What started as a drunken idea in a bar has morphed into this - a fantasy football podcast from me and my mates. The goal: make an interesting and entertaining fantasy podcast that might help you do alright, but hopefully not as well as me. We've heard what's out there, and we reckon we might be able to do just as well as those other duffers, maybe even better.

There's also some FC Tokyo stuff on here, but I now blog on all things Gasmen at On the Gas (click on link below).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Yokohama 1-2 FC Tokyo: J1 Week 30

Having taken five points from the past three games - all against top half opposition - FC Tokyo hoped to keep that decent little run going when we visited Nissan Stadium to face Yokohama on Sunday. We'd blown a lead the previous weekend against Gamba, but hung on for an important point that saw us stay ahead of Kobe on goal difference. Only five games remained before kickoff, and anything we could take away from this would be vital, as our relegation rivals also faced difficult away trips.

Morishige was the latest member of the squad to be suspended for too many yellows, so, with Kajiyama returning from a suspension of his own to partner Yonemoto in central midfield, Tokunaga moved back into central defence. Otherwise it was the same team that shared the spoils with Gamba the previous Saturday, and our front two of Oguro and Hirayama were looking to have a big day in the absence of Yokohama's Japan international centre-halves Nakazawa and Kurihara. Oguro had scored in four of the past five games, and Sota twice in the same period, so we had good reason to be optimistic they'd be able to break through against their makeshift (and under-sized) backline.

A slightly disappointing crowd of 29,670 was in - that would be an excellent number for us, but they are sixth and fighting for an Asian Champions League spot - and after Ronald McDonald led the teams out, we got things underway, and we were straight into gear. Just four minutes in, from a Gonda goal kick, Hirayama, Oguro and Casual combined to release Ishikawa down the right, but his cross was behind the latter two as they dashed into the box and was controlled by a Yokohama defender. The ball was passed out to Shunsuke Nakamura, but Yone, who has been so important in the two games since his return, was onto him like a flash, and poked the ball away about 30 yards from goal. Hirayama was in the right place at the right time, and after letting the ball roll across his body, he unleashed a thunderous left-footed daisy-cutter that scorched the turf as it flew past Iikura in the Yokohama goal, giving The Gasmen the lead.

An amazing strike from the big man, and the perfect start for us, and he almost made it two just four minutes later after a brilliant slaloming run down the left by Ishikawa, but after Nao's square ball found him inside the box and he took a touch, Sota shot a little too close to the keeper. It was all us in the first 10 minutes, but our seemingly natural self-defence mechanism kicked in, and Yokohama found things a lot easier as we sat back. Pretty much a carbon copy of the Gamba game, we'd just scored the first goal much earlier this time.

Predictably, Shunsuke was at the centre of everything they did going forward, and they were able to sustain pressure as we couldn't keep the ball - Casual, in particular, was guilty of extreme Casual-ness (even for him) on several occasions- and the ex-Celtic hero (and Espanyol bust) twice fired past Gonda's left-hand post: in the 16th minute he blazed away from 30 yards; then in the 31st minute, with Mukuhara caught horribly out of position and Tokunaga failing to get over and cover, he strolled into the box and thumped a strike right across the face of goal, past Gonda and, thankfully, the onrushing Ono too.

We were on the ropes a bit, and they were using the full width of the pitch to keep us stretched, but we almost got a priceless second goal seven minutes before the break, following some proper pandemonium in the Yokohama box. Mukuhara launched a high cross from the right, Hirayama controlled on his chest in the D, then nodded down as he turned into the area. He was crowded out by three defenders but as he fell to the floor he flicked the ball into the path of Konno. Under pressure, and with the keeper bearing down, Konno shot straight at Iikura, Oguro was following up but was off-balance as he shot and the ball was cleared off the line by a sliding defender, BUT straight to Tokunaga, who shot left-footed from the left edge of the six-yard box, but too high and Yokohama could exhale again.

It stayed 1-0 until halftime, and although the Nissan Stadium beer girls need to go back to pouring school, spirits were high in the away end, as we had absorbed most of what they'd thrown at us, and shown an ability to still pose some danger at the other end, despite wanting to sit on our lead.

The second half opened very similarly to the Gamba game, however, as Yokohama really started to turn the screw. The little fella Ono had looked lively throughout, and had scored in two straight Marinos home games before this, and he made it three from three at home in the 59th minute, when the overlapping fullback Amano took a pass from Hanato and crossed low and hard across the six-yard box, Ono arriving to tap in at the far post. Questions had to be asked about Tokyo defensively on the goal, Hokuto got sucked-in to trying to win the ball off Hanato even though Konno and Yonemoto were in attendance, opening the door for Amano to get round the back and cross under no pressure.

Again, the similarities with the previous weekend's game continued, we'd held out for 50-odd minutes after scoring, but the opposition's pressure had finally told. The difference here was there was 30 minutes left rather than 10, and thus plenty of time for either team to find a winner. Ricardinho had replaced Oguro four minutes before Yokohama's goal, clearly to provide fresh legs and pace up front to make us more dangerous on the break, but after they drew level he spent most of his time on the left flank as part of a five-man midfield. Things had evened up, but we had not dropped our heads and went in search of that winner.

It came in some style, and was just reward for an excellent all-round performance from our big striker. We'd been having some joy down Rica's side, then in the 79th minute (with their right back well up the pitch following a botched attack) Hanyu led a break and played a superb 50 metre pass to Hirayama down the left. With Rica joining in, Sota held the ball up, waited for Rica's run across him and played him in on the left side of the box, continued his run and took Rica's excellent return pass at full tilt, lashing a fantastic first-time strike past Iikura and into the far corner. Absolutely brilliantly worked goal, great awareness and a great ball from Hanyu, then just a training ground one-two executed to perfection by Sota and Rica.

Some advice for Sota, though: work on a new goal celebration, son! You can't run fast enough to do the knee slide properly!!!

A minute later and it really should've been game, set and your shout at the bar, but Ishikawa somehow missed the target, wasting a gilt-edged chance created by Rica's ball and Hirayama's lay-off. Yokohama poured forward, but we dug in and, one or two sphincter-tightening moments aside, hung on through the last 10 minutes of the 90 and then another four in stoppage time. It had taken 41 matches in all competitions, but a Tokyo player had finally bagged a brace in 2010, and the big man gave the "Sha-sha-shaaaas" his best effort as the away end cheered the players back to the sheds.

A huge win and a massive boost for the final four games then, and it saw us go three points clear of Kobe, but in the late game they fought back from a goal down to draw at Niigata, and reduce it back to two, the same margin we now trail Omiya by, after they lost at Nagoya.

I looked at our run-in over the last five games last week, and all those games are obviously equally important as we scrap for points, but this coming Saturday we've got an absolute corker on our hands at Aji Sta as we look to "Get the River Under Control?" against Kawasaki in the Tamagawa Classico. They've won the last three league meetings, but WE WON THE CUP last November, and have built up plenty of confidence from our four game unbeaten run. Should be a big crowd in and a cracking atmosphere.

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