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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Running Out Of Gas...

Shimizu 3-0 FC Tokyo

Nabisco Cup Semi Final 2nd Leg

That could hardly have gone worse. FC Tokyo bowed out of the Cracker Cup with a hugely disappointing 3-0 loss at Shimizu on Saturday. The tie was technically in the balance until second half stoppage time, as we needed a single goal to send it into extra time with Shimizu 2-0 up on the day, but that goal never looked like coming and S-Pulse sealed it in the 96th minute after Genki Omae's third goal of the game from the penalty spot following Masato Morishige's red card.

That will see Morishige suspended for Saturday's trip to Cerezo Osaka, but lets deal with the game at hand. Mr. Popovic was forced into two changes to the XI, with Shuichi Gonda and Hideto Takahashi away with the national team in Europe, so Hitoshi Shiota came in in goal and Kenta Mukuhara replaced Takahashi and lined-up at right back, with Yuhei Tokunaga shifting over into the centre. There were three other changes too, with the inclusions I ripped the manager on last week, Jang Hyun Soo, Naotake Hanyu and Kazuma Watanabe all out (Hanyu due to injury), and Yuichi Maruyama (at left back), Takuji Yonemoto and Edmilson coming in, with Yohei Kajiyama starting in the hole and Lucas on the left of midfield. There was also a spot on the bench for Sota Hirayama, his first matchday involvement since the end of April.

Things were fairly cagey in the early stages, and Edmilson spurned a great chance just before the ten minute mark when he stubbed his toe (see above) in the act of shooting, his effort sailing into the side netting from a great position on the left of the box. For the next fifteen minutes we held them comfortably at arm's length, then Omae scored his first, heading back across Shiota after we failed to clear a free kick and Toshiyuki Takagi crossed from the right.

1-0 down at half time we were still well and truly in it, and 11 minutes into the second half Nemanja Vucicevic came on for the ineffectual Edmilson, with Lucas moving up front. Just five minutes later though Shimizu doubled their lead on the day after we were horribly caught out on a counter-attack. A long cross-field ball from the left found Omae one-on-one against Maruyama, and he turned our makeshift fullback inside out on a dribble to the top of the box, before firing through Maruyama's legs and inside Shiota's right-hand post.

We still needed just a single goal to restore parity in the tie, but the only options the manager had to turn things around were Hirayama and Watanabe...hardly inspiring and obviously very similar players. As it was Yonemoto got the hook for Big Sota six minutes after the second goal, but while the big man held the ball up fairly well and looked to play in the likes of Naohiro Ishikawa and Vucicevic, we were limited to half chances, with Nao uncharacteristically wasteful.

Our last roll of the dice saw Watanabe come on for Ishikawa in the 90th minute, and even though Shimizu's ridiculous time-wasting throughout the second half saw five minutes added-on, we never looked like it, and salt was rubbed into the wound when Morishige clumsily took out S-Pulse sub Atomu Nabeta right at the death and Omae scored from the spot.

So no trip back to Kokuritsu for us this season, and probably just as well as we have six important league games left, starting with Cerezo away, who have won their last three games 3-2, on Saturday evening. Hopefully the manager can get the players up for that, and then with three of our last five at home our chances of a top half finish are still alive.

Up the Gas!

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