as he dashed towards the box. After a touch to set himself Nao smashed the ball goalwards but saw his effort thunder off the crossbar and away from danger. For the most part Shimizu controlled things though, as we had little time to build play, and towards the end of the half their pressure bore fruit after Takuji Yonemoto appeared to be clipped from behind by Genki Omae as he tried to dribble out of defence. With Yone sprawled on the floor appealing for a foul but the ref waving play on, Omae took a touch and let fly from 25 yards with the ball deflecting off Kaga on its way past Shuichi Gonda and into the net.
That was a dagger four minutes before halftime, and Gonda had to be at his best to prevent S-Pulse from making it 2-0 a couple of minutes into the second half when he tipped Hideki Ishige's volley out for a corner, but from the time Nemanja Vucicevic replaced Sotan Tanabe in the 51st minute the game changed totally, as we found more time on the ball and looked far more threatening with it. Nema had done very well in his cameos since joining the club, and got his first Tokyo goal, and a reward for some quick thinking, in the 59th minute. From a corner, with the Shimizu defence still organising themselves, he played the ball short to Takahashi and peeled off completely unmarked, taking the return pass and waltzing into the box. From there, all he had to do was pick his spot, and he did it perfectly, lashing across the Shimizu 'keeper and inside the far post.
Both teams had 30 minutes to get a winner, but with Shimizu rocking from the goal it was pretty much one-way traffic, and while we definitely would've taken a point at halftime, to not come away with all three at the end of the game was slightly frustrating, considering that Yonemoto, Vucicevic again, and Lucas all had good chances but weren't able to hit the target. Late sub Kazuma Watanabe might have done better with his stoppage time header too, but planted it straight at the 'keeper. Still, an excellent recovery after going a goal down, a superb second half performance and a good point away from home. Roll on the Classico...right?
FC Tokyo 1-2
J1 Matchday 26 - The 20th Tamagawa ClassicoOh my god. Its four days later and I'm still angry about this game. Ten sloppy minutes at the start of the second half cost us and we've only got ourselves to blame. Sloppy in midfield for their first goal, marked a free kick terribly for the second. Edmilson's first goal for the club and a record Classico crowd of 34,822 were positives, but this game was a carbon copy of so many other home games this season - we've lost seven at home, and only been outplayed and lost by more than the odd goal once: the 2-0 loss to Niigata at the end of July.
There were two changes again with Aria returning from suspension in place of the injured Kaga, which saw Takahashi revert to centre half (Aria would've come back anyway, he always plays), while there were big cheers for Naotake Hanyu, who replaced the dropped Tanabe. I would've liked to see Nema start, but it was good to see Roswell back in the XI for the first time since early May. And then the game started and we completely bossed the first half, apart from one excellent chance that Kengo Nakamura screwed wide of the far post from a tight angle in the 14th minute.
Yonemoto drew a sprawling save in just the second minute, Lucas fired agonisingly wide in the 31st and then Captain Casual had a rasper tipped onto the bar in the 41st, but we had nothing to show for a 9-1 shots advantage at the half time whistle, and then got stung in the arse in the first minute of the second 45, when Aria was casually dispossessed in the centre circle and the ball found its way to Jumpei Kusukami, whose finish, after cutting inside the sliding Masato Morishige, was excellent to be fair.
What a bastard. And then things went from bad to shithouse eight minutes later when, after Yonemoto was crowded out and lost the ball and Morishige was booked for a foul 35 yards out, Nakamura drifted a free kick to the far post, Jeci outjumped Takahashi and headed back across Gonda and into the net. Unbelievable.
It took us a while to regain our rhythm, but then Lucas had two glorious chances in a four-minute stretch, his 70th-minute strike hit the underside of the bar but didn't go in, then he somehow missed the target with a header from Aria's cross. Both those chances came after the manager finally made some changes, and this was my big criticism on this night, you could see the instant impact Nema made in the Shimizu game after coming on just six minutes in the second half, but here he waited until the 63rd minute to bring on Tanabe for Maruyama, and the 68th to introduce Nema for Yone. The obvious guy to take off after Maruyama, who offered us a willingness to go forward but zero end product, would have been Roswell, whose legs were gone ten minutes into the second half, but he stayed on until the 75th minute, when Edmilson entered the fray.
So we poured forward but it just didn't feel like it was going to happen. Edmilson finally broke through in the 88th minute, well set-up by Nema, but I didn't even stand up and celebrate the goal. Yeah, that makes me a shit supporter I know, blah blah gotta support the team blah blah, but my frustration levels were through the roof by then and I just knew we weren't going to get a second. And we didn't. And I fumed some more. Another game we should've won handily at home ended with nothing.
This Saturday, we host fourth-placed Iwata in the first post-summer afternoon kickoff. See you there for some more torture!