After a short absence where both Alex and I have been swamped at our other jobs, this game feels like the right time to come back. Our second game of the Levain Cup campaign after our 3-0 win v Nagoya saw us up against the runaway league leaders and free scoring Kawasaki Frontale who had only failed to score in two games this season (0-0 v Tosu on opening day, and 1-0 v Nagoya in the league). We went into this one fully rested after Hasegawa rotated the squad around for our win @ Urawa, and played mostly fringe players in our win v Shonan, and instead of the the atrocious display earlier in the season made famous by Higashi’s tone deaf ” We wish the fans were here” comment, Tokyo were well prepared for this one! FrontaleRabbit’s joyful recap is as beautiful as we hoped it would be so do give it a read when time permits.
We played a controlled game from the off, letting Kawasaki have the ball but offering no way through and keeping all their shots to ones from distance while attempting to hit them on the break. Mita and Diego deserve good credit for their defensive work as they ensure when we got the ball in our half, we opened up the field to hit them with a quick break. Diego’s seemingly box to box role is paying off well for him which is letting Leandro and Nagai break at pace to cause more problems for their defense. As the 1st half dragged on, Frontale appeared to be the more likely to score. Their problem was we gave them no way past our backline as we stood strong and compact to keep their efforts as speculative as possible from distance.
When we did manage to get it down field with a free kick on the edge of the box more akin to a corner given the position, nobody expected Leandro to have a pop at goal. Yet that’s exactly what he did, catching out Frontale’s Jung Sung-Ryong *just* off his line who could only palm the ball into his net. Another moment of brilliance from Leandro and a 0-1 lead to shock the crowd at Todoroki after 14 minutes. The game seemed to have only further attempted to push Frontale into trying to find a goal as they peppered Hayashi’s goal from distance time and again but the backline – to their credit – remained firm and allowed us to end the half in the lead in an unexpected scoreline for many.
The 2nd half started much the same way, Frontale once again with the lion share of possession but no breakthrough they were looking for. Instead, it was Nagai and Leandro who would get our second of the game on 61 minutes. We could start to dream! Mita picking up the ball at the halfway line, and played the perfect through ball to Nagai whose pace gave him enough of an opening to get the ball into the box for Leandro’s finish. A great team goal and no less than what the lads deserved.
From there, we needed to keep our defensive shape and keep them on the outside with shots from distance. In what was likely the moment you just knew this was Tokyo’s day, a deflected shot off Morishige which left Hayashi stranded and looked destined to hit the back of the net; instead bounced off the post to safety and kept our 2 goal lead intact. Frontale continued to press for a goal but with the introduction of Adailton to refresh our pace, we continued to be a threat on the break. Adailton shooting wide once and having his low header expertly saved by Jung Sung-Ryong who held the rebound too. Frontale would get one last chance in added time but was scuffed well wide and we could start planning for a trip to our other home stadium, the newly rebuilt National Stadium and a place in the final!
Man of the Match:
This guy again! Leandro, 2 goals to his name and the most blatant yellow card for time wasting you’ll ever see. Another great shift by him and I hope Hasegawa will do what he can to lock up his services after the season is done. By and large our MVP for the season along with Shuto Abe in MF.
Thoughts on the Match:
If you had said we would come into this game, play Kawasaki’s game against them, AND come out with a 0-2 win with only 5 shots on target, I’d have laughed it off. Hasegawa got his tactics spot on on Wednesday night. He did it over a 1 week period which saw a very unfamiliar Tokyo squad go down to Shonan and get a win while we rested our best XI for this game. Defensively, I don’t think we’ve ever had a better game this season. We weren’t exposed by crosses into the box, none of our backline attempted to play hero by wandering off, everyone played their role to perfection and it showed! Our counterattack looked deadly each time we got forward as seen in our second goal and we could’ve had more if not for a fine save to keep it 0-2. Very satisfying result and couldn’t be happier.
In the league, we host Gamba on Saturday who were also in action Wednesday night down in Kyushu as they beat Tosu 1-2 in a rescheduled MD 10 fixture. BlogGamba has a preview up for their perspective on the game. Definitely worth checking out while we get ours up shortly.
As for the League Cup, we will play Kashiwa at the National Stadium on November 7th in the Final, our first cup final since the 2011 Emperor’s Cup win v Kyoto Sanga. This is our 3rd trip to the League Cup Final in which we beat Urawa 4-2 on penalties in 2004 and beat Frontale 2-0 in 2009.