It will come as little surprise to find Urawa Red Diamonds once again topping the attendance figures in J.League Division 1. An average crowd of 36,634 attended matches at the Saitama Stadium, and a 2012 season record 51,879 made their way to Midori-ku, the only time the 50,000 mark had been breached, buoyed in no small part by the final league match being played out against the backdrop of an AFC Champions League place being at stake against Nagoya Grampus. This was in essence a repeat of the 2011 season, when the J.League’s traditional final day ‘bounce’ combined with a title-deciding fixture against Kashiwa Reysol to bring in a crowd of 54,441. Despite a truly miserable year, Consadole Sapporo eked out a greater number of visitors to their home matches than both Omiya Ardija and Sagan Tosu, though it is notable that the latter’s first season in the top-flight of Japanese professional football drew a club record average to both the Best Amenity and Saga Stadiums.
FC Tokyo’s 1-0 loss to Chinese Super League giants Guangzhou Evergrande ended all J.League interest in the 2012 AFC Champions League, making it three tournaments in four in which Japanese teams have failed to progress beyond the Round of 16 since it was introduced in 2009.
Despite dominating possession, the Gas had fewer opportunities of note, Muriqui proving especially wasteful for the Southern China Tigers, and it wasn’t until the belated introduction of Hiroki Kawano that they were able to convert sustained possession into an attacking threat, his first touch a cross for Lucas which was headed against the woodwork. The transformation was almost instantaneous, and manager Ranko Popovic may reflect on how his side might have performed had he been allowed more than the 10 minutes in total he spent on the pitch.
The potent attacking line of Cleo, Miriqui and Gao Lin, with the Argentine midfielder Dario Conca assisting between the lines and new manager Marcello Lippi at the helm, will provide difficult opposition for most sides, particularly at the Tianhe Stadium, but the AFC must surely now revisit the Round of 16 and extend it to a standard two-leg stage, rather than the single elimination contest as it currently stands. The 2012 competition saw six of the eight group winners and subsequent home sides advancing to the quarter-finals, with just Bunyodkor winning away without the need for a penalty shootout, and making this 19 of 24 teams since 2010 who have won at home.
0 Min: Kashiwa Reysol are one of Japan’s two sole remaining participants in the 2012 AFC Champions League following Nagoya Grampus’ exit in the Round of 16 stage yesterday. The Sun Kings travel to the Big Crown to take on Ulsan Hyundai, unbeaten winners in Group F and the only side to defeat FC Tokyo at the group stage, running out 1-0 winners in the battle for group supremacy on Matchday Six.
Reysol, meanwhile, lost two of their three away games, their inconsistency in this competition mirroring their form in the J.League, and progress was only secured courtesy of their first win on their travels in Korea against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Reysol will be aiming to better the record of Japanese teams meeting K-League sides at this stage of the competition. Since the Round of 16 was introduced in 2009, five of six have been won by teams from the Land of the Morning Calm.
Former Gamba and Cerezo Osaka midfielder Akihiro Ienaga, who also spent some time at Oita Trinita before his move to Spanish side RCD Mallorca, is on the bench for the Horangi. The 25-year old midfielder moved to Ulsan for the 2012 season on loan.
0 Min: Ulsan Hyundai – Kim S-G; Lee J-S, Kang M-S, Kwak T-H; Lee H, Kim S-Y, Kim Y-S, Go S-K, Juan Velez; Kim S-W, Lee K-H
Substitutes – Kim Y-K; Choi J-S, Kang J-O; Kim D-S, Park S-I, Ienaga; Maranhao
0 Min: Kashiwa Reysol – Sugeno; Kondo, Sakai, Masushima, Nasu; Otani, Leandro Domingues, Jorge Wagner, Kurisawa; Tanaka, Kudo
Substitutes – Inada; Hashimoto, Fujita; Sawa, An Y-K, Barada; Hayashi
0 Min: We’re about six minutes from kick-off at a practically empty Big Crown, a very disappointing turnout for what is deemed to be Asia’s premier club tournament. While the skies in Ulsan are overcast, temperatures of 18 degrees and light winds provide almost ideal playing conditions for football.
0 Min: The players are on the pitch, and it will be Ulsan to get this tie going. Ulsan are in blue, Reysol in their standard yellow kit.
2 Min: Lee Keun-Ho breaks down the left wing as a Tatsuya Masushima long throw is cleared, and Kim Shun-Wook turns inside Daisuke Nasu. His touch is too strong, and Reysol are able to recover.
4 Mins: Leandro Domingues bursts past three players in midfield before Kang Min-Soo brings his run to an end for a throw.
6 Mins: Wagner wins the ball on halfway from a dallying Kwak Tae-Kwi, and is free on the left. He makes the shooting angle more difficult for himself as he takes the ball to the edge of the area, and it’s an easy take for Kim Seung-Gyu.
8 Mins: Kwak Tae-Hwi takes a free kick long downfield, aiming for Kim Shin-Wook. The striker meets the ball, and under pressure from Naoya Kondo, Lee Keun-Ho lifts his effort over Sugeno but inches over the crossbar.
9 Mins: Ryoichi Kurisawa finds Junya Tanaka twenty yards from goal, who lays off to Domingues. He turns and fires a snap-shot straight at Kim Seung-Gyu.
11 Mins: A good pass from Hidekazu Otani to Tanaka sees the forward clipped, and the official blows for the offence. He may have played the advantage with Sakai loitering on the right.
12 Mins: A lovely set piece from Domingues finds Kudo, but he can’t crane his neck enough to direct his header on target.
15 Mins: Beyond the opportunity offered to Lee Keun-Ho, it’s a promising first quarter of an hour for Reysol, alert in defence and matching the Horangi in midfield. Certainly they are appear technically the better side to this point.
17 Mins: A second long free-kick from Kwak Tae-Hwi is won in the air by the home side, but Reysol clear following-up.
18 Mins: A cross from the left is delivered by Kang Min-Soo, flicked on by Kim Shin-Wook and Lee Keun-Ho is in on goal. It’s a superb save from Takanori Sugeno, who is as big as possible in the Reysol goal to stop Lee volleying home from point blank range.
20 Mins: The one deficiency Reysol suffer from is an inability to deal with a direct approach and under an aerial threat. Ulsan are attempting to exploit this as often as possible, Kim Shin-Wook winning most headers inside the Sun Kings’ penalty area.
21 Mins: Hiroki Sakai goes into the book.
22 Mins: Mid-way through the opening period, it’s Ulsan Hyundai 0 Kashiwa Reysol 0.
24 Mins: Reysol have begun to struggle after a fairly positive first 15 minutes, Leandro Domingues embarking on another mazy run but with little support and no passing options he is tackled. Lee Keun-Ho then has his shirt pulled by Naoya Kondo, a giving away a free-kick in an advantageous position for Ulsan.
25 Mins: The free-kick is bent to Kim Shin-Wook, who wins the ball easily again, but his header is safely into the arms of Takanori Sugeno.
28 Mins: Juan Velez is winning most of the possession in midfield. Otani and in particular Domingues need to make more of an impression in the tackle.
32 Mins: A cross is met by Lee Keun-Ho this time, but his flick on is gathered by Sugeno before Kim Shin-Wook can shoot.
33 Mins: Jorge Wanger is incredibly wasteful on a rare foray into the Ulsan half. He has two players in space to pass two around the Horangi’s penalty area, but finds neither. The ball is returned to him, but he then attempts a flick which fails to come off and Ulsan can bring the ball out of defence.
36 Mins: Facing away from goal and attempting to control a Lee Ho throughball on his chest, Naoya Kondo is climbing over the back of Lee Keun-Ho, and Ulsan have a free-kick just twenty yards from goal.
36 Mins: Kwak Tae-Hwi awaits, but slams his shot into the face of Hideakazu Otani in the Reysol wall, who stays down for some treatment after being poleaxed by the strike.
41 Mins: Ulsan have a further chance to take the lead. Yet another long ball out of defence causes Reysol problems. It’s missed by Kim Shin-Wook, but Sakai leaves Kim Seung-Yong unattended at the back post, and running on to the bouncing ball he powers his header over the net.
43 Mins: Lee Keun-Ho is down near halfway, crumpling under a challenge from Hidekazu Otani. The official doesn’t signal for any offence, and Keun-Ho is on his feet after a minute or so.
45 Mins: Two minutes of added time to be played at the end of a first period in which Ulsan have dominated and should be leading.
45 Mins+2: The time added on passes without incident.
HT: Ulsan Hyundai 0 Kashiwa Reysol 0
HT: Manager Nelsinho has a number of issues to resolve are Reysol to progress to the quarter-finals. Wagner, wasteful in possession, is providing little protection in midfield and to his left-back being constantly drawn into the centre of midfield and allowing Lee Keun-Ho almost free reign on the right. Reysol also show few signs of having equipped themselves adequately to deal with crosses, Kim Shin-Wook winning headers at will for his forward partner.
HT: No changes to report for either side as the players return to the field. Can Reysol find a way of neutralising Kim Shin-Wook’s aerial presence in this second period?
46 Mins: Domingues and Tanaka get the second half going.
47 Mins: Domingues crosses along the six yard box, but it’s fractionally too strong for Kudo to control and shoot.
48 Mins: CROSSBAR! Ulsan first hit the crossbar and then Sugeno makes an excellent stop on the line. Masushima can only head backwards in attempting to clear a cross, and it falls to Go Seul-Ki, who shoots across Naoya Kondo, hitting the underside of the crossbar and bouncing out. Kim Shin-Wook tries to head into the net from the rebound, but Sugeno reacts quickly to beat the ball away.
49 Mins: Wagner’s cross can’t find a Kashiwa Reysol foot to turn an excellent low delivery into the net.
51 Mins: Sakai protests at being penalised for a challenge on Lee Keun-Ho near the Reysol goalline, but it’s definitely an infringement. The official spots an offence as the free-kick is struck, and Reysol can clear.
55 Mins: GOAL! They have been threatening all match, and Kim Shin-Wook gives Ulsan Hyundai a deserved lead, but it comes as a result of quite dreadful Reysol defending. Otani misplaces a pass which Lee Keun-Ho intercepts on the edge of the Sun Kings eighteen yard box, and he floats a cross for an entirely unmarked Kim Shin-Wook to head home, Masushima and Kondo either side of the striker but neither challenging for the header.
55 Mins: Ulsan Hyundai 1 Kashiwa Reysol 0
57 Mins: With Reysol now forced onto the offensive, a swerving shot from Naoya Kondo is only inches away from the right upright from twenty yards.
59 Mins: Domingues is shown a yellow card, first penalised for some tugging of the shirt on Velez, and then shown a reaction to some words which came his way from the Ulsan midfielder.
61 Mins: So, so close to an equaliser for Reysol. Tanaka turns superbly inside the penalty area, and manages to find a cross which is just too far from Leandro Domingues’ outstretched boot four yards from goal. Reysol have been transformed since they went behind.
64 Mins: A foul on Kim Shin-Wook on forty yards allows Ulsan some breathing space. Kim wins the subsequent header, but it doesn’t bother Sugeno, bouncing well off target.
65 Mins: Junya Tanaka must score. And doesn’t. Onside in the penalty area from Domingues pass, he beats the onrushing Kim Seung-Gye, but then can’t beat Lee Jae-Seong who clears off the goalline. The scores should be level.
66 Mins: Maranhao replaces Kim Seung-Yong in the first substitution of the contest.
67 Mins: GOAL! Reysol have been the better since the goal, if certainly not the match, and he heads home a Tatsuya Masushima long throw into the right corner of the net.
67 Mins: Ulsan Hyundai 1 Kashiwa Reysol 1
69 Mins: Jorge Wagner then sees a raking effort pushes wide by Kim Seung-Gyu, the corner wasted as the referee spots some pushing in the penalty area.
70 Mins: GOAL! A body blow for Kashiwa Reysol. Naoya Kondo tries to divert Lee Ho’s low cross behind for a goal kick, but it’s rolling over the line as Sugeno dives to stop its momentum. The Reysol players are furious, and the camera angles aren’t helpful from the replays, but it looks like the ball may have crossed the line. The Sun Kings need to reply all over again.
70 Mins: Ulsan Hyundai 2 Kashiwa Reysol 1
75 Mins: An unnecessary challenge from Leandro Domingues on goalkeeper Kim under a ball he was never going to win sees the Ulsan stopper require some treatment.
76 Mins: Just under fifteen minutes left to play. Can Reysol find a second equaliser to force this game into extra-time?
77 Mins: Hidekazu Otani has played his last with Masakatsu Sawa entering the fray.
78 Mins: Junya Tanaka takes the wrong option, shooting from 20 yards straight at Kim Seung-Gyu as Sawa was free inside the penalty area.
78 Mins: Tanaka landed on Lee Ho’s ankle as returned to the turf from his shot, and he sees in a great deal of pain as he is removed from the field on a stretcher.
80 Mins: As we enter the last ten minutes, all the pressure is from Reysol. Masukawa has a long throw headed away, Wagner shooting first-time on the rebound, and deflected behind for a corner.
83 Mins: Lee Keun-Ho, who has spurned a number of chances to score, is put through one-on-one with Sugeno, and should score, but the goalkeeper claims the ball at the forward’s feet. Reysol are still in this, just.
85 Mins: Sawa should score the second for Reysol, but can’t force the ball past Kim Young-Sam who blocks. A lovely short pass from Tanaka allowed Domingues to shoot, which Kim Seung-Gyu manages to push just behind Masato Kudo following up. Sawa can’t find the finish.
88 Mins: GOAL! Game over. A pass from Go Seul-Ki is met with a lovely flick from Kim Shin-Wook, and Lee Keun-Ho is finally able to finish with a volley into the bottom left corner.
88 Mins: Ulsan Hyundai 3 Kashiwa Reysol 1
90 Mins: There will be four additional minutes to play. Three successive efforts from Reysol are all cleared away.
90 Mins+2: GOAL! Junya Tanaka thunders a strike into the top left corner from a very tight ankle, after good work from Leandro Domingues with his back to goal and a fine pass from Sawa to find the Brazilian. Some hope for the Sun Kings.
90 Mins+2: Ulsan Hyundai 3 Kashiwa Reysol 2
90 Mins+4: It’s just not enough for Reysol. Referee blows his whistle for full-time, and it’s all over at the Big Crown.
FT: Ulsan Hyundai 3 Kashiwa Reysol 2
FT: There might be some controversy over the second Ulsan goal, and there will be some debate as to whether the ball fully crossed the line, but it took Reysol to go behind before they were able to rouse themselves for this contest. Both sides spurned a number of opportunities in front of goal, but there’s little doubt as to which team deserved to win the contest on merit. Manager Nelsinho now faces the same task as that awaiting Dragan Stojkovic, finding away of lifting his team away from the bottom half of the table and then attempting to qualify for the 2013 competition.
FT: I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s coverage. You’ll find a full match report on Football Japan later today.
Crucial failings in front of goal cost FC Tokyo victory both in this AFC Champions League match and in Group F, as an otherwise dominant performance was marred by a 37th minute Ulsan Hyundai goal which ceded home advantage in the Round of 16 to the South Korean side. The Gas now face the daunting prospect of a trip to the Tianhe Stadium where they will play the Chinese Super League giants Guangzhou Evergrande on 30 May for a place in the quarter-finals.
Fourteen shots to the opposition’s eight merely hinted at the J.League side’s control of this match, twice finding the woodwork and frequently foundering in excellent attacking positions. As early as the twelfth minute the Gas should have taken the lead, Hideto Takahashi’s rifled shot cannoning back off the right upright for Kazuma Watanabe to follow-up, but he could only send the rebound wide of the post with the goal gaping. Midway through the first period Jang Hyun-Soo had the Ulsan goal at his mercy, but somehow contrived to put the most straightforward of headers beyond the left post after a lovely hanging cross to the backpost from Tatsuya Yazawa.
With both sides opting to utilise a 4-2-3-1 formation, the early battle to establish authority in the midfield was crucial, and it was FC Tokyo who were in the ascendancy for all bar 15 minutes of this contest. Takuji Yonemoto and Aria Hasegawa, ably assisted by an outstanding performance in defence from Matsato Morishige, established a bulwark against which most Ulsan attacks distintegrated, their opposite numbers Go Seul-Ki and Julian Esteven Velez rarely able to find an outlet via their attacking midfield triumvurate of Kim Seung-Yong, Kim Dong-Suk and Lee Keun-Ho, leaving the Tokyo Verdy loanee Maranhao cutting a forlorn figure in attack.
However, it was the Horangi who would capitalise on their one clear goalscoring opportunity in the first period, and one which would subsequently deny FC Tokyo the point they needed to meet Kashiwa Reysol at the Ajinmoto Stadium. Despite loud and rancorous protests from manager Ranko Popovic, Yuhei Tokunaga’s challenge on Maranhao was certainly illegal, and positioned five yards outside and right of centre in the penalty area, provided an opening to either test Hitoshi Shiota directly or direct the ball to one of a host of waiting Ulsan players. Go Seul-Ki opted for the latter, drifting a cross to the back post that Kwak Tae-Hwi headed goalwards. Shiota saved, pushing the ball across his own goal, and while Maranhao’s diving headed came back off the crossbar, the Gas simply couldn’t clear and eventually Kang Min-Soo placed the ball into the empty net under the body of a diving Hideto Takahashi.
The story of the second half mirrored that of the first, the Gas contuinuing to create but unable to display the same sort of finesse which had taken them to twelve goals in the five previous group games. Yazawa, Hasegawa and substitutes Lucas and Kajiyama all came close to finding an equaliser, the latter’s left-footed swipe from distance finding the wrong side of the woodwork late on.
Despite the defeat Ranko Popovic should certainly consider his side’s debut season in the AFC Champions League an already unqualified success, not just in obtaining a berth in the latter stages of the tournament, but for the way in which he has given younger talents in the squad an opportunity to shine and who have almost without exception risen to the challenge. In a first-half cameo the 22-year old Hiroki Kawano sparkled, adding to notable appearances from Naotake Hanyu, Jang and Takuji Yonemoto across the group stage of the competition. While a one-off game against the Southern China Tigers could prove the insurmountable step in this year’s tournament, a domestic league which looks to be headed for a tight finish with a third of the matches completed provides the ideal opportunity for the Gas to complete qualification for the 2013 event.
|Ulsan Hyundai||FC Tokyo|
(The only blemish on FC Tokyo’s otherwise unbeaten qualification record for the knockout stage of the AFC Champions League may prove to be the most costly, as Ulsan Hyundai capitalised on one of their very few chances to beat the Gas 1-0 top Group F, and with it ensure the J.League side will travel to China to play Guangzhou Evergrande on 30 May. The Horangi will welcome Kashiwa Reysol to the Big Crown on the same date, where the Sun Kings will be looking to book a berth in the Autumn’s quarter-finals)
FC Tokyo were made to rue their profligacy at the Big Crown Stadium, as Ulsan Hyundai scored the only goal of a game which decided the victors of Group F, and leaves the Gas with an uncomfortable trip to the Tianhe Stadium on 30 May to face Chinese Super League giants Guangzhou Evergrande in the Round of 16.
Ranko Popovic’s side were dominant throughout and created a number of excellence opportunities, but it is the Horangi who earned the right to meet reigning J.League champions Kashiwa Reysol at home via a 37th minute Kang Min-Soo goal which came entirely against the run of play.
Kang Min-Soo 37′
0 Min: FC Tokyo’s final Group F game versus Ulsan Hyundai will decide who of the Gas and Horangi emerge as group winners and benefit from a home fixture in the next round of the AFC Champions League. The Big Crown is the venue for a match in which the visitors only need take a point to top the table on Matchday Six, and should they do so they will face fellow J.League side Kashiwa Reysol in the Round of 16.
Ulsan, doubtless wary of a difficult trip to China against Super League giants Guangzhou Evergrande, will be sure to push for the victory which will give them the home fixture against a struggling Sun Kings side. Both sides have enjoyed a good start to their respective domestic campaigns, Ulsan being the K-League’s fourth-placed team and only two points behind leaders Suwon Samsung Bluewings, while back-to-back top-flight victories for the Gas has seen them rise to sixth in the table with a game in hand.
I’ll be bringing you team news very shortly for what should prove to be a fascinating fixture.
0 Min: Ulsan Hyundai – Kim Young-Kwang; Lee Jae-Seong, Kang Min-Soo, Kwak Tae-Hwi, Kim Young-Sam; Kim Dong-Suk, Go Seul-Ki, Julian Estiven Velez; Maranhao, Lee Keun-Ho, Kim Seung-Yong
Substitutes – Kim Seung-Gyu; Choi Jae-Soo, Kang Jin-Wook; Lee Ho, Park Seung-Il, Choi Jin-Soo, Kim Shin-Wook
0 Min: FC Tokyo – Shiota; Jang, Tokunaga, Morishige, Mukuhara; Takahashi, Yonemoto, Hasegawa, Kawano, Yazawa; Watanabe
Substitutes – Gonda; Nakamura, Maruyama; Kajiyama; Hayashi, Shigematsu, Lucas
0 Min: It is a very, very small crowd at the Big Crown Stadium. The football on offer should hopefully prove diverting for the few thousand who have shown up this evening for a match which will be overseen by Saudi Arabia’s Khalil Al Ghamdi.
0 Min: We’re about a minute away from kick-off, and it’s Ulsan Hundai who will get the final match in Group F underway.
1 Min: And at exactly 11:30 BST/19:30 JST, Khalil Al Ghamdi blows his whistle to start this contest.
2 Mins: An early corner for Ulsan to be taken by Kim Seung-Yong, which is straight into Shiota’s hands.
4 Mins: Some early pressure from the Gas, but a ball from Takuji Yonemoto intended for Aria Hasegawa in the penalty area is overhit and is behind for a goal kick, which Kim Young-Kwang takes.
6 Mins: Kim Seung-Yong has a free-kick on the left hand-side near halfway, and his long ball is headed away by Masato Morishige with Yuhei Tokunaga completing the clearance.
7 Mins: A very early booking for Kim Young-Sam.
9 Mins: The first shot on target from Kazuma Watanabe after a neat pass from Aria Hasegawa, but his low effort is only directed at Kim Young-Kwang.
11 Mins: A painful boot in the back of Lee Keun-Ho from Yuhei Tokunaga allows Kim Seung-Yong another set piece. His cross from 40 yards is met by Lee Jae-Seong, but it’s wide of Hitoshi Shiota’s left upright.
12 Mins: POST! Hideto Takahashi rifles a shot from 22 yards which beats Kim Young-Kwang’s dive but smacks against the inside of the left upright, and following up Watanabe can only send the rebound wide of the opposite post.
16 Mins: Dominant performance thus far from the Gas, a lovely ball angled cross-field ball from Kenta Mukuhara finding Hiroki Kawano in plenty of space on the right, but his cross flashes across the penalty spot with no FC Tokyo player near.
19 Mins: Kim Seung-Young heads Kim Song-Guk’s cross several feet wide of Hitoshi Shiota’s goal.
20 Mins: A superb clearance from Kim Young-Kwang is into the feet of Lee Keun-Ho, but his chipped pass for Maranhao is too heavy and Shiota is off his line to gather.
22 Mins: Referee Al Ghamdi wanders over to have a word with Ranko Popovic.
23 Mins: Hiroki Kawano cuts inside centre-back Lee Jae-Seong onto his left foot, Kenta Mukuhara cleverly pulling away to take an Ulsan defender with him, but his 20-yard effort is over Kim’s crossbar.
23 Mins: Midway through the first period, it’s Ulsan Hyundai 0 FC Tokyo 0.
26 Mins: Tatsuya Yazawa forces Young-Kwang into making a save. His effort from the edge of the 18-yard box is rising and the goalkeeper is required to push it over the crossbar.
27 Mins: The corner from the left is taken short by Tatsuya Yazawa to Hideto Takahashi, who immediately returns the ball to him. His lovely hanging cross into the six yard area should be finished by Jang Hyun-Soo at the back post. He somehow contrives to put his header wide, however, and the chance is lost.
31 Mins: Kim Dong-Suk nutmegs Takuji Yonemoto in midfield, and drives left-footed beyond the right post.
33 Mins: FC Tokyo playing the ball around in midfield, searching for an opening, eventually playing the ball out to the right for Yazawa. He crosses, but Kawano is unable to control his shot and it’s sliced wide.
35 Mins: Maranhao wins himself a free-kick under a challenge from Yuhei Tokunaga. It’s definitely an infringement, despite the protestations of Popovic. Five yards outside the penalty box and to the right, it’s in a good position to test the Gas defence.
37 Mins: GOAL! Go Seul-Ki drifts a cross to the back post which is headed goalwards by Kwak Tae-Hwi. Shiota saves but can only push the ball across his area, and Maranhao’s diving header then thuds against the crossbar. FC Tokyo just can’t clear, and defender Kang Min-Soo places the ball into the empty net under the body of Hideto Takahashi.
37 Mins: Ulsan Hyundai 1 FC Tokyo 0
40 Mins: The current scoreline would mean a trip to Guangzhou for the Gas.
42 Mins: Since the goal, Ulsan have been the stronger side.
44 Mins: There will be plenty to think about for Ranko Popovic at half-time. Ulsan are now sitting deeper and defending in numbers, a nominal 4-3-3 now reverting to a 4-5-1.
45 Mins: Hideto Takahashi volleys narrowly wide from distance. There will be one minute of added time to play.
45 Mins+1: Al Ghamdi brings the first period to a close.
HT: Ulsan Hyundai 1 FC Tokyo 0
HT: Kazuma Watanabe and Jang Hyun-Soo both failed to convert excellent chances for FC Tokyo in the first period, and were made to pay by an Ulsan side who had to that that point been outplayed by the away team. Should the scoreline remain the same for any significant amount of time in the second half, I would expect to see Yohei Kajiyama and Lucas take to the field.
46 Mins: Ulsan Hyundai have made one change at the interval, Kim Shin-Wook coming on.
46 Mins: In action in the second-half, FC Tokyo searching for a goal which would give them a crucial home tie in the Round of 16.
47 Mins: A free-kick for the Gas to the left of Ulsan’s penalty area. Tatsuya Yazawa will take, five yards in from the left touchline.
47 Mins: it’s curled into the area but too close to Kim Young-Kwang, who punches well clear of his penalty box.
49 Mins: Jang Hyun-Soo advances from a right-back position and lays off to Takuji Yonemoto, but he gives up the ball too easily.
50 Mins: And the first change is made by FC Tokyo, Yohei Kajiyama entering play at the expense of Hiroki Kawano.
50 Mins: Aria Hasegawa is deemed to have been pushed by Go Seul-Ki, and he is fortunate to win a free-kick in a dangerous area. It’s in the opposite position to that on 47 minutes, five yards in from the right touchline, which Yazawa will again take.
51 Mins: A solid header from Kang Min-Soo earns the Gas a throw-in deep in the Ulsan half, which comes to naught.
53 Mins: Jang Hyun-Soo fails to read a Tatsuya Yazawa back-heel on the right wing, and in attempting to challenge Maranhao, brings down the forward.
57 Mins: Twice Ulsan have nearly caught FC Tokyo on the counter-attack, and there has been worrying little sight of goal for the away team.
60 Mins: Takuji Yonemoto wins the ball strongly on the right, and feeds Tatsuya Yazawa. He steadies himself, and his shot on 22 yards is swerving away from Young-Kwang who makes a very good save diving to his left, with no FC Tokyo player able to follow-up as he grasps the ball at the second attempt.
62 Mins: Excellent close control from Yohei Kajiyama enables him to draw a foul from Maranhao, 26 yards from goal in a central position. Can the Gas find the equaliser?
64 Mins: Morishige and Yazawa are over the ball, three FC Tokyo players joining the wall, but as Morishige attempts to bend the ball over the line of players it’s headed out for a corner.
65 Mins: Yazawa’s driven cross is flicked across by Hasegawa but away from the penalty area, and Ulsan break down the right. Tatsuya Yazawa then gives away a free-kick, running into the back of Maranhao.
66 Mins: Kim Dong-Suk whips his cross into the penalty area, but Morishige is on hand to head out for a throw.
67 Mins: Hideto Takahashi gives away a further free-kick, and it’s almost exactly The same position from which Ulsan scored their first goal. Gim Dong-Suk floats the ball over, and Shiota jumps to catch.
67 Mins: Into the final quarter of this match, it’s Ulsan Hyundai 1 FC Tokyo 0.
68 Mins: Lucas is now being introduced in favour of Tatsuya Yazawa.
69 Mins: Lucas will be defending first of all, as Kim Dong-Suk sends a corner to the back post. It’s headed across goal, but Shiota claims the ball above the head of Maranhao.
72 Mins: Good play involving Lucas who acts as a pivot in midfield, twice laying off with one touch passes which eventually find Yohei Kajiyama. His cross is a little too high, however, and Ulsan eventually clear. Better from FC Tokyo.
73 Mins: An instinctive, looping header from Kim Shin-Wook after good play from Lee Keun-Ho is only just over Shiota’s crossbar.
73 Mins: And that’s the last of the action for Kim Dong-Suk, who is replaced by Lee Ho.
75 Mins: With 15 minutes left to play, it’s Ulsan Hyundai 1 FC Tokyo 0.
77 Mins: So close for Aria Hasegawa, a very smart stop from Kim Young-Gwang preventing his first-time effort passing to his left. It was a lovely move from the Gas, who have been a much-improved team since Lucas entered the fray.
78 Mins: Final change for Ulsan Hyundai, Choi Jae-Soo is replacing Maranhao. A very defensive change for the Horangi.
80 Mins: The last ten minutes of the group stage for FC Tokyo. Is there an equaliser in this match, or will they be made to regret several missed chances?
81 Mins: There’s a break in play as Jang Hyun-Soo goes over the legs of Kim Young-Sam, but he’s quickly to his feet.
82 Mins: Yohei Hayashi will be the final player to be introduced into play when there is a stoppage.
83 Mins: A corner for the Gas. Jang Hyun-Soo plays the ball off Choi Jae-Soo, and that’s the last action for the right-back as he comes off for Hayashi.
84 Mins: Kajiyama’s corner is easily cleared, and Lucas then fires well over the crossbar from long range.
86 Mins: Hayashi breaks clear of Jae-Soo on the right goal-line and the defender pulls him back to concede a free-kick, four yards to the right of the penalty area and level with the goalposts.
87 Mins: POST! It looks like it won’t be FC Tokyo’s night. The ball bobbles around the penalty area, and then a left-footed swipe from Kajiyama hits the outside of the woodwork.
90 Mins: Just three minutes added on.
90 Mins+2: A final chance for FC Tokyo, but Mukuhara is forced backwards outside the area. Lucas and Yonemoto exchange passes outside the penalty area, and Lucas drives but his effort is weak and easily saved by Kim. That’s the last action of the match.
90 Mins+3: Lucas’s shot is the final action of this encounter, as Al Ghamdi blows for full-time.
FT: Ulsan Hyundai 1 FC Tokyo 0.
FT: The Gas now must travel to China for a hugely difficult encounter at the Tianhe Stadium on 30 May against Guangzhou Evergrande in the Round of 16. This was a match from which they could easily have taken three points, but failed to put away a number of chances, and combined with an excellent performance from Kim Young-Kwang in the Ulsan goal, condemned them to second place in Group F.
FT: Thank you for joining me. A full match report will follow on 18 May.
The Big Crown Stadium is the backdrop for FC Tokyo’s sole remaining Group F match, Ulsan Hyundai providing the opposition in a contest from which the Gas need take only a point to finish as group winners.
Should FC Tokyo end Matchday Six sitting at the top of Group F, they will set up a Round of 16 tie at home against Kashiwa Reysol, while defeat will spell a trip to China and a visit to the Tianhe Stadium to play Guangzhou Evergrande.
Join me from 11:00 BST/19:00 JST for team news and the build-up to the match, and from 11:30 BST/19:30 JST for kick-off for a contest which will decide the fate of four teams in the latter stages of the 2012 AFC Champions League.
(Extended highlights of Albirex Niigata versus FC Tokyo at the Tohoku Denryoku Big Swan Stadium. The Gas won the Matchday Ten contest 2-0, which condemned Albi to their sixth J.League Division One defeat in only ten matches)
FC Tokyo struck twice in the second half to send struggling Albirex Niigata to a defeat which leaves them lingering in Division One’s bottom three, and Albi were a shadow of the side which was so unfortunate to take any points off Vegalta Sendai and surprised Sanfrecce at the Hiroshima Big Arch in their most recent J.League fixtures. Manager Hisashi Kurosaki was left to ponder two particularly pressing issues from this match, the first being that while his team’s defensive record is only bettered by four other teams, all of whom sit in the top five in the division, they have only managed to find the net an average of just once in every two games. They never looked like adding to that tally despite forward Bruno Lopes returning to the starting line-up having serving a one-match ban, attempting a paltry three shots in total. Equally as troubling is that FC Tokyo weren’t required to raise the level of their performance beyond merely competent to leave with the victory, and Kurosaki, the former Albirex player, will need to find a way of addressing these problems quickly if they are to avoid the prospect of a relegation battle later in the year.
The visitors were in control from the opening moments of the game, Tatsuya Yazawa and Yohei Kajiyama both shooting a yard wide of Masaaki Higashiguchi’s right upright in the very early stages, and ten minutes had passed when Yazawa stung the Albi goalkeeper’s palms with a drive from outside the penalty area.
The attacking midfield trio of Yazawa, Kajiyama and Kanyu, supporting the lone forward Lucas, were finding space between the banks of four deployed by Kurosaki, but it was Albirex who nearly took the lead against the run of play midway through the first period. Atomu Tanaka delivered a pass to Bruno Lopes, whose leggy run took him inside the FC Tokyo 18-yard box before being tackled by Yuhei Tokunaga. Tanaka recovered possession, and attempting to drive past Kenta Mukuhara, he cracked a left-footed shot which deflected off the central defender’s foot, sadly for the 24-year old midfielder finding the wrong side of the right-hand post.
The remainder of the opening 45 minutes was readily forgettable, as Albirex brought their defensive and midfield lines closer together, strangling the Gas’s attacking outlets and isolating Lucas in particular. Thee Brazilian forward cut a frustrating figure at times and let himself down with a number of poor touches and awry distribution when trying to hold up play. The highlight of an otherwise drab period came three minutes before the interval, and it was Albirex who came close to breaking the deadlock. A rare error from the otherwise excellent Yuhei Tokunaga in failing to connect cleanly with a clearance allowed Jun Uchida to fire a low cross along the six-yard area, but Atomu Tanaka couldn’t adjust his feet in time to turn the ball home.
Three minutes after the restart, FC Tokyo gave warning of their attacking intentions, and it was one which the hosts failed to heed. With the typically metronomic Aria Hasegawa taking a position slightly higher up the field, Lucas, Hanyu and the Iranian-Japanese midfielder were all involved in the move which led to Lucas crossing, the ball slightly too high for Yazawa to head goalwards.
The guests were in front shortly after. Hasegawa won a challenge superbly midway inside Albirex territory, Kenta Mukuhara advancing with the loose ball and exchanging passes with Lucas before flighting a cross to Yohei Kajiyama. Kajiyama swivelled and volleyed first-time into the bottom left corner, and the goal set his team on the way to their fourth win in five on their travels.
With the Gas dominating possession and territory, Kajiyama found the woodwork on 58 minutes, and the second goal arrived with 19 minutes of normal time remaining, owing much to a succession of errors by the Albirex defence. First, substitute Kisho Yano appeared to handle the ball within the home side’s 18-yard box, but while referee Nobutsugu Murakami waved away Lucas’s appeals for a penalty, Yusuke Murakami’s attempted clearance cannoned off Daisuke Suzuki’s ankles, and presented Tatsuya Yazawa with the opportunity to roll the ball to Higashiguchi’s right for his first goal of the season.
There were no further changes to the scoreline, continuing FC Tokyo’s successful start to the 2012 campaign. They now sit in eighth place in the league with one game less played than any team above them, and a victory would enable the Gas to leapfrog several sides into the top four. Manager Ranko Popović now turns his attention to Saturday’s trip to the Sapporo Dome, where they face a Consadole team very low on confidence and points and holding the second worst defensive record in J1, and he will be confident of obtaining a further positive result.
|Albirex Niigata||FC Tokyo|
0 Min: Welcome to today’s live-blog, featuring a match which pits Albirex Niigata versus FC Tokyo at the Tohoku Denryoku Big Swan Stadium. Albirex surprised potential championship contenders Sanfrecce at the Hiroshima Big Arch on Matchday Nine with a 1-0 win and were desperately unfortunate to lose at the Yurtec Stadium against league leaders Vegalta Sendai a few days previously, and they will be aiming for a further positive showing to lift them out of a three-way tie for fifteenth place as the table currently stands.
The Gas, meanwhile, were in AFC Champions League action in mid-week and ensured their progress into the Round of 16 with a 4-2 victory at the National Olympic Stadium over Brisbane Roar. Three points today would lift Ranko Popović’s side into the top half of the table, three points off the top four with a game in a hand.
I’ll have team news for you very shortly.
0 Min: Albirex Niigata – Higashiguchi; Uchida, Suzuki, Ishikawa, Kim; Kikuchi, Homma, Mikado, Tanaka; Lopes, Michael
Substitutes – Ozawa; Oi, Murakami; Kogure, Fujita; Yano, Hirai
0 Min: Gonda; Mukuhara, Tokunaga, Morishige, Ota; Takahashi, Hasegawa, Hanyu, Kajiyama, Yazawa; Lucas
Substitutes – Shiota; Jang; Yonemoto, Kawano, Ishikawa; Watanabe, Shigematsu
0 Min: Albi boss Hisashi Kurosaki makes two changes to the side which provided the excellent three points in Hiroshima, as Bruno Lopes returns to the attack having completed a one-match suspension, Kisho Yano dropping to the bench, while Yuta Mikado comes in for Kenji Koyano in midfield.
The FC Tokyo line-up also sees a couple of changes from that used to achieve Knock-out Round status in the AFC Champions League, Lucas restored to his role as primary striker in place of Kazuma Watanabe, while Kosuke Ota is in defence, taking over from Jang Hyun-Soo.
0 Min: With kick-off scheduled for 11:04 BST/19:04 JST, we’re about twelve minutes from getting underway. The officials today are referee Shinji Murakami, assisted on the sidelines by Toshiyuki Tanaka and Mitsuharu Takeda.
0 Min: After a day in which severe weather has adversely affected a number of matches across the country, I’m very happy to say that it’s a cloudy and dry evening in Niigata, and with the thermometer reaching 14 degrees Celcius, these are perfectly pleasant playing conditions.
0 Min: The pre-match photographs are complete, which featured Albi forward Michael’s daughter, and it’s now two minutes until this game commences.
0 Min: Referee Murakami signals to get the match going, and Michael and Atomu Tanaka play the ball backwards.
2 Mins: A lovely low cross from Kosuke Ota is knocked back by Naotake Hanyu inside the Albi penalty area, and Tatsuya Yazawa goes close with a left footed drive which is a yard wide of Masaaki Higashiguchi’s right upright.
3 Mins: It’s a bright, confident start from FC Tokyo, and Yohei Kajiyama puts an effort from 20 yards into the same area Yazawa did. Positive beginnings for the Gas.
5 Mins: Jun Uchida has a throw which eventually wends its way to Bruno Lopes, and he beats an FC Tokyo defender before laying the ball off to Atomu Tanaka in the penalty area. Tanaka’s attempt to return the ball to Lopes by a back heel is weak, however, and Gonda is able to gather.
10 Mins: A good diving stop to his right from Higashiguchi sends a Tatsuya Yazawa effort palmed wide for a corner, after Yohei Kajiyama had seen his intended shot blocked very bravely by Kim Jin-Yu, who took a heavy knock in the process. The defender leaves the field for treatment.
13 Mins: The corner is well cleared by Albirex. Fumiya Kogure is warming up should Kim be unable to continue. The home side currently down to ten men.
15 Mins: Aria Hasegawa and Kenta Mukuhara link well on the right-wing, but they are crowded out by several Albirex shirts. Kim is up and running, albeit uncomfortably, having returned to the field of play.
18 Mins: Hanyu, Yazawa and Kajiyama are finding space between Niigata’s two lines of four, but the distribution has been lacking in finding the forward three midfielders.
21 Mins: A spell of possession draws applause from Ranko Popović, Aria Hasegawa’s long drifting pass finding Yazawa in space in the penalty area, but he’s deemed to be in an offside position.
23 Mins: POST! Atomu Tanaka delivers a pass to Bruno Lopes, who takes a mazy run into the penalty area where he is tackled by Yuhei Tokunaga. Tanaka recovers the ball and nearly drives past Kenta Mukuhara, and he cracks a shot against the outside of the post, deflected off the centre-back’s foot for a corner. Gonda probably had that covered.
25 Mins: Tanaka’s corner bounces around in the 18-yard box, and it’s then cleared by the Gas.
28 Mins: Keisuke Ota and Kajiyama exchange passes, then the most central of the advanced three midfielders stretches play to the right as Yuhei Tokunaga joins the attack. Tokunaga’s cross is poor, however, and a good attacking opportunity is lost.
31 Mins: Yuhei Tokunaga lets fly from 35 yards, and the effort is as good as you would expect from a centre-back, which is to say, not very.
32 Mins: Michael, on the edge of the Gas penalty box, and despite the attention of three FC Tokyo players, manages to unleash a swerving shot which fortunately for Gonda is straight into his chest.
33 Mins: An excellent, patient move which began close to their own touchline sees Albirex advance in to the FC Tokyo penalty area, Michael and Atomu Tanaka heavily involved, with the former using his acceleration and quick feet to beat a number of Gas players. Bruno Lopes’s final pass is just a touch too strong, and Gonda collects.
36 Mins: Atomu Tanaka has a corner on the right, but referee Murakami seems an infringement in the area, Bruno Lopes alleged to have pushed Yuhei Tokunaga to the ground.
38 Mins: Lucas is particularly isolated in attack, and he hasn’t helped himself with a number of poor touches and bad distribution to teammates. Kosuke Ota is finding plenty of space on the left on the overlap, but his delivery of crosses needs to improve if he is to give Lucas any chance of heading on goal.
40 Mins: Five minutes until the end of the first period, it’s Albirex Niigata 0 FC Tokyo 0.
42 Mins: A poor clearance from Yuhei Tokunaga puts his defence in trouble as the ball is picked up on the edge of the area. Jun Uchida drives a low cross along the six yard area, but Atomu Tanaka can’t adjust his feet in time to turn the ball home.
43 Mins: A succession of throw-ins inside FC Tokyo’s half for Albi, two of which have been taken long by Kim. The third is glanced backwards unintentionally by Hasegawa, but it lands at Gonda’s feet.
45 Mins: Into stoppage time at the end of the first period, of which there will be two minutes.
45 Mins+2: And those two minutes ends without incident as Murakami brings the first period to a close.
HT: Albirex Niigata 0 FC Tokyo 0
HT: A half with no clear chances, then, the closest either side coming to opening the scoring was Uchida’s cross along the six-yard area, Atomu Tanaka unable to react in time. Albirex hit the post, but with a shot that Gonda would likely have saved, and the best the Gas have had to show for their exertions was Yuzawa’s shot which Higashiguchi was equal to. While the side from the capital had met with some success in finding space between the banks of four in the first twenty minutes, Albirex noticeably closed the space between the defence and midfield, stifling their creative outlets.
46 Mins: The match recommences at the Tohoku Denryoku Big Swan Stadium, and Kim has a long throw-in for Albirex which Tokunaga side-foots down field.
47 Mins: Kenta Mukuhara handles four yards outside his own area to the edge of the penalty area and gives away a free-kick which Atomu Tanaka bends into the box, but Lucas heads strongly away from danger.
48 Mins: Lucas, Hasegawa and Hanyu are all involved in a move which comes close to finding a goal for the away side. Hanyu eventually laid the ball off to Lucas on the right wing, and he sent a powerful cross along the six yard area which was just too high for Yazawa.
50 Mins: Yuta Mikado wins a corner from Kosuke Ota, but it’s a poor corner from Atomu Tanaka, much to close to Suichi Gonda and the goalkeeper catches.
51 Mins: GOAL! Kenta Mukuhara exchanges passes with Lucas on the right of the Albirex penalty area after a good challenge from Aria Hasegawa had won possession for the Gas midway inside Albirex territory, and Mukuhara’s cross is met perfectly by captain Yohei Kajiyama, who volleys first-time into the bottom left corner.
51 Mins: Albirex Niigata 0 FC Tokyo 1
54 Mins: Much better from Tanaka at a corner, his ball headed on by Mikado and forcing Gonda to make a save. Yuhei Tokunaga completes the clearance.
57 Mins: Another Kim long throw-in which is cleared to the edge of the penalty area by Tokunaga. Uchida lobbing the ball into the penalty area, but it’s too high for Naoya Kikuchi to direct back across goal, and he heads well wide.
58 Mins: POST! Kajiyama is a touch fortuitous to see his dribble in the penalty area be deflected into his path by Kim Jin-Su, but his excellent effort is diverted on to the post and away for a corner to FC Tokyo.
59 Mins: Albirex making two changes, Jun Uchida and Atomu Tanaka being replaced by Kosuke Murakami and Kisho Yano.
60 Mins: Two successive corner-kicks come to naught for the Gas, the second of which is caught and launched downfield by Higashiguchi.
62 Mins: Naoki Ishikawa is on the field for the last eighteen minutes, as Naotake Hanyu makes way.
64 Mins: Shuichi Gonda is fortunate to see his attempted clearance deflect off defender Yuhei Tokunaga and behind for a corner, when it could have bounced anywhere with Bruno Lopes lurking. While Gonda makes poor contact with his attempted punch clear, FC Tokyo launch an immediate counter-attack, Naohiro Ishikawa driving forward from halfway, but an excellent challenge from Yita Mikado brings his run to an end on the edge of the penalty area.
67 Mins: Mid-way through the second-half, and it’s Albirex Niigata 0 FC Tokyo 1.
69 Mins: Lucas nearly carves out some space for himself in the Albirex penalty area, but Hideto Takahashi stabs the ball out for an FC Tokyo throw-in.
70 Mins: GOAL! A comedy of errors in the Albirex defence. The throw-in first appears to be handled by Kisho Yano, but referee Murakami ignores Lucas’s protests. The ball then drops to Yusuke Murakami, who tries to clear but only strikes the ankles of Daisuke Suzuki, and it deflects very kindly into the path of Tatsuya Yazawa, who tucks the ball away into the bottom left corner from six yards.
70 Mins: Albirex Niigata 0 FC Tokyo 2
75 Mins: Michael will play no further part in this contest, Shoki Hirai on in his place.
76 Mins: Although they have created very little in attack, the ball is not dropping for Albirex today. A cross from Murakami is missed by Masato Morishige, but fellow substitute Hirai is slightly ahead of where the ball lands, and Gonda dives to collect inside the six yard area.
77 Mins: The Gas making a further change. Lucas, who has been much improved in this second period, leaves the field to be replaced by Kazuma Watanabe.
79 Mins: Albirex keeping possession, but it’s limited to their own half, and a long pass to Kim on the wing can’t be kept infield.
80 Mins: Kisho Yano does very well to pull a ball back across the Gas penalty area, but with Shoki Hirai waiting to head home, Kenta Mukuhara clears with an excellent defensive header.
80 Mins: Ten minutes remaining, it’s Albirex Niigata 0 FC Tokyo 2.
82 Mins: Jim Jin-Su is the first Albirex player to be booked in this match, sliding in late on Mukuhara.
85 Mins: Frustration for the home side, as FC Tokyo maintain possession, and Daisuke Suzuki bundles over Kosuke Ota to give the Gas a free-kick on the left touchline.
86 Mins:Yazawa takes, and it’s pulled back into the path of Hasegawa by Ishikawa loitering in the penalty area. Hasegawa sees his volley fly into the side netting.
88 Mins: Yohei Kajiyama is brought down 25 yards from goal, which Ishikawa will take.
88 Mins: Kajiyama floats the ball into the penalty area, and had Watanabe made any connection with his attempted diving header, the Gas would be three in front. Instead, the ball deflects off Naoki Ishikawa for a corner, which is easily cleared.
90 Mins: Final substitution for FC Tokyo, and Takuji Yonemoto will see out stoppage time in replacing captain Yohei Kajiyama. Five minutes will be added on.
90 Mins+5: A really rough challenge from Kim Jin-Su on Tatsuya Yazawa is ignored by the officials, and a final attack for Albirex sees a cross from Shoki Hirai not find any of his targets, and that’s the last action of the match as Murakami brings play to a close.
FT: Albirex Niigata 0 FC Tokyo 2
FT: A competent performance from the visitors was sufficient for FC Tokyo to take all three points, an opening goal of collective excellence followed by one which Albirex Niigata would rather forget. FC Tokyo will also be happy with the way in which they blunted the attacking force of Bruno Lopes and Michael, and limiting the lively but inprecise Atomu Tanaka to delivey of few set pieces.
FT: Thank you for joining me. A match report will appear on Football Japan no later than Monday 7 May.
As I will be attending the FA Cup Final, there will be no further update to this website on Saturday 5 May. However, normal service will be resumed on 6 May, when I will be providing live coverage of the J.League Division 1 fixture between Albirex Niigata and FC Tokyo. Please join me from 10:30 BST/18:30 JST for team news and updates from around the league, or from 11:00 BST/19:00 JST for kick-off, as Albi try to add to their Matchday Nine win against Sanfrecce Hiroshima with their first J1 victory at home in 2012.