(Brief highlights of FC Tokyo’s AFC Champions League Matchday Five fixture, in which they defeated Australia’s Brisbane Roar 4-2 to maintain their lead at the top of Group F and sealed their entry into the knockout stages. The result sets up a showdown with Ulsan Hyundai on 16 May, in which the Gas need to take a point to be sure of victory in the Group)
FC Tokyo are through to the Round of 16 in the 2012 AFC Champions League, after coming from behind against Australia’s Brisbane Roar in a Group F tie played in appalling conditions at the National Olympic Stadium. Starting the day level on points with and ahead on goal difference of South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai, the Gas needed to take all three points to ensure they remained at the top of the table at the end of Matchday Five, with a visit to the Big Crown due on 16 May for a match which will decide the group’s victors.
In pursuit of that triumph, however, the home side couldn’t have endured a worse start to this match, falling behind very early on. Thomas Broich, Brisbane’s best player of the evening, struck a free-kick from 40 yards, forward Besart Berisha leaving Masato Morishige leaden-footed in heading powerfully against the right upright, before following up to side-foot the rebound home. The amount of space afforded to three Roar players within the penalty area, any one of whom could have scored, will have alarmed manager Ranko Popovic as the Gas’s defensive deficiencies were once again brutally exposed.
To their credit, the Gas were back on terms within 60 seconds, although a piece of poor Roar defending was to thank for creating the opening. Tatsuya Yazawa’s attempted pass across the six yard area should have been eased behind by Shane Stefanutto for a corner, but the centre-back chose instead to back heel the ball into the penalty area. It ran through to Yohei Kajiyama who saw his initial effort blocked, but spinning away to Hideto Takahashi the midfielder drove home via the left upright from twenty yards.
While a faulty rearguard was largely at fault for the game’s first two goals, the third owed much to the individual excellence of Aria Hasegawa. The 23 year-old midfielder, whose performance was characterised by intelligent distribution, movement and retention of possession, picked up the ball near his own 18-yard box, and embarked on a strong, weaving run which saw himn break three challenges, before he moved play to the right, laying off to Yazawa. Clear on the right-hand side of the pitch, he sped to the edge of the penalty area, before aiming a pass across the penalty spot, Kenta Mukuhara sweeping the ball into the net from ten yards.
Tokyo had taken the lead midway through the opening period, but the Roar equalised with twelve minutes of the half remaining, the surprise leveller coming as the Gas had begun to take a strangehold on the match. With large spaces appearing between the Roar’s back four and midfield, and the Gas’s advanced players pressing high into Roar territory, the Australian side were forced into playing long balls out of defence. Right-back Ivan Franjic, turning inside midway in the FC Tokyo half, found Erik Paartalu in a rare foray forward, and it was his first-time pass to Broich which did the damage. The Gas back-line was caught waiting for an offside flag which correctly never came, Broich controlling before shooting left-footed. A good block from Mukuhara saw the ball returned to the former Borussia Mönchengladbach player, and at the second time of asking he found the net via a deflection off Jang Hyun-Soo’s ankle.
The match looked to be heading to the interval with the sides deadlocked, until Qatari referee Abdullah Balideh, whose decision-making was found wanting on a number of occasions, made his worst error of the evening in awarding FC Tokyo a penalty sixty seconds before the end of the half. Kazuma Watanabe had beaten Mohamed Adnan for pace on the edge of the 18-yard area, but tripped a yard outside the box, Balideh instead pointed to the spot, admirably to little protest from any Roar player. Watanabe stroked the penalty home, coolly slotting the ball into the bottom right-hand corner as Theoklitos dived the wrong way.
With the wind and rain not easing off in a largely attritional second period, the Gas made the result secure after an hour had been played. Taking hold of a pass from Hasegawa ten yards inside Brisbane territory, in one movement Yazawa controlled, turned and played a delightful through ball between the Roar central defenders, perfectly weighted for Watanabe to latch on to. Not even needing to take a touch, the forward slid a low finish past Theoklitos at his near post. The remainder of the match was incident free, and enabled manager Ranko Popovic to withdraw goalscorer Watanabe, Hanyu and Kajiyama before the final whistle was blown, with a view to keeping players fresh for Sunday’s J.League Matchday Twelve fixture away to Albirex Niigata. It was a fine result for his team, and sets up what is sure to be a compelling fixture in South Korea in two weeks’ time.
|FC Tokyo||Brisbane Roar|
|Hideto Takahashi||5||Besart Berisha||4|
|Kenta Mukuhara||20||Thomas Broich||33|
|Kazuma Watanabe||44 (Pen.)|