Following the disappointment of Kobe's smash-and-grab raid on Aji Sta the previous weekend, FC Tokyo journeyed down the Tokaido Line to face Shonan, attempting again to get the season back on track.
A quaint little 18,500 seater, Hiratsuka Stadium has a bit of a Komazawa feel to it, nestled in the middle of Hiratsuka “General” Park. This was Tokyo's first ever visit in J1 play, as our rise to the top tier following the 1999 season saw Bellmare go in the opposite direction, where they had stayed for the past 10 seasons. There were some old friends waiting for us too, Tokyo legend Jean has been at Shonan since leaving us at the end of '02, and Emerson, the scorer of 3 league goals for us in '08, had returned to Japan from Brazil during the World Cup break.
Shonan had moved off the foot of the table with an away win at Kyoto last time out, but again, games like these are the ones Tokyo HAVE to win if we are going to push up the league. Jofuku was forced into one change from the Kobe game, Oh Captain, My Captain Tokunaga going down with a knee injury in training, so Casual took the armband, Kim came into the team and played in central defence, and interestingly, rather than Konno, it was Morishige, last week's goat following his stoppage time handball, who moved into the holding midfield role alongside Casual. Otherwise the team was unchanged, so Oguro and Ricardinho had the chance to continue their burgeoning partnership, having impressed together in the Kobe game.
Tokyo had the better of things early on, Morishige dragged his shot wide after good set-up work by Otake and Rica in the 6th minute, then Oguro forced the keeper (Tsuzuki – ex-Red Cubic Zirconia) into a fine stop in the 15th minute after a good low cross from Hokuto. Straight after that chance though, Shonan went down the other end and Emerson would've scored were it not for Matsushita scampering back to head off the line. Abe (who scored their winner vs Kyoto) then went close as Bellmare grew into the game, playing some very neat passing football.
The breakthrough for Tokyo came in the 39th minute, Hanyu fed Rica in down the left, and his excellent first-time cross was headed home from the edge of the six yard box by that man Morishige. From goat to hero his second goal of the season gave us the lead, and there was time for another before half time, as Rica's ball, again from the left, was flicked-on/mis-controlled by Casual towards Oguro, he couldn't connect, but it rolled through for Hanyu, who lashed home from right next to the penalty spot.
2-0 up at half time then. Seen that before, and we've seen it blown before. Rica didn't come out for the second half, not sure why he didn't appear injured, but Akamine replaced him and promptly got himself kicked in the head, as Jean threw himself at a ball attempting to clear off the line following a great run into the box from Hokuto.
Aka dusted himself off though, and then played a big role in Tokyo's third goal after 58 minutes, and it was one to remember for our new boy Oguro, who smashed home his first Tokyo goal from the edge of the area. Hanyu broke up play and fed Akamine, who laid the ball into Oguro's path…one touch and bang!
Oguro raced through the advertising hoardings to celebrate with the Tokyo fans, and his goal was just reward for another good shift. The finish is hopefully a sign of good things to come, this guy is, after all, a goalscorer by trade.
Shonan pulled a goal back four minutes later after Shiota's parried save was knocked home by Nakamura (who had come on for Emerson), but there was to be no squeaky-bum time on this night as Tokyo confidently played out time, and there was even a chance for young defender Takahashi to make a ten-minute cameo after coming on for Morishige.
So three points in the bank, job done. Hopefully Rica was just being rested for the Iwata game tomorrow night, because he's been excellent the past two games. Oguro should grow in confidence after his goal, and Otake and Hanyu are also taking good form to Kokuritsu.