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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Going Out In Style

FC Tokyo 6-2 Sendai

J1 Matchday 34

What a way to end the season! FC Tokyo finished 2012 in style, demolishing Sendai 6-2 before a crowd of just under 31,000 on December 1st. Lucas and Nemanja Vucicevic both bagged braces, with Jang Hyun Soo and Kazuma Watanabe also getting on the scoresheet. Sendai had lost any hope of winning the league the previous Saturday and were understandably flat, but Tokyo deserve all the plaudits for a brilliant display.

Ranko Popovic started with the same XI that drew away at Gamba Osaka in the last game, and after an early spell of Sendai possession Tokyo were quickly into gear, with Hideto Takahashi's long-range drive hitting the bar in the 7th minute. Just a minute later Takahashi, stationed right on the halfway line out on the left, spotted Lucas' run through the defence and lofted the ball forward to meet the Brazilian's run. Lucas nodded the ball on, held off a defender and dinked the ball left-footed past the on-rushing Sendai 'keeper and into the net for 1-0.

In the 17th minute Lucas grabbed his second, and 10th of the year, finishing off a sublime passing move that began with Yuhei Tokunaga's throw-in from the right. Watanabe received the ball and found Lucas, who played it forward to Yohei Kajiyama just on the edge of the box. Casual returned to Lucas, who played another one-two with Aria Hasegawa and darted into the Sendai penalty area. The 'keeper came out again but Lucas kept his composure and finished superbly with the outside of his right boot as the home end went mental.

Sendai were not in the game at all, but things evened-out slightly after the second goal, and the Tohoku side worked their way back into the game with a brilliant close range header from Shingo Akamine in the 35th minute, the ex-Tokyo man flicking Wilson's cross from the right past Shuichi Gonda. Wilson had a shot well saved by Gonda just before half time, but we went into the break 2-1 up and good value for our lead.

Akamine had a golden chance to level things up in the second minute of the second half but missed the target with only Gonda to beat, and then our two goal lead was restored just two minutes later when Jang headed in Hasegawa's corner from the left, the South Korean defender's second goal of a promising debut season.

In the 56th minute it was 4-1 after Watanabe took Hasegawa's pass from just inside the box and showed great close control to take the ball around the 'keeper and fire into the roof of the net with his left boot. It had been a bit of a lost season for Kazuma, but he finished with goals in each of the last two giving him six for the season.

After a bit of a lull for 20 minutes or so Tokyo produced a grandstand finish, and it was no surprise that Vucicevic, coming off the bench for the 13th straight game since his arrival, was at the centre of things. Sota Hirayama (on for the last 10 minutes in what will probably be his last Tokyo appearance) started the move for our fifth, dribbling up field before playing the ball out to fellow sub Naohiro Ishikawa on the right. Nao played a square ball into the centre which Kajiyama stepped over, Vucicevic played it forward to Casual who continued his run, and with the 'keeper advancing again Kajiyama played it back across to Nema who smashed home with his left foot. Another brilliant goal, and as we sat there scratching our heads wondering where this kind of performance had been all season, we weren't to know the best was yet to come.

In the 92nd minute Nema found Nao who dashed into the box, but with defenders surrounding him he was dragged to the floor, only for the ball to break perfectly for the ever-alert Nema, who produced a stunning turn on the ball reminiscent of Zinedine Zidane in his pomp, and with the crowd already out of their seats he passed the ball into the net for 6-1. Absolutely outrageous piece of skill, and his sixth goal in 13 appearances was without doubt the pick of the crop.

With the very last kick of the game Sendai grabbed the scantest of consolations when Muto lashed a volley past Gonda, but we were outstanding all game and our six goals were our best ever return in J1 play.

The sha-sha-shaaas got a good working over after the game, and everyone went home happy, with hope that we'll do a lot better than our 10th-placed finish this season in 2013. More displays like this, and that will be guaranteed.

Up the Gas!

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