|J.League Division 1 Week 1|
0 – 0
1 – 0
1 – 0
|March 6th 2009, 2PM Kickoff at Ajinomoto Stadium (Chofu, Tokyo) Attendance 29,011|
|64′ Kajiyama (Hanyu)
69′ Ishikawa (Nakamura)
76′ Akamine (Suzuki)
|Substitutes||61′ Sakada (Kano)
79′ Shimizu (Hasegawa)
90+2′ Bastianini (Kanai)
It was rainy, it was wet, it was a little cold, it was windy, it was miserable: why not start the season? A day removed from temperatures in the low 70s and cloudless sunny skies, FC Tokyo and Yokohama F. Marinos played in front of just over 29,000 fans who braved the elements to come to Ajinomoto Stadium and kick off J.League’s 2010 season. Tokyo had to manage with the loss of midfielder Takuji Yonemoto to a torn ACL and midfielders Kajiyama and Ishikawa still not ready to play a full 90. Yokohama was not only still waiting for Shunsuke Nakamura’s return but lost defender Naoki Matsuda to injury. Regardless of who was in the lineup, though, it was time for that old ditty to be sung at Ajinomoto for the first time in over 3 months.
Now, as far as the actual match is concerned, well, there’s a whole lot less to be impressed with. After Hirayama teasingly hit the post in the opening minutes, neither team could really establish a rhythm. Passes missed, balls falling short of their intended receiver, and generally sloppy play to suit the sloppy weather. Both teams had a couple decent scoring chances but neither threatened; If you had TiVo’d the match, I would suggest skipping ahead one hour to get to the second half.
The second half is where it got interesting. Yokohama definitely looked more threatening and created some hairy situations, but Tokyo managed to stave them off. With a poised Gonda between the posts and a back line consisting of two current NT players (Konno and Nagatomo), a star defender with NT experience (Morishige), and a more-than-able third year player (Mukuhara), this was not the same back line that gave up 4 goals to Albirex Niigata on Opening Day last year.
While Tokyo was holding defensively, the offense didn’t kick back into gear until roughly the 70th minute, when Naohiro Ishikawa tagged in for Nakamura, taking the field for the first time since his season-ending injury against Kashiwa Reysol last October to a stadium-wide ovation. Immediately, Tokyo showed signs of life, pressing the attack and getting closer to Yokohama’s goal than they had for most of the game. Akamine went in for Suzuki seven minutes later, an indication that Jofuku intended for his team to play for 3 points.
One highlight of the game was seeing Matsushita, picked up from Albirex Niigata in the offseason, and his free-kicking abilities. As anyone following Tokyo last season is well aware of, the only thing Tokyo was worse at than defending against the set play was taking advantage of their own set play. Matsushita’s skills as a player were a bit shaky, but his two free kicks were impeccable and both had the potential to result in goals. When Matsushita and Ishikawa both positioned themselves to take a free kick closer to the end of the game, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only Tokyo supporter who got goosebumps.
However, with the clock hitting 90 minutes and 3 minutes of additional time, it seemed like both teams were just about resigned to taking home one point.
Then Akamine dished the ball off to Ishikawa and the race was on.
Go on, watch it again. In fact here’s a different angle
After the goal… no, wait, fuck it, I’m going to enjoy this. Here’s Ishikawa’s little hurdle again in slow motion so you can see him absolutely own Yokohama’s Shohei Ogura. This is the soccer equivalent of when a player dunks over a defender, teabagging him in the process. You just can’t get over it.
Finally, here’s a slightly different angle. Put this next to the first angle and wear some funny glasses and you can watch Yokohama’s back line get served in 3D.
Okay, I’m finished now. After that it was simply holding off a halfhearted attack by Yokohama and waiting for the ref to blow the final whistle.
After the game, 7 of us including two regular commenters to this blog walked down to Chofu where we found… that Kenny’s Irish Pub wasn’t open because of a private party (on game day! The nerve!) But we did find an izakaya and held what was basically the first official meeting of TOKYO DAMACY 1999! Everyone had a blast and I hope we have many more similar meetings in the future.
On to Urawa!
“We may not have played so well, but the defense focused when it needed to and helped win the game.” – Ryuhei Tokunaga
“We didn’t possess the ball for long enough to play how we want to play and that’s something we’ll consider going into next week.” – Toshihiro Matsushita
“After last year’s opener [1-4 defeat to Albirex Niigata] I just wanted to get out of the locker room and go home as quickly as possible, but this year I want to sit down with other players and talk about the game. I feel like I’ve matured in a lot of ways since last year.” – Shuichi Gonda
“While [Ishikawa and Hirayama's goal-scoring play] was important, I’m more satisfied with how the team didn’t fall apart even when we couldn’t get a solid attack started. As far as the goal is concerned, Kajiyama and Ishikawa were only on for a short period of time but they did their job well. After that, it was just a matter of Hirayama getting into position to take the shot. I want to see Hirayama’s accuracy increase, but more importantly I want him to put his body where it’s needed to create plays, and he was able to accomplish that today.” – Hiroshi Jofuku