The Gasmen began their defence of the Nabisco Cup before 12,291 people on Wednesday night at Kokuritsu, the scene, of course, of last season's magnificent triumph in the Final. The visitors, Nagoya, no doubt had the 5-1 battering we handed out to them at Aji Sta in the quarter-finals last season in the back of their minds, and were out for a spot of revenge.
Both managers selected near-full strength teams, Jofuku making three changes from the win over Omiya, restoring Hiramatsu and Kim to defence in place of Morishige and Nagatomo, and giving Tatsuya another chance up front with Akamine dropping back to the bench. Also on the bench was new sensation Shigematsu, and he was to have a major say on the final result in rather exciting circumstances. Nagoya's charismatic manager Stojkovic fielded his full contingent of foreigners, including the “Aussie Jesus” Josh Kennedy.
Tokyo won a corner in the first minute but didn't really settle into a rhythm until Tatsuya shot wide about 15 minutes in. Before then Grampus had carved out a few decent chances, with Kanazaki blazing over, while their Colombian holding midfielder Danilson appeared to be chanelling Juninho when he shot over the top from eight yards just after Tatsuya's miss.
Tokyo then enjoyed ten minutes of solid pressure and a goal seemed inevitable, Hanyu smashed a shot against the bar, and then Hirayama, Hokuto and Ishikawa all spurned good chances. Hokuto was looking bright, one brilliant run in particular got the crowd excited but was halted just outside the box by Danilson. The goal that seemed inevitable did come, but at the wrong end as a long ball over the top was chased by Kennedy, and with Gonda, who should have come out to claim the ball, stranded in no-man's land, the big Aussie calmly lobbed the keeper to put Grampus on the board first.
Jofuku reacted at half time and brought Morishige on for Hanyu, switching Konno to central midfield, but the second half (almost) started disastrously for the Gasmen as Hiramatsu hacked-down a Nagoya player in the box and gave away a penalty. Gonda then kept Tokyo in the game by guessing right and punching away Burzanovic's poorly taken pen. Shigematsu made his entrance 10 minutes into the half, and the crowd buzzed whenever he was on the ball, the youngster looking right at home in the first team.
Tokyo were having some joy down the right, Mukuhara was pushing forward whenever possible, and it was from this area that the Gasmen then drew level on 68 minutes after the Ishikawa-Hirayama hotline got back in business, Sota slotting home from Nao's excellent cross.
Otake came on for Hokuto right after goal but some shoddy defending straight from the re-start should have seen Nagaoya go right back in front. That chance was wasted but Tokyo's defensive weakness at set-pieces (thankfully missing from the first four games of the season) resurfaced six minutes later as Chiyotanda scored.
As the clock ticked down Tokyo grew more desperate, Otake spent a lot of time on the ball but needed to move it on quicker, then in the second minute of stoppage time the wee man slipped a ball through for Shigematsu who drilled home to send Kokuritsu nuts and rescue a point for Tokyo.
Not the most convincing of displays then, Gonda atoned for his indecisiveness on Nagoya's first goal with the penalty save, but Shigematsu will get the headlines for his second goal in as many games and fair enough too. Hanyu-Tokunaga in central midfield clearly didn't work again, but I'm starting to get bored of going on about it so much, so lets just be pleased with a point having had to come from behind twice, and look forward to the Tamagawa Classico on Sunday! Hopefully Shigematsu, if given the chance, will make it three from three!