Match Report: J-League Round 1: FC Tokyo vs. Albirex Niigata

J.League Division 1 Week #
FC Tokyo First Half
0 – 1

Second Half
1 – 3

Final
1 – 4

Albirex Niigata
March 7th 2009, 1PM Kickoff at Ajinomoto Stadium (Chofu, Tokyo) Attendance 27,568
GK 20 Shuichi Gonda

DF 5 Yuto Nagamoto

DF 15 Daishi Hiramatsu

DF 2 Teruyuki Moniwa

DF 25 Yuhei Tokunaga

MF 6 Yasuyuki Konno

MF 17 Jo Kanazawa

MF 10 Yohei Kajiyama

MF 22 Naotake Hanyu

FW 24 Shingo Akamine

FW 32 Yusuke Kondo

Starting Members
GK 1 Takashi Kitano

DF 17 Jun Ichida

DF 5 Mitsuru Chiyotanda

DF 6 Mitsuru Nagata

DF 29 Gilton Ribeiro

MF 15 Isao Homma

MF 10 Marcio Richardes

MF 7 Toshihiro Matsushita

FW 11 Kisho Yano

FW 16 Hideo Oshima

FW 9 Pedro Junior

62′ #40 Tatsuya Suzuki (for Jo Kanazawa)

64′ #4 Bruno (for Naotake Hanyu)

64′ #9 Cabore (for Yusuke Kondo)

Substitutes 81′ #20 Young Cheol Cho (for Hideo Oshima)

87′ Kazuhiko Chiba (for Toshihiro Matsushita)
89′ Gotoku Sakai (for Marcio Richardes)

51′ Yusuke Kondo Goals 44′ Gilton Ribeiro

53′ Pedro Junior

68′ Hideo Oshima

72′ Pedro Junior

69′ Yohei Kajiyama

87′ Yasuyuki Konno

Cautions 78′ Isao Homma
Ejections

Report

Jesus Christ on a cracker.

Following a 6th place finish in the 2008 season, with which FC Tokyo seemed to imply that its days of being a chronic underachiever may have finally come to an end, the team managed to squander the goodwill of the supporters in 90 minutes of frustrating and at times atrocious play in front of a surprisingly underwhelming crowd of just under 28,000.

After some pomp and circumstance (Nobuo Kawaguchi’s ‘retirement fairwell’ to the crowd and the first in-stadium performance of Tokyo Dorompa, who, to be fair, can bust quite a move), the game started on a somewhat awkward note with neither team unable to find any sort of rhythm for the first 15-20 minutes of play.  Following that, however, it was almost all FC Tokyo as they continuously pressed the attack, setting up consecutive chances in front of the Niigata goal but never managing to succeed.  Even more impressive is that Tokyo was able to keep up that pressure with 10 men, as newcomer Daishi Hiramatsu lived up to his reputation for complete disregard for personal safety and spent a couple agonizing minutes on the sideline receiving treatment for a cut to his forehead.  On the rare occasions that the ball found its way back into the Tokyo penalty area, rookie goalkeeper Gonda proved his technical skills with some booming kicks that left the crowd speechless.

Everything seemed on-course for a 0-0 draw to end the first half, until Albirex was awarded corner kick late in extra time.  Anyone who follows the team knows that defending against corner kicks has always been a perpetual weakness, and this corner was no exception.  A perfect cross connected to Gilton Ribiero, who sailed it in on the left post just past Gonda’s outstreched fingers.  The whistle sounded for the half and many FCT players visibly expressed their frustration at this lapse.

Early on in the second half, things seemed like they could possibly turn around as Yusuke Kondo scored a beauty of a goal from beyond the penalty box, evening the game at 1 all.  Yet 2 minutes later, another corner kick would lead to another goal for Albirex.

While FCT was clearly the dominant team in the first half, the second half saw an unorganized mess of a squad trying to keep pace with an Albirex team that has apparently improved significantly since their last encounter in late 2008.  The third Albirex goal came as a horrid back pass from Hiramatsu ended up in control of new Albirex transfer Hideo Oshima, who made easy pickings of Gonda for the score.  The last nail in the coffin came a few minutes later as Albirex swarmed Gonda, who was unable to stop Pedro Junior’s effort by himself.  Though FCT made some valiant efforts in the last 20 minutes, Albirex were unable to capitalize on at least two opportunities that could have meant a 1-6 finish.

There is a lot of blame to go around for today’s loss; the only player who probably deserves it the least is Gonda, who performed about as well as one could expect for a second-stringer with no experience on the field.  Hiramatsu was reckless and stupid and it cost the team dearly.  Akamine failed to convert one of any number of opportunities in the Albirex box.  Kajiyama was careless in his passing, resulting in several turnovers.  Players all over were losing the air battle with the regularity of a Swiss watch.  The defense was unable to hold together without Sahara, who may still be out for the Urawa match.  The list goes on.

Yet the person who burdens the most responsibility could be manager Hiroshi Jofuku as a result of his questionable lineup and even more questionable substitutions.  Especially puzzling were his decisions to start Jo Kanazawa at midfield (when Otake would probably have been a much better choice), to not start Cabore, and to bring in Bruno to replace Hanyu at a time when the team needed more offense, not more defense.  Another fact that’s become blindingly apparent is that the team is hurting from that empty 3rd foreign player slot and should start taking resumes for defenders w/ tall vertical reaches as soon as possible.

While the supporters behind the goal didn’t boo following the loss, that’s probably more out of respect to Jofuku’s 2008 performance and out of deference to Gonda, who needs all the encouragement he can get before facing Urawa in a week.  Should the team recieve a similar result in Saitama Stadium, the boos that were part and parcel of an FC Tokyo game 2 years ago may come back into favor sooner rather than later.

Quotes

It’s very difficult to win in J.League when you give up two goals off of corner kicks in a game.  We absolutely have to reflect on the fact that we’re repeating such mistakes.

The 3rd and 4th goals we surrendered were due to the mistakes of individual players, and any team that allows those sorts of mistakes to continue has no right to say that they’re in contention for the J.League title.

We can and must learn from Albirex’s strength in front of the goal.

~Hiroshi Jofuku, excerpts from postgame press conference

Errata

I had the pleasure of meeting a few of Aishiteru Tokyo’s readers following the game and I’m pretty sure they’ll all be chipping in their opinions of today’s debacle in the comments section.  In addition, when I mentioned my blog to a woman I was sitting next to before the game, she told me that her husband had actually seen my site.  So, apparently we’re spreading in popularity, slowly but surely!  Once we finish expanding the site and getting content and media organized, work can begin on my next Big Idea: an International Supporter Group in the vein of the small but dedicated groups of foreigners supporting teams such as Shimizu and Yokohama.  I have a neat idea that involves taking over a section (or agreeing to meet at a certain area of the concourse) and offering English conversational practice in return for donations towards material for flags and banners.

Also, Urawa lost and Jubilo got embarassed by Montedio fuckin’ Yamagata.  So the day wasn’t a total loss.

3 thoughts on “Match Report: J-League Round 1: FC Tokyo vs. Albirex Niigata”

  1. Two words for you – absoutely diabolical. Poor old Gonda, what a baptism of fire! Having seen replays of the goals, OK, perhaps he could’ve got over and covered his post for the first goal, but it wouldn’t have been a problem if Gilton was MARKED. The defending was catastrophic on all four goals, Hiramatsu’s back pass (to who?) for the fourth was just the (bitter) icing on the (stale) cake.
    The team Jofuku picked was bad, but also the formation in my view. Didn’t have enough width, apart from spells in the first half when we dominated possession and Tokunaga and Nagatomo could bomb forward. Where for art thou Emerson?! Hanyu is useful but I don’t really see where he fits in, he’s not a winger or at least doesn’t play like one, he drifts inside too much. Tatsuya changed things a bit when he came on, but we were already chasing the game and got picked off twice more.
    Yusuke’s goal was excellent but I still don’t rate him at all, Cabore MUST start at Urawa.
    Things can only get better surely…..Up the Gasmen!

  2. >Y.N.W.A.

    The Hiramatsu “Back Pass to Nowhere” was actually the 3rd goal, if you look at the replay which Lantis linked to on the YT roundup. The 4th goal, our guy just got pickpocketed plain and simple.

    I definitely want to see Cabore in the starting 11 for Urawa, as well as Otake and maybe Bruno. We’ll see, I guess.

    It was a pleasure chilling with you and your mates after the game, by the way! Let’s hope next time it comes under better circumstances.

  3. Oh dear oh dear. Catastrophic defending is nothing new but we saw a new level of statuesqueness at the corners – for christ’s sake attack the ball! Also worryingly impotent up front against a side who struggled last year – I agree we must have width and pace, i.e. Cabore and Otake starting.

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