I've been a bit busy with shooting shows (to the extent that I didn't actually make it to Saturday's match >_<) and have to catch up on posting the templated match reports, but for now here's a guest report from regular commenter Y.N.W.A.:
I'd like to begin my first match report on the site by saying dokool certainly knows which games to miss! A lovely, though blustery, evening was not matched by the action on the pitch, as Tokyo carried on their customary sluggish start to the season with a disjointed performance.
The cruel defeat away to the Red Cubic Zirconias the previous weekend (may I just say, at the hands of an incompetent referee and a blind linesman) saw Jofuku react by making four changes to the starting XI, bringing in Hiramatsu for the suspended Morishige in the centre of defence, Kim at left back for his debut in place of the harshly dropped Mukuhara (this saw Nagatomo switch to right back), Ishikawa for Hokuto on the right wing and Akamine for Tatsuya up front supporting Hirayama. Unfortunately Kajiyama had picked up a knock and didn't even make the bench, and his continued absence from the first XI meant the Tokunaga – Hanyu partnership continued in central midfield. More on that later
Moniwa got a good reception on his return to Aji Sta, both ends of the stadium doing the “Mo-ni-WA” chant before the game, but Sota and Aka were hoping to expose him as part of Osaka's back three.
The signs were mixed in a fairly even first half, Tokyo had the better early chances with Hirayama forcing a good save after a mazy run after about 6 minutes, but Cerezo were keeping the ball well, with their Brazilian midfielder, Martinez, spraying the passes around and showing off a neat collection of flicks.
Tokyo were unable to retain possession for any length of time up against Cerezo's five-man midfield and were forced to play on the counter, but when they were able to nick the ball chances did come, notably when Ishikawa embarked on a 50 metre run but saw his shot parried away, with Akamine taking one touch too many when the rebound from Nao's effort found its way to him, Cerezo's South Korean keeper, Kim, saving well again.
There were some nervy moments for the Gasmen though as Cerezo's numerical advantage in midfield began to tell and they finished the half strongly, Nagatomo cleared off the line after Gonda flapped, and in stoppage time a dangerous ball was whipped across the six yard box but thankfully for Tokyo, with Gonda stranded, no Osaka player arrived in time to get a touch on it.
The second half began in mostly the same vein, with the Gasmen unable to gain control of midfield, despite the best efforts, it should be said, of Hanyu, who linked play fairly well in his best showing of the new season. Tokunaga, despite a few nice moments, was let down time and again by poor passing and Matsushita offered little down the left, and he was replaced by Otake 13 minutes into the half. Cerezo looked more dangerous in the second half, and in Kagawa they had the most creative player on the pitch. There were sighs of relief from the home end on more than a few occasions as Osaka's poor finishing let Tokyo off the hook.
Ishikawa had put in a decent shift, looking threatening but struggling to really impose himself on the game, and Jofuku took the opportunity to hand Ricardinho his debut with 21 minutes remaining. He got right into the thick of it, too, the little Brazilian, playing on the left wing, tracking back to win the ball and going on some nice runs, but his delivery looked a little rusty, as was to be expected. Akamine had done little in the second half and with Tatsuya ready to come on with 10 minutes left I'd assumed it would be him going off, but with Hanyu seemingly contractually obliged to be subbed every game it was indeed number 22 heading for an early bath, which meant Otake had to go into central midfield next to Tokunaga.
There were half chances at either end in the final stages, but truth be told, Tokyo didn't deserve anything out of the game, and considering the amount of possession Cerezo had, a point was a decent return for an underwhelming performance. Obviously no Tokyo player covered themselves in glory, but Nagatomo had a good game back in his natural position, Hiramatsu was steady enough next to the almost-always excellent Konno, Hanyu showed some good signs and Ricardinho's cameo was mostly positive.
On the minus side, while I can't really criticize Kim for his defensive work, he didn't get forward as much as Mukuhara likes to, and when he did his delivery was ordinary, Matsushita continues to struggle to settle, and Tokunaga just doesn't appear suited to central midfield at all. I realise the injuries to Yonemoto and Casual have forced Jofuku to think on the fly, but square pegs don't go in round holes and our new captain seems to lack the awareness and passing ability needed to play in the centre.
With Morishige returning against Omiya hopefully the manager will pair him with Hiramatsu in central defence and push Konno into midfield next to Hanyu. This would allow Tokunaga to return to full back with Kim dropping back to the bench.
But wrapping up the game, this was clearly a missed opportunity for the Gasmen, a home game against a promoted team should be three points in the bank for a team looking to finish top four as a minimum, but to be fair to our visitors from Kansai, they were good value for their point, and with better finishing they could easily have returned to Osaka with all three.