FC Tokyo 2-1 Iwata
J1 Matchday 27After the Classico disappointment of a week ago, FC Tokyo rebounded in the best possible way, coming from behind to defeat fourth-placed Iwata on Saturday in one of the most entertaining games we've seen at Aji Sta this season. Second half goals from Edmilson and Nemanja Vucicevic did the trick, after Iwata had taken an early lead.
Mr Popovic made two changes to the XI, bringing in Kenta Mukuhara for Yuichi Maruyama at left back, and naming Edmilson up-front, with Lucas shifting to the left of midfield and Naotake Hanyu dropping back to the bench. We had a great chance in the 5th minute when Captain Casual sent a rasping volley on target that the 'keeper almost made a hash of, but four minutes later we were behind after a mid-range cross from the right from their captain Hiroki Yamada was headed-in at the far post by Minoru Suganuma.
And its fair to say that for the rest of the first half they were the better team. Hideto Takahashi hit the post with a header from Naohiro Ishikawa's corner in the 26th minute, and Lucas had a header on target in stoppage time, but apart from those two chances Iwata held us comfortably at arm's length, and something needed to be done...and the manager did something!
On came Nemanja Vucicevic for the second half, replacing Takuji Yonemoto, and almost instantly we were transformed, as Nema's direct, no-nonsense style saw us look far more threatening. Nine minutes into the second 45 we were level, after Nao raced onto Aria Hasegawa's excellent through ball down the left channel and fired in a first-time cross to meet Nema's intelligent run across the box. Nema flicked the ball for the far post, the 'keeper got down well but spilled a relatively easy take and johnny-on-the-spot Edmilson fired in the rebound from six yards out.
Just three minutes later, as I was still waiting for my post-goal tweet to go through, Iwata made what looked like the perfect response to our equaliser when Ryoichi Maeda headed in a superb Yuichi Komano cross, but somewhat luckily for us the linesman's flag went up for a veeerrrry close offside (replays showed it was just the right decision). The next 20 minutes were fairly open as both sides went in search of a potential winner, but in the last ten minutes of the game we assumed control, and the introduction of Kazuma Watanabe (on for Edmilson) had a lot to do with that.
And then, with five minutes left, we took the lead, and again Aria started the move with another measured through ball that Watanabe's marker might have done better with. As it was Kazuma showed good control, and from almost right on the byline on the right cut the ball back to around the penalty spot, Lucas drew his defender closer to goal and Nema raced onto the ball in space, opened up his body and stroked a first-time finish with his left foot high into the net. Superb team goal, great strike from Nema, and my favourite whipping-boy Aria deserves credit for the role he played in helping to set up both goals.
There were still five minutes to play, but through that time and the five minutes of stoppage time the ref played we were fairly comfortable, and at the final whistle the home crowd celebrated an excellent team win. Nema did the hero interview, but clearly needs some work on his sha-sha-shaaaas, maybe the boys can train him up on that at Kodaira this week. The win saw us move up to 8th, and we're now just two points behind Iwata with seven to play. This weekend we visit Kashima.