FC Tokyo 5-0 Sapporo
J1 Matchday 30Sapporo had taken four points from the two games since their relegation was confirmed, including three from a memorable win at Urawa, but they were depleted in defence for this one, with Jade North missing due to injury, Kazuki Kushibiki suspended and Tatsuki Nara away with Japan's Under 19s. We welcomed back Masato Morishige from suspension, and Jang Hyun Soo came in alongside Morige, with Hideto Takahashi needed in central midfield following Aria Hasegawa's red card against Cerezo. Kenta Mukuhara was dropped again, with Yuhei Tokunaga returning to right back.
We almost got on the board in just the second minute when Yohei Kajiyama played a lovely ball through to Lucas, but although the big man had time to pick his spot his low drive cannoned off the outside of the keeper's left-hand post. We then had a scare of our own in the 10th minute, but Takuji Yonemoto slid in just in the nick of time to clear the ball out for a corner after Sapporo defender Shunsuke Iwanuma darted into the box.
In the 17th minute Jang grabbed our first of the evening, and his first for the club, firing in a bullet header from Naohiro Ishikawa's cross after Sapporo failed to clear his initial corner. Jang celebrated by rushing over to the manager for a bear hug, but just two minutes later we were almost caught on the break again (again on our right) but Yasuaki Okamoto curled his shot across the face of goal and out for a goal kick.
That was it for goals in the first half, but we didn't take long to kick into gear after the restart, and Sotan Tanabe grabbed his first goal since the home win over Yokohama at the start of September with a fine finish across the keeper from a tight angle in the 47th minute. Then Ishikawa, who hadn't scored in the league since the away win over Kobe at the end of March, grabbed a quickfire brace, his first coming in the 59th minute with a composed finish from eight yards out after the ball broke perfectly for him, and then just five minutes later he finished a perfectly-weighted ball over the top from Morishige first-time with his left foot.
Funnily enough, Nao's number was originally posted on the subs board after his first goal, with Nemanja Vucicevic ready to come on, but after the ball didn't go out of play for a couple of minutes the 18 changed to a 7 and Yonemoto made way for Nema, with Ishikawa's second coming just a minute later!
Nema's been in everything the last four or five weeks, and he grabbed his fourth league goal for us to cap the scoring in the 81st minute, a surging run from a central area on the right freeing him up for a left foot strike from outside the box which flew past the keeper and in for 5-0.
A thoroughly satisfying evening, and the first time we'd scored more than three in a game all season. The win saw us creep back into the top half of the table in 9th, five points behind third-placed Urawa with four games to go. We're unlikely to catch them, but in our four remaining games we could have a big say in all three league races up for grabs: the title race (we play Sendai at home on the final day); the scrap for the third ACL spot (we play away at Nagoya (5th) next); and the #RelegationDogfight (we play Kobe (14th) at home in Matchday 32 and Gamba Osaka (16th) away the next week).