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Friday, April 26, 2013

Steadying the Ship

Memo to the home end: these are fine at 3-1 up. At 0-0? Not so much.

FC Tokyo 3-1 Nagoya

J1 Matchday 7

Well, did we ever need that! FC Tokyo's run of four straight league defeats ended after an ultimately convincing 3-1 win over Nagoya last Saturday afternoon. After recovering from the shock of going behind after we had completely controlled the first 25 minutes, The Gasmen fought back thanks to two Lucas penalties and a clinical finish from the otherwise-profligate Kazuma Watanabe.

The team sheet showed no surprises, but we were able to welcome Jang Hyun Soo back to the matchday squad after around a month out, and with Tadanari Lee, Nemanja Vucicevic and Naohiro Ishikawa also among the subs we had an impressive array of talent in reserve (some would argue all three of those should be in the XI).

Nagoya were fourth coming in, but they had benefitted from a fairly soft early fixture list, and their three wins so far had come against Kofu, Shonan and Niigata: all teams most league observers think will finish in the bottom half of the table. We were immediately on the front foot, and Lucas created two great chances in the first five minutes: first Watanabe's volley on the turn from Lucas' cross came back off the bar, and then Keigo Higashi first-timed a shot wide after a neat cut back from the right from our no.49.

Nagoya had not had a sniff in the first 25 minutes, but Kenichi Kaga had to be alert on their first meaningful foray when he headed the ball out for a corner after Kisho Yano crossed from the right. And then, in the 30th minute, we went behind after Shuichi Gonda punched a corner out of the area, the ball found its way to Danilson and he crossed from the left, with Josh Kennedy rising between Hideto Takahashi and Masato Morishige to plant a header back across Gonda and just inside his right hand post.

Watanabe almost gave us the perfect response three minutes later, but couldn't make a proper connection on Yuhei Tokunaga's cross, and then in the 39th minute our players surrounded the referee screaming for a penalty after Tulio used his arm to deflect Watanabe's blast from just inside the box away. In first half stoppage time the ref did point to the spot, after Tokunaga went down fairly easily after a tug from behind by their left back Yuki Honda. Lucas stepped up, Seigo Narazaki guessed the right way, but couldn't get enough on the ball to keep it out and we went in at half time level.

In the third minute of the second half we should've taken the lead, but Watanabe, who intercepted a loose back pass just inside the Nagoya half and raced in on Narazaki, fired across the face of goal when he HAD to hit the target. We didn't have to wait long to go ahead though, and again Lucas netted from the spot after Morishige, who made several surging runs forward throughout the game, was brought down by Hayuma Tanaka on the left side of the box.

In the 59th minute Watanabe, culpable of some poor misses earlier, made amends with a screamer from his most difficult chance of the day. Lucas headed an Aria Hasegawa cross straight at Narazaki from around the penalty spot, with the Nagoya custodian looking to start a counter attack by throwing the ball out to Yoshizumi Ogawa on the left. But when Ogawa dawdled on the ball, Tokunaga nicked in, squared to Kazuma about 25 yards from goal, and after a touch to sort his feet out he curled a superb shot on the turn just inside Narazaki's left hand post.

Lucas almost grabbed his hat trick goal in the 68th minute but hit the post after a one-two with Keigo Higashi, and the major talking point in the last 20 minutes was the continuous stream of yellow cards handed out by the ref, who overall had a terrible game. That culminated with Taishi Taguchi being sent off for his second yellow in the 85th minute, and with a two-goal buffer and a man advantage we just passed the ball around until the final whistle put Nagoya out of their misery.

So a much needed three points for us, but perhaps a wake-up call for Nagoya, who were disappointing to say the least. On Saturday we host Kawasucki Kawasaki in the first Tamagawa Classico of the season, and this win was hopefully the perfect tune-up for getting the river under control.

Up the Gas!

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