A bumper crowd of over 26,500 rolled up to the National Stadium on Wednesday night to see FC Tokyo attempt to build on last weekend’s successful trip to Hiratsuka. The Gasmen had inched up to 11th in the table, and the visitors, Iwata, sat two spots below us in 13th. Jubilo were coming off a home loss to champions Kashima, where they blew a two-goal lead in a 3-2 loss.
Jofuku restored the fit-again Shuichi Gonda in goal, and that was the only change from the Shonan game, so Tokyo lined up: Gonda; Hokuto, Konno, Kim, Matsushita; Hanyu, Kajiyama, Morishige, Otake; Ricardinho, Oguro.
Iwata started much the brighter, they moved the ball around effectively and looked more threatening going forward as Tokyo really struggled to gain a foothold in the game. Gonda had to be at his acrobatic best to tip away a Maeda header from Komano’s excellent cross in the early stages.
The most contentious moment of the first half came in the 19th minute, when Tokyo had a perfectly legitimate goal ruled out by a linesman’s error. Otake was fouled out on the right, Matsushita stepped up to take the free kick and curled in a great ball that Morishige headed in. When the free kick was taken Kajiyama was standing marginally offside, but he made no run at the ball at all, and Morishige was clearly onside when he started his run.
Iwata continued to shade things for the remainder of the first half, Maeda in particular was very effective and showed why he had solid claims to have been included in the World Cup squad. Tokyo’s first half performance was fairly flat, passes were missed and there was little effective link-up play between the midfield and attack.
Tokyo had been out-shot 7-3 in the first 45, and things had to change. A nice halftime fireworks show got the crowd excited and then two minutes after the restart we were all out of our seats after a brilliant bit of thinking by Casual, and another quality finish by Oguro. Rica was fouled out on the right by the touchline, and Casual, who was running slightly ahead of the play, sprinted back and played a beautiful ball into the box to Oguro, who headed back across goal and into the far corner from eight yards. Tokyo had completely caught the Iwata defence napping, and suddenly had the lead.
This season, though, we know nothing is safe, and just four minutes later Iwata were level after the latest piece of “defending” in this, the season of bizarro goals allowed. An Iwata corner from the Tokyo left was headed back across goal into the floor and over Gonda by Nasu, Oguro leapt to clear but the ball just cleared him, which seemed to disorient Matsushita, who stuck out his foot to clear but as he made contact he forgot to pull his head in and the ball came off his forehead and rebounded into the net.
Oh brother. So Tokyo had roughly 40 minutes to find a winner, and Jofuku looked to shake things up by inserting Ishikawa and Akamine (for Otake and Rica, respectively) with about half an hour remaining, but the changes failed to shake Tokyo from its slumber, and Iwata continued to play with more confidence than the hosts, and Gonda made at least three more excellent saves to keep the game level.
Hokuto was on target with a free kick but it was straight at the keeper, and that was about it for chances for us, apart from an Akamine drive that was deflected over after neat work from Morishige and Tatsuya, who came on for Hanyu with 10 minutes left. There was one last glimmer of hope in stoppage time, but Casual blazed high and wide after a corner was headed out to him. Full time 1-1. There was a touching scene after the final whistle, when Dorompa came out and presented Aka with a bouquet in honour of his 100th league appearance, but that didn’t stop most fans going home frustrated.
Fair play to Jubilo, though, they brought a load of fans up from Shizuoka on a weeknight, and those punters were rewarded with a good performance from their side. They had the best player on the pitch, Maeda, and left with a deserved point.
For Tokyo, that was our seventh home league draw in a row. We’re unbeaten at home in the league, but we haven’t won since opening day against Yokohama. We remain in 11th, and visit 9th-placed Niigata on Saturday evening.