울산 현대 (Ulsan Hyundai) 1 FC東京 (FC Tokyo) 0

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
Goalscorers Min Goalscorers Min
Kang Min-Soo 37
Substitutes Min Substitutes Min
Kim Seung-Yong
Kim Shin-Wook
46 Kawano
Kajiyama
49
Kim Dong-Suk
Lee Ho
73 Yazawa
Lucas
69
Maranhao
Choi Jae-Soo
80 Jang Hyun-Soo
Hayashi
84
Cautions Min Cautions Min
Kim Young-Sam 6

Ulsan Hyundai: 4-2-3-1 (Blue); FC Tokyo: 4-2-3-1 (Grey)

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AFC Champions League: Group F Matchday Six Round-up and Results

(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.

Group F

Ulsan Hyundai
Kang Min-Soo 37′
1 FC Tokyo Small FC Tokyo 0
Brisbane Roar
Berisha 15′
1 Beijing Guoan
Hanbo 34′
1
Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Ulsan Hyundai 6 4 2 0 11 7 +4 14
2 FC Tokyo 6 3 2 1 12 6 +6 11
3 Brisbane Roar 6 0 3 3 6 11 -5 3
4 Beijing Guoan 6 0 3 3 6 11 -5 3

AFC Champions League: Group F live-blog – 울산 현대 (Ulsan Hyundai) v. FC東京 (FC Tokyo)

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.

東京 (FC Tokyo) 4 Brisbane Roar 2

(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
Goalscorers Min Goalscorers Min
Hideto Takahashi 5 Besart Berisha 4
Kenta Mukuhara 20 Thomas Broich 33
Kazuma Watanabe 44 (Pen.)
Kazuma Watanabe 60
Substitutes Min Substitutes Min
Kazuma Watanabe
Lucas
73 Luke Brattan
Rocco Visconte
63
Naotake Hanyu
Takuji Yonemoto
78 James Meyer
Mitch Nichols
63
Yohei Kajiyama
Naohiro Ishikawa
85 Mohamed Adnan
Matthew Jurman
67
Cautions Min Cautions Min
20120502-202806.jpg

FC Tokyo: 4-2-3-1 (Blue); Brisbane Roar: 4-3-3 (Grey)

Group F

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 FC Tokyo 5 3 2 0 12 5 +7 11
2 Ulsan Hyundai 5 3 2 0 10 7 +3 11
3 Beijing Guoan 5 0 2 3 5 10 -5 2
4 Brisbane Roar 5 0 3 2 5 10 -5 2

AFC Champions League: Group F live-blog – FC東京 (FC Tokyo) v. Brisbane Roar

0 Min: FC Tokyo are guaranteed a place in the Round of 16 if they can avoid defeat by two or more goals against Queensland outfit Brisbane Roar, and they will be confident of progressing to the latter stages of the AFC Champions League in today’s Group F Matchday 5 fixture at the National Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.

While the Roar’s domestic form sees them just two points off the top of the Hyundai A-League table, they are yet to win in this competition, two draws and two losses to show for their efforts including a 2-0 defeat to the Gas at home on the opening day of the tournament. FC Tokyo are aiming to take all three points and retain their lead at the top of the table, and provided second-placed Ulsan Hyundai do not beat Beijing Guoan by an aggregate of more than four goals in today’s other Group F tie, will then require just a single point against their South Korean rivals on 16 May to secure a home berth in the next round.

I’ll have team news for you very shortly.

0 Min: FC Tokyo – Gonda; Tokunaga, Morishige, Jang, Mukuhara; Takahashi, Hasegawa, Kajiyama, Hanyu, Yazawa; Watanabe

Substitutes – Shiota; Ota; Yonemoto, Kawano, Ishikawa; Shigematsu, Lucas

0 Min: Brisbane Roar – Theoklitos; Smith, Stefanutto, Franjic, Adnan; Paartalu, Brattan, Broich; Berisha, Meyer, Fitzgerald

Substitutes – Redmayne; Jurman, Mundy; Murocca, Nichols, Joseph; Danning

0 Min: It’s a wet and breezy night in Tokyo, the several thousand souls braving the conditions at the National Stadium tonight sheltering under umbrellas and plastic raincoats, to watch a match overseen by Qatari referee Abdullah Balideh.

0 Min: FC Tokyo fans are singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as the players await the signal to exit the tunnel and walk on to the pitch.

0 Min: Captains Yohei Kajiyama and Matthew Smith exchange club pennants at the coin toss, and we’re almost ready for kick-off. Kajiyama and Kazuma Watanabe are on the halfway line ready for Abdullah Balideh’s whistle.

0 Min: And just on 11:30 BST/19:30 JST, the match commences.

2 Mins: A through ball from Besart Berisha nearly finds James Meyer after Hideto Takahashi is robbed in the midfield, but the ball skids through on this slippery surface to Shuichi Gonda.

4 Mins: GOAL! An unexpected opening to this match, as Thomas Broich swings a free-kick across the penalty area, Besart Berisha powering a heading against the right post, and reacting first to thrash the rebound home. Very poor defending from the Gas, which could have seen one of three Roar players score.

4 Mins: FC Tokyo 0 Brisbane Roar 1

5 Mins: GOAL! Hideto Takahashi makes up for his earlier mistake and FC Tokyo immediately reply. The midfielder picks up a rebound on the edge of the penalty area after Yohei Kajiyama’s initial effort is blocked, and drives a low shot into the net via the left upright.

5 Mins: FC Tokyo 1 Brisbane Roar 1

8 Mins: After a frenzied opening five minutes, this game has settled, both sides probing for openings in midfield.

9 Mins: Yohei Kajiyama bursts strongly through midfield, and with Tatsuya Yazawa in space in the left channel, the pass is slightly overhit in difficult conditions, forcing Yazawa wide. His cross is easily dealt with by the Roar defence.

13 Mins: FC Tokyo doing a commendable job of containing the Roar to their own half, and are at this stage much more comfortable in possession. A period of passing within Roar territory ends in a Naotake Hanyu attempt from 22 yards, which bounces through to Theoklitos between the Roar posts.

19 Mins: GOAL! Aria Hasegawa makes a superb break from midfield, breaking three challenges and playing a pass to Tatsuya Yazawa on the Tokyo right. Yazawa’s low ball is into Kenta Mukuhara’s path, and he drives into the bottom left corner to give the Gas the lead.

19 Mins: FC Tokyo 2 Brisbane Roar 1

23 Mins: Very large gaps are appearing between the Roar’s defence and midfield, and with FC Tokyo’s forwards pressing high up the pitch, they are finding it difficult to link play and instead regularly resorting to long balls.

27 Mins: Excellent work from Kajiyama, dispossessing a Brisbane midfielder before striding 15 yards with the ball, but his cross is too strong for Watanabe and bounces harmlessly through for a goal kick.

29 Mins: Aria Hasegawa is heavily involved in midfield play, and the ball eventually wends its way to Yohei Kajiyama. His cross is blocked by Franjic, and its the first corner of this match to FC Tokyo.

30 Mins: Takahashi makes a header from Yazawa’s corner, but its a difficult angle and it clears Theoklitos’s bar.

31 Mins: With thity minutes played in the first period, and despite going behind, it has been reasonably comfortable for the Gas. FC Tokyo 2 Brisbane Roar 1

33 Mins: GOAL! With FC Tokyo looking to an offside flag from the assistant referee which never appeared, Thomas Broich continues his run, his first effort blocked by Kenta Mukuhara, but finding the bottom left corner via the ankle of Jang Hyun-Soo from the rebound.

33 Mins: FC Tokyo 2 Brisbane Roar 2

35 Mins: Suichi Gonda makes two saves in quick succession, a long range effort from distance resulting in a fine punch away to his right.

35 Mins: Gonda nearly undoes all his good work, fumbling his catch from the resulting corner, and needing to dive on the ball to gather. Nicholas Fitzgerald is then penalised for kicking the ball out of his hands on the ground.

40 Mins: Tatsuya Yazawa is tripped by Mohamed Adnan close to the Brisbane Roar touchline. Hasegawa makes a clever run drawing back towards the eighteen yard line in a packed penalty area. Yazawa’s pull back finds the midfielder, but his shot clears the angle.

43 Mins: PENALTY! Adman is wrongly adjudged to have brought down Watanabe inside the penalty box when contact is clearly a yard outside the area, and Watanabe steps up to send the ball into the bottom right corner. A fine spot kick, Theoklitos diving the wrong way, and the Gas once again have the advantage.

43 Mins: FC Tokyo 3 Brisbane Roar 2

45 Mins: An attempt from the halfway line by Hasegawa sails over the crossbar, and that’s the last action of a goal-packed first period as Balideh blows his whistle.

HT: FC Tokyo 3 Brisbane Roar 2

HT: It seems likely that this match is destined for more goals. These are difficult playing conditions for two teams needing a victory for different reasons, and both sides look capable of scoring any time they go forward.

HT: The teams are back out on the pitch, the rain still unrelenting.

45 Mins: And the second period begans. Can FC Tokyo retain this vital lead?

46 Mins: The Gas force a corner after 30 seconds, but Yazawa’s dangerous ball is dealt with well by the Brisbane defence.

47 Mins: A delightful long pass from Hasegawa nearly finds Hanyu, but the bounce on this wet surface is too strong and it’s through to Theoklitos.

49 Mins: Pranjic makes a good break and prods a pass through to Broich, but with the ball running away from him, he can only make a weak sliding effort across the angle from the right which Gonda saves easily.

51 Mins: A deeply cynical challenge from Fitzgerald on Takahashi off the ball doesn’t result in any punishment for the forward.

54 Mins: Popovic is his typical expressive self on the sidelines, as he watches Yohei Tokunaga break up play deep in the Roar’s half. An excellent challenge from the right-back enables him to drive into the opposition’s penalty area, but his cross doesn’t find a Gas shirt.

59 Mins: GOAL! Kazuma Watanabe gives the hosts a two goal cushion, running through on to a beautiful through ball from Tatsuya Yazawa which curled perfectly into his path, and he slides a low finish past Theoklitos at the near post from 10 yards. FC Tokyo’s domination of this half has been rewarded.

59 Mins: FC Tokyo 4 Brisbane Roar 2

63 Mins: Should this result stay the same, it will continue the awful sequence of results on Japanese soil for Australian teams, who have drawn just twice and lost all their other games in AFC Champions League fixtures.

63 Mins: A pair of substitutions for the visitors, as they attempt to quickly find a way back into this match. Luke Brattan and James Meyer leave the field, replaced by Rocco Visconte and Mitch Daniels respectively.

65 Mins: A timely interception from Tasuya Yazawa ensures a cross into the penalty area doesn’t reach Shane Stefannuto. The subsequent corner eventually finds Mitch Nichols after a clever pass from Matthew Smith, but the substitute fires high and wide.

68 Mins: Another corner for Brisbane, Besart Berisha just beaten to Broich’s driven cross by Shuichi Gonda to clear. A poor set piece is then cleared past halfway by the Gas. Manager Radomir Vidosic makes his final substitution for the Roar, Matthew Jurman on for Mohamed Adnan.

72 Mins: It looks as if Lucas is going to be brought on for the last 15 minutes in the first of Ranko Popovic’s substitutions.

73 Mins: Kazuma Watanabe’s hopes of a hat-trick are ended, as he’s brought off for the Brazilian forward.

75 Mins: It’s an energetic introduction from Lucas, who wins two throw-ins in quick succession on the Gas left.

75 Mins: A lovely passing move between Hasegawa, Lucas, and Yohei Kajiyama is brought to an end seemingly by an infringement, but referee Balideh waves away protests from Gas players. It’s one of a number of rough challenges made by both sets of players that the official has deemed not worthy of a free kick.

77 Mins: Takuji Yonemoto is on the field before Tatsuya Yazawa delivers a corner from the right. Lucas heads, but his connection isn’t clean and it’s into Franjic’s back. The Roar eventually scramble the ball clear.

80 Mins: Ten minutes left and with the away team being forced back into their own half once more, it’s FC Tokyo 4 Brisbane Roar 2.

82 Mins: Having introduced Takuji Yonemoto for Naotake Hanyu four minutes ago, Popovic will shortly make his final substitution, Naohiro Ishikawa warming up.

85 Mins: Yohei Kajiyama makes way for Ishikawa.

86 Mins: The match is quietly coming to an end. Little of note occurring as the Gas tighten up in midfield to draw the life out of the contest.

88 Mins: Broich, who has been the Roar’s best player, evades three strong challenges, any one of which was worthy of a free-kick, and then the frustrated midfielder throws his hands in the air as he loses possession and no whistle is blown.

90 Mins: Three extra minutes will be played in this match, but first must defend a corner.

90 Mins+1: The corner is taken short, and then passed to the edge of the area to Ivan Franjic. The defender slices his effort, however, and it dribbles behind for a goal kick.

90 Mins+3: CROSSBAR! In the dying seconds of the game, a cross from the Brisbane right beats Gonda, who is grateful that it rebounds back off the crossbar and away.

90 Mins+3: And that’s the last action of the match as Balideh blows his whistle.

FT: FC Tokyo 4 Brisbane Roar 2

FT: A comfortable win in the end for FC Tokyo, but the defensive weakenesses of Ranko Popovic’s side were once more on display in this match. Ulsan Hyundai are currently leading 2-0 at the Workers Stadium in Beijing versus Guoan, and as such the Gas will need to pick up at least a point in South Korea to win Group F.

FT: Thank you for joining me. A match report will follow on the website shortly.

AFC Champions League: Group F Matchday Four Table

(Highlights of all the goals from FC Tokyo’s comfortable AFC Champions League Group F victory against China’s Beijing Guoan, which all but ensures progress to the Round of 16 for the Gas)

Group F

Position Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 FC Tokyo 4 2 2 0 8 3 +5 8
2 Ulsan Hyundai 4 2 2 0 7 5 +2 8
3 Brisbane Roar 4 0 2 2 3 6 -3 2
4 Beijing Guoan 4 0 2 2 3 7 -4 2

AFC Champions League Group F Matchday Four: FC東京 (FC Tokyo) 3 北京国安 (Beijing Guoan FC) 0

Sotan Tanabe (27) celebrates with teammate Kazuma Watanabe (11) after the forward had opened the scoring in FC Tokyo's 3-0 win over China's Beijing Guoan in the AFC Champions League. FC Tokyo next face Australia's Brisbane Roar, and will qualify for the next round provided they do not suffer a defeat by a margin of two goals or more on Matchday Five (Image courtesy Yahoo! Sports)

A comprehensive and comfortable 3-0 victory versus Beijing Guoan for the Gas has almost certainly assured them of progress to the round of 16 in the 2012 AFC Champions League. Manager Ranko Popović made several changes to the side which suffered a surprise defeat to Kashima Antlers at the weekend, one enforced owing to the absence through injury of Shuichi Gonda, and a youthful line-up with an average age of just 24 produced an accomplished display of controlled, attacking football.

Together with the evergreen Naohiro Ishikawa, several players caught the eye, but none more so than the midfield contingent of Aria Hasegawa, Yohei Otake, Sotan Tanabe and Kazuma Watanabe, and it was the 23 year old forward who gave the Gas the lead after just seven minutes when he nodded home an Ishikawa set piece. There were question marks over how much room Watanabe was given in the penalty area by Zhou Ting, but that should not diminish the accuracy of his finish, finding the inside of the right post from 14 yards with a deft flick of his head. The opening goal arrived moments after Watanabe had narrowly failed to score, clever interplay between Ishikawa and Tanabe releasing the striker inside the penalty area, but his shot across the angle from the right was too close to Hou Sen in the Guoan goal, who saved easily.

The FC Tokyo defence was rarely troubled in the first period, the visitors coming closest to an equaliser almost immediately after Watanabe’s goal. Xu Liang lobbed a ball into the 18-yard box, Wang Xiaolong directing a header to a waiting Reinaldo, but Masato Morishige placed enough pressure on the Brazilian forward to ensure he couldn’t get his shot away. The action was otherwise largely limited to the Guoan half, although Hitoshi Shiota was nearly embarrassed when his attempted clearance found only air rather than ball, the second-string goalkeeper fortunate that the back pass had been played to the right of his net.

Several chances passed the Gas’s way, Ishikawa finding the side netting midway through the first period and which deserved better after a wonderful turn and pass from Yohei Otake allowed Sotan Tanabe to deliver a low cross along the six yard box, and then a superb long ball from Aria Hasegawa to Kosuke Ota on the left edge of the penalty area saw the left-back whip an inviting cross into the penalty area which Watanabe headed narrowly wide under pressure from Yu Yang.

It appeared that for all their possession and pressure FC Tokyo would have only the one goal to show for the efforts going in to half-time, but the final action of the first half found Hou Sen retrieving the ball from his net. Hasegawa bent a delightful pass along the right touchline to Watanabe, who advanced to the touchline. Sensing a lack of support from his teammates, he turned all too easily inside Yu Yang, and he chipped across the face of goal with Yohei Otake heading home from close range.

It was an entirely fitting scoreline for the domination shown in the first 45 minutes, and the match was all but ended 12 minutes after the re-start when an extraordinary pass from an off-balance and falling Ishikawa reached substitute Tatsuya Yazawa in the left channel. He stepped inside defender Zhang Xinxin, and although his touch was slightly too strong, a missed interception by Mao Jianqing allowed him to retrieve the ball running parallel to the penalty area, and he calmly dinked the ball over the advancing Sen to give the home team a 3-0 lead.

A sign of FC Tokyo’s complete control in this match was that it took until 13 minutes from the end of play for Hitoshi Shiota to make his first save, diving to his left to parry a Kaluderovic header, and Hasegawa just failed to provide his team with a fourth and the goal his performance deserved into stoppage time. Most importantly for the Gas, they retained their lead at the top of Group F on goal difference from Ulsan Hyundai, and they are guaranteed to advance to the next round on Matchday Five if they are not defeated by a margin of two goals or more by Brisbane Roar. The onus is now on the Gas to secure top spot in Group F and to try to ensure an easier draw in the round of 16.

FC Tokyo: 4-2-3-1 (Blue); Beijing Guoan: 4-4-1-1 (Green)

Group F

FC Tokyo
Watanabe 7′
Otake 45′
Yazawa 57′
3 Beijing Guoan 0