Two second-half goals from Naohira Ishikawa and Aria Hasegawa’s first in an FC Tokyo shirt will ensure that FC Tokyo carry a 100% winning record in to J.League Division 1 Matchday Three, defeating Nagoya Grampus in wet conditions at the Ajinomoto Stadium by three goals to two.
A drab first period was light on both quality and incident, the Gas Men and Grampus struggling to create opportunities and play regularly breaking down in the final third of the field, with potential chances more often a result of defensive errors than adroit attacking play. Grampus striker Kensuke Nagai enlivened matters in the early minutes with a left-footed drive whistling past Shuichi Gonda’s goal in the third minute, and then the 23 year-old saw an arcing effort from 18 yards beaten away by Gonda, the Under-23 Samurai Blue getting down well to his left to repel the shot. FC Tokyo’s early difficulties, caused in no small part by the size and stature of the Nagoya outfit, were exemplified when right-back Yuehi Tokunaga misplaced a simple pass to goalkeeper Gonda, who under little pressure could only slice his attempted clearance horribly into touch.
However, for all Grampus’s early exertions, Gonda was rarely threatened in the first half, attempts from Danilson and Tulio Tanaka only troubling fans sat behind the FC Tokyo goal, and Keija Tamada’s delicately clipped shot in the 37th minute was the obvious and unexpected highlight of the opening period. Joshua Kennedy, the J.League Division 1 Top Scorer for the previous two seasons had to this point been well-marshalled by the Gas defence, but he seized on a loose ball in the centre circle and threaded a beautifully weighted pass for Tamada, who took two touches before lofting the ball gently over the advancing Gonda to give Grampus the lead. Grampus came close to doubling their lead in the 40th minute. Masato Morishige was harshly adjudged to have pushed Tamada near the corner flag, who whipped over the resulting free kick and the barest of touches from Gonda directed the ball away from two advancing Grampus players.
The second-half of the match would bear little relation to the first period. Three minutes after the restart, clever work down Tokyo’s left-wing found Kenichi Kaga, whose fiercely struck drive was goal bound but found the face of Grampus defender Tulio Tanaka. Ishikawa, Hasegawa and Naotake Hanyu’s movement and link-up play had been matched by the well-organised Grampus defence, at one stage forcing FC Tokyo to return from the edge of the penalty area to Gonda, but with the deft passing and roaming of the triumvirate, they began to exploit space between the Grampus defence and midfield.
The equalising goal that came on 60 minutes was of no surprise. A bewitching series of stepovers from left-back Kosuke Ota bewitched the Grampus defence, and stepping in to the penalty area he transferred the ball neatly to Aria Hasegawa. Hasegawa passed short to Hanyu, whose shot was blocked, but the rebound fell kindly to Ishikawa, who drilled the ball first-time into the Grampus net.
FC Tokyo took the lead just seven minutes later. With Grampus tormented by one-touch passing around their penalty box, FC Tokyo cleverly sensed the significant height advantage of the “Nagoya Wall” and took a short corner. The deep cross was beautifully judged, and the waiting Kenichi Kaga headed the ball back across goal, leaving Aria Hasegawa the simplest of headers to record his first goal for the club.
Grampus failed to take an equally inviting opportunity to level the scores on 70 minutes. Right-midfielder Mu Kanazaki swung a delightful cross into the FC Tokyo penalty area, but the unmarked Kensuke Nagai could only direct his header wide of the goal with Gonda rooted to the spot.
It was a miss that the Gas would punish with 17 minutes of the match remaining. Tulio Tanaka failed with two attempts to clear the ball, and Aria Hasegawa prodded a ball through to Yohei Kajiyama. The 26 year-old captain anticipated the run of Naohiro Ishikawa, and his shot from 10 yards was sent under the body of goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki and into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal to give FC Tokyo a 3-1 lead.
Nagai atoned for his earlier miss with a consolation goal on 86 minutes. A sliding Joshua Kennedy hit the bar when latching on to a long-range free-kick, and the 23 year-old from Hiroshima Prefecture calmly dispatched the rebound with time running out. This would be the last sight Grampus would have of the goal, and two minutes into injury time Nagoya’s misery was complete after Danilson was shown a red card for dangerous play.
|FC Tokyo||Nagoya Grampus|
|Naohira Ishikawa||59||Keiji Tamada||36|
|Aria Hasegawa||67||Kensuke Nagai||87|
|Shuichi Gonda||90||Hayuma Tanaka||13|
|Sent Off||Min||Sent Off||Min|