Tag Archives: Albirex Niigata

[Match Report] End of the Road – Albirex 1:1 FC Tokyo

The 2009 J.League Division 1 season came to a close not with a bang, but with a rain-soaked whimper at Big Swan Stadium in Niigata.
Tokyo took an early lead off of a superb goal by Hokuto Nakamura in the 12th minute and proceeded to defend and attack with valor for much of the rest of the game.  Sota Hirayama in particular had several close chances and anyone watching the game could see the anguish in his face as each time he came up just short.

Unfortunately, a gift of 3 points to end the season was not meant to be as Niigata equalized in the closing seconds with a header by retiring (?) player Naoto Matsuo off, you guessed it, a corner kick.  Gonda had no chance and will have to be content with tying the J.League shutout record at 15 matches.

The 2,800 (!) Tokyo fans that made the trip to Niigata were fortunate enough to see both Fujiyama and Asari take the field for the last time; Fujiyama was substituted for Hanyu late in the game and wore the captain’s mark while Asari replaced Suzuki following the equalizer goal.  While it may have been hard to tell at first sight if it was tears or rain streaming down Asari’s face following the game, it would seem that many Tokyo fans could have used an umbrella as well, so to speak.

With the draw (combined with a Shimizu draw and Urawa’s loss), FC Tokyo ends the season in 5th place.  This is the team’s best finish of the one-stage era (2005~) and is an improvement of one place over last year.  For accomplishing this, the team will receive from J.League 40 million yen, or roughly $440,000US.

I was going to do a final “summing up the season” post here but I’m seriously lacking the energy at the moment.  Many thanks are owed and they will all be written out in time, I’m sure.  In the meantime a hearty otsukare to everyone out there in the blogosphere in the stands, and on the field!

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.

Game Preview: J1 Week 1 FC Tokyo vs. Albirex Niigata

March 7th 2009, 1PM Kickoff at Ajinomoto Stadium (Chofu, Tokyo)

J1 Competition Record: FCT 6 wins, 0 draws, Albirex Niigata 8 wins

Background

After two and a half months of endless waiting, the 2009 J.League season is finally upon us!  FC Tokyo will open the 2009 campaign at home against Albirex Niigata, who will likely bring its sizable contingent of supporters along for the ride.  Both teams are looking to win for totally different reasons; FC Tokyo hopes to prove its legitimacy as a title contender, while Niigata wants to forget the mediocrity of last season as quickly as possible.

The Matchup

FC Tokyo will be limping into the opening match following what could only be described as an unusually rough offseason.  The team will be without their first-string GK Shiota (still in the hospital following complications related to his emergency Appendectomy in February), and most likely without DF Sahara (right hip) and MF Ishikawa (left ankle).  I’m seeing reports that Hokuto Nakamura did something to his leg as well but I can’t find anything solid on that front.  DF Nagatomo, who injured his knee in training camp, has been practicing normally with the team and claimed he would be ready for Saturday.

To ante up the drama, FW Cabore returned to the team on Wednesday following an urgent trip to his home country of Brazil to visit his ailing father.  Cabore is said to have continued his training while in Brazil so as not to lose ground and should have shaken off the jet lag by kickoff.

As for the team’s formation, while FCT changed from the 4-3-3 formation it used in 2008 to a 4-4-2B formation in training camp, Weekly Soccer Digest is predicting, for reasons unknown to me, a 4-3-2-1 spread.  The team has opted to conduct its final practice matches under a complete media blackout so for all I know they’re trying out 2-3-5… which would be kinda fun to watch, but I digress.  WSD is hot off the presses so I’m going to assume 4-3-2-1 until I see a starting lineup announcement, in any case.

With Nagatomo’s return, he’ll likely take the left back position with Tokunaga on the right and Moniwa pairing up with new aquisition Daishi Hiramatsu as center backs.

At midfield will be Bruno, Konno, and Kajiyama.  Ahead of them will Hanyu and Akamine, with Cabore taking the charge up front.

In goal will be second-string goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda, who celebrated his 20th birthday on Tuesday with a promise to give 100% effort to his team.  Gonda, in his third year with FC Tokyo, has yet to log playing time but is considered by some to have skills superior to Shiota’s based on what he’s demonstrated in practice.  In a way, this will be the perfect baptism by fire for the young goalkeeper; he will be exposed to all of the trappings of a major game (as season openers tend to be portrayed as): a large crowd (could reach 30,000), a large number of visiting supporters (as is the case with Albirex fans), and all the pomp and circumstance involving the new mascot and suchlike… but then the game starts and he only has to face Albirex Niigata.  Granted, it’s not like they’re playing Montedio Yamagata, but they’re not throwing him to the wolves of Kashima or Urawa.  That comes next week.

Critical to stopping Albirex’s attack will be containing forward Hideo Oshima, who transferred in the offseason from Yokohama FM.  This task will likely fall to Moniwa and he’ll have ample backup from Hiramatsu should things go pear-shaped.

On offense, FC Tokyo will need to shoot, shoot, and shoot some more.  The sooner FCT can get a goal or two on the board, the faster Gonda will get some confidence and once he asserts himself on the field it’s likely a done deal.

Predictions

Albirex’s mascot may be the swan but from what I’ve seen they’re little more than a paper crane.  Though Tokyo isn’t going into the game at full-strength and Shiota’s presence will be missed, a strong supporter presence and Cabore’s influence on team morale should make up for that.  Gonda will inevitably concede a goal through a stupid rookie mistake but that won’t get in the way of a Tokyo victory, after which the team can begin preparing for its pivotal match against Urawa in Week 2.