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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Catch Up Time

It's been almost a month, so in this post I'll briefly round-up the five league and two Cracker Cup games since the home win over Nagoya.

Oita 0-0 FC Tokyo

Nabisco Cup Group B Matchday 5

Move along, nothing to see here. Our third 0-0 of the group stage meant qualification for the quarter finals was taken out of our hands.

FC Tokyo 2-0 Kawasaki

J1 Matchday 8

We got the river under control! And in some style too, as we played Kawasucki off the park, driven on by another superb performance in centre mid from Takuji Yonemoto. We took the lead in the 22nd minute when Lucas fired home first time from the edge of the box, finishing off a precise passing move that began when Hideto Takahashi played the ball out to Yuhei Tokunaga and also involved Kazuma Watanabe, Keigo Higashi and Aria Hasegawa (who slightly miscontrolled into Lucas' path).

The second goal came in the 65th minute, and again Aria supplied the assist, this time a perfectly weighted through ball for Higashi, who took a touch to shift the ball onto his right boot and passed it through the 'keeper's legs and into the net.

The visitors never showed up, and we cruised through the last 25 minutes. River. Under. Control.

Tosu 2-3 FC Tokyo

J1 Matchday 9

We made it three straight league wins down in Kyushu, though it got a little hairy towards the end as we almost let a 3-0 lead slip. Higashi opened the scoring in the 28th minute with a goal straight from the training ground when Aria decided against crossing a free kick from just outside the box on the left and instead rolled the ball to Higashi in a more central area. Higashi shot low from 25 yards, and the ball snuck in at the 'keeper's near post.

Watanabe grabbed a quick-fire brace in the first four minutes of the second half, his first came on a counter when Higashi sent him away through the middle and he took the ball around the 'keeper before passing into the open net, and his second from a punt upfield by Shuichi Gonda, with Watanabe holding off a defender and dinking a shot that the 'keeper should've caught but only palmed over his head and into the net.

Tosu got one back when Yohei Toyoda converted a penalty in the 77th minute after a foul by Kenichi Kaga,  and as the game really opened up both teams hit the bar within a minute through Naohiro Ishikawa and Toyoda. In stoppage time Kota Mizunuma scored off a cutback from Toyoda but we hung on.

FC Tokyo 2-2 Iwata

J1 Matchday 10

Iwata had sacked their manager after the previous game, and they rolled-up to Aji Sta with longtime Tokyo coach Tetsu Nagasawa as their caretaker boss. And his charges certainly did the business for him in the first half, as they dominated and went in at halftime deservedly 2-0 up after Judas Inoha's header from a corner in the 29th minute and Yuki Kobayashi's emphatic finish five minutes from the break after he superbly controlled Yuichi Komano's cross.

We were clueless for the majority of the game, but it was the introduction of our three subs - firstly Tadanari Lee and Ishikawa in the 59th minute, and then Sota Hirayama 13 minutes later - which turned the game around. Just a minute after coming on Big Sota did brilliantly to cut the ball back from the byline on the left, and Ishikawa raced onto it and smashed through Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi's legs to give us hope.

After Lee had a header cleared off the line in stoppage time, Ishikawa crossed from the left, Hirayama and Kawaguchi jumped for the ball which ballooned into the air and ended up at the feet of Kosuke Ota. Ota played it across to Lee, who was in the right place at the right time to sweep the ball high into the net and earn us a point.

Shonan 3-2 FC Tokyo

J1 Matchday 11

On a horrible day weather-wise, our performance unfortunately matched the conditions, as promoted Bellmare played us off the park and fought back superbly from 2-1 down to claim just their second win of the season. While we were the architects of our own demise, with their equalizer and winner coming from our mishaps/mistakes, the fact that we only turned up for the first 15 minutes of the second half meant we could have no complaints.

Shonan took the lead in the 11th minute when midfielder Kaoru Takayama, and though we had a few half chances and near misses in the remainder of the first half they went in at halftime deservedly ahead. After presumably getting a rocket from the manager during the break we were noticeably better as the second half got going, and nine minutes after the restart Ota curled a free kick from the left through a ruck of players and inside the 'keeper's far post, and then three minutes later Watanabe stroked in a superb left-footed finish from the edge of the box to give us the lead.

Eight minutes later it all turned to shit when Takahashi controlled the ball but then slipped just inside our half and Kenji Baba raced away and chipped a delicious finish over Gonda to level it up. If we thought that was bad, there was worse to come when Aria took a Takahashi pass in a similar area of the park but was immediately dispossessed by Shonan captain Ryota Nagaki, who fired past Gonda to give them the lead again. We had brought the same three subs as the Iwata game on again, but in the last ten minutes we went Route 1 to little effect, a very disappinting loss.

FC Tokyo 2-1 Niigata

Nabisco Cup Group B Matchday 6

As this was our final game of the group stage ahead of our bye in Matchday 7, we knew we needed to win and rely on a lot of help on both of the final two matchdays to have any chance of going through to the quarter finals, but Kashima and Cerezo ended the suspense with late wins on the same evening.

With Masato Morishige rested for the first time this season, Aria Hasegawa captained us for the first time, but his night ended in just the 27th minute when he had to be replaced after injuring his right ankle. We expected Yonemoto to come on for him, but the manager took a punt and threw on Hiroki Kawano, with Sotan Tanabe shifting into the centre alongside Takahashi.

Niigata hit the bar in the first half, but we took the lead six minutes into the second half when Ishikawa smashed in first time from outside the box after Higashi's cut-back from the left, but Niigata equalized 14 minutes later with a header across Gonda. Youngster Hirotaka Mita scored the winner eight minutes from time, his first Tokyo goal a precise first-time finish into the roof of the net after a cross from the right from Tokunaga, but the win was in vain as Antlers and Cerezo sealed the two QF spots from Group B.

FC Tokyo 2-0 Shimizu

J1 Matchday 12

These had turned us over at home last season, scoring late on despite going down to nine men, but we got a measure of revenge on Saturday as we were indebted to their 'keeper Akihiro Hayashi for a couple of dreadful howlers. With Aria missing for the first time in this league campaign due to his ankle, Lee started behind Watanabe, with Higashi out on the left flank.

There wasn't a lot happening in the first half as we were stymied by their well-organized midfield, but the breakthrough came eight minutes into the second half when Higashi and Lucas tried to play a one-two down the right, the latter's return pass missed its target but rolled straight to Takahashi, who shot first-time from just inside the box. Takahashi didn't catch it flush but it zipped along the floor through defender Hiraoka's legs and then amazingly straight through Hayashi, who despite getting down in time allowed it to roll through his legs and into the net.

Three minutes later Gonda was called into action to tip Bare's back header out for a corner, and then in the 61st minute we couldn't believe our luck when Watanabe crossed from the left, Hayashi (perhaps slightly distracted by Lee's dart across the box) came out to punch when he really should've caught, and the ball bounced off Lucas's chest and into the unguarded net.

In the 64th minute Bare smashed a shot against the bar (but had already been flagged offside), but that was about all Shimizu could muster, as they managed only four shots over the course of the 90 minutes. An ultimately comfortable win that kept us seventh, with this Saturday's visit to Kashima the last league game before J1 takes a six week break.

Up the Gas!

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