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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Can't Take A Trick

Been too long between posts again, but I'll try to bring you up to date on our last five games: three in the Cracker Cup and two in J1, where we now find ourselves in a bit of a rut after three straight losses. After the first of these games we were buzzing, but four games later we're scratching our heads about how we can turn things around...

Kashima 2-4 FC Tokyo

Nabisco Cup Group B Matchday 2

This was a game of two halves if ever there was one, as Kashima controlled the first half and deservedly took the lead, but after we equalized on the stroke of half time we went on to boss the second 45 minutes and strolled to victory thanks to three excellent finishes.

Yuichi Maruyama made his first start of the season for us at left back, and was culpable for the opening goal in the 28th minute when he tried to dribble out of defence, Yuya Osako nicked the ball away, and then smashed a narrow-angled finish high into the net past Hitoshi Shiota after taking Davi's pass in stride. We levelled it up in first half stoppage time when Kazuma Watanabe turned in Yuhei Tokunaga's blast from the edge of the box, and after Keigo Higashi's half time introduction for an ineffectual Hiroki Kawano we ran the second half, taking the lead in the 57th minute when Lucas took Higashi's pass, feinted clear of a defender and lashed past the keeper.

Twenty minutes later the moment we had been waiting for, Tadanari Lee's first goal for the club, arrived in some style when his intelligent run from deep was timed perfectly to meet Kosuke Ota's cross from the left, and he glanced a diving header home for 3-1. Just a minute later Davi pulled a goal back for them when Kenichi Kaga's slight touch to his close range shot took the ball out of Shiota's reach, but we saved the best til last with the icing on the cake etc in the 81st minute, when Lee's cut-back from the right was met superbly on the volley by Higashi for his first FC Tokyo goal.

Yokohama 3-2 FC Tokyo

J1 Matchday 4

This was brutal. No way we deserved to lose this, but Yokohama are top of the league for a reason, and they showed it in a superb game that see-sawed back and forth throughout. We took the lead in the 27th minute when the Ota-Lee hotline resumed service, Tadanari showing brilliant technique to volley home Kosuke's cross from the left.

We held the lead fairly comfortably through the end of the first half and the first 15 minutes of the second, before Yokohama got very fortunate with their equalizer, when Shunsuke Nakamura's deep free kick took a wicked deflection off Higashi in the wall and Shuichi Gonda tried to scramble across but couldn't get to the ball as it bounced into the net. In the 68th minute Yoshihito Fujita headed in a cross from the right to put F.Marinos ahead, and as the game entered the last ten minutes it didn't seem as if we'd be able to find a way back into it. That was until Aria Hasegawa led a counter attack from the centre circle in the 82nd minute, passed to Higashi and stepped over the return pass which ran to Watanabe, who finished past the keeper via a deflection off a defender.

Unfortunately for us there was a late sting in the tale in the 90th minute, when Fujita stayed just onside, took a pass from Shingo Hyodo and finished past Gonda and off the inside of the far post to win it for the hosts. Gutting.

FC Tokyo 0-0 Nagoya

Nabisco Cup Group B Matchday 3

Can't believe we didn't win this one either, even though our performance was well short of our best, and it felt like a defeat after we didn't take all three points when they were there on a plate at the end. With the last kick of the game Higashi should've won it, but he tried to be too cute from the penalty spot after Hayuma Tanaka handled a ball into the box, and his attempt at a panenka came back off the bar. After a brief scramble in the six yard box Higashi had the ball at his feet, but his off-balance shot ballooned over the bar, with the ref blowing for full time immediately after.

FC Tokyo 0-1 Omiya

J1 Matchday 5

For the second straight year this lot returned up to Saitama with all three points, but these are not your father's Omiya Ardija, as, full of confidence, they abandoned the blueprint and took us on from the opening kickoff. Riding a 15-game unbeaten streak, they kept the ball well, and though they were unable to create many clear cut chances in the first half, it was refreshing to see them come to play football, rather than stifle the game.

All that said, we had the better chances in the opening 45 minutes, and should have taken the lead two minutes before half time when Lucas' cross from the right found Watanabe, but Kazuma somehow directed his free header wide of the post. Puzzlingly (as against Yokohama), Lee was our first change, just eight minutes into the second half, but Omiya began to fashion the better chances, and we all breathed a sigh of relief when Zlatan shot wide on the turn in the 64th minute when it seemed certain he would score.

And then, in the 78th minute, he did. Kaga was adjudged to have fouled out by our right touchline, the free kick was swung over into the middle of the box, Gonda flapped at a punch after leaving his line too late, and Zlatan held off Hideto Takahashi, heading into the unguarded net. We threw on Hirotaka Mita and Nemanja Vucicevic immediately after, and went excrutiatingly close to an equalizer in the 88th minute when Ota crossed to the far post, Watanabe headed down but the keeper pushed the ball onto the post and a defender hacked it away. Much frustration.

Cerezo Osaka 2-1 FC Tokyo

Nabisco Cup Group B Matchday 4

I wasn't able to watch this game, but for the second time this season we returned from Osaka with an odd-goal loss. Hopefully things will turn out better when we return to face Gam... Oh wait. Yeah. Shiota replaced Gonda in goal, and Tokunaga and Lucas were rested, with Kaga starting at right back, Hideto Takahashi at centre back and Takuji Yonemoto and Aria in centre mid, while further forward Mita and Kawano started on the flanks.

Brilliant youngster Yoichiro Kakitani gave the hosts the lead 10 minutes into the second half, but Lee equalized for us just six minutes later. With 20 minutes left Fabio Simplicio made it 2-1 to Cerezo and we were unable to break through again, despite the introductions of Naohiro Ishikawa, back from injury, and Nema. Right at the death Cerezo sub Ryuji Bando made history, getting sent off for a second yellow card just four minutes after coming on, but though there was some amusement in that for us, a fourth straight game without a win has us searching for answers.

We slid to fourth in Group B, and we'll need to win our last two, away at Oita on the 23rd and then home against Niigata in mid-May, to progress to the quarter finals.

And that's our latest update done. I'll try and do a report after our league trip to Sendai this Saturday, and following that we host Nagoya on the 20th.

Up the Gas!

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