Competition: J.League Division 1
Date: Sunday, 4th April 2010 (16:00 kick off)
Venue: Todoroki Stadium
|CHONG 21', 61'||KONNO 90'|
MF TANIGUCHI (replaced by YOKOYAMA 90')
MF TASAKA (replaced by KIMURA 73')
FW KUROTSU (replaced by VITOR JUNIOR 85')
FW CHONG (yellow card 45')
Hmm... Nice big crowd. But not your average Tamagawa Classico. In fact, I'm still not 100% sure that was actually FC Tokyo playing in white.
Not wanting to be too respectful, but the Tokyo side I remember from last season was all about passion and commitment. They held onto possession well and pressed their opponents quickly and as a team.
Well, I'm not sure what's happened, but on Sunday they looked a shadow of their former selves (perhaps epitomised by the subdued performance of last year's standout player Naohiro Ishikawa). Their control and passing was loose and there was little urgency of any kind.
That's not to say Frontale were great. They started off still looking a little jaded from their midweek travels/travails. And for much of the first half they were as guilty as Tokyo of squandering possession.
HOWEVER, the second half was as one-sided a display as I've seen this year and only Chong Tese knows how he didn't bag at least a barrelful. A one-goal margin really doesn't reveal the true disparity between these two teams on the day.
Chong actually played very well. Having sat out Wednesday's ACL encounter he was certainly a bit fresher and his all-round link-up play was much improved. He had a decent chance to open the scoring after good work from Mori down the right. But his header was all wrong and the ball ended up bouncing tamely into the arms of Tokyo keeper Shuichi Gonda.
Still, it didn't take long for the Korean to atone for his earlier misdemeanor. Kurotsu sent in a cross from near the left corner flag which the Tokyo defence could only clear to the edge of the penalty area. From here an unmarked Chong controlled it off his chest before spanking a blistering volley into the top right corner. Punished!
But, as so often, Frontale immediately went off the boil, allowing their guests a 20-minute purple patch. Tokyo undoubtedly raised their game after going behind, but the hosts just seemed intent on hoofing long balls upfield, committing needless fouls and inviting the next wave of Tokyo pressure.
Naotake Hanyu and the fleetingly-impressive Sota Hirayama both bruised Eiji's woodwork. Hokuto Nakamura snatched at a couple of half chances. But that was as good as it got for the visitors.
After the break it was pretty much one-way traffic. Chong saw a header come back off the crossbar and Gonda made a clutch of fine saves. However, the young keeper (one of the heroes of the 2009 Nabisco Cup final) was at fault for Frontale's second.
Chong took his turn at a free-kick from just outside the box, aiming to send a "daisy cutter" below Tokyo's wall. It kind of went according to plan, bouncing its way underneath the leaping defenders, but there was no real venom in the shot. Still, Gonda must have seen it very late as he could only get a weak hand to the ball before it crossed the goal line.
Tokyo got their consolation goal deep into injury time. It's not often an Igawa/Terada centre-back pairing manages an entire game without a frantic goal-mouth scramble of some description, so it's fitting that this was how the goal came - Konno eventually driving the ball into the roof of the net. The final whistle went shortly after, leaving a rueful Igawa thumping the ground.
The important thing is the three points, though. Especially with Kashima (as ever, the team to beat) losing their first game of the season. Who'd have thought only 5 points would be dropped from the first 5 games (with or without Kengo and Juninho)? Not me!
Back on the road next week. Is this when the wheels fall off?