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, December 1, 2010

FC Tokyo 1-1 Yamagata: J1 Week 33

Two numbers sum up last Saturday evening at Ajinomoto Stadium - FC Tokyo's last home game of the season - for me. Two little numbers that added up to a pissed-off fan fuming at his wildly inconsistent team. How could we go from beating the newly-crowned champions, away, to failing to beat a team with absolutely NOTHING to play for, at home?

The first number is four, as in four minutes. Four bloody minutes. If we could've just hung on for another four minutes, we would be celebrating our brilliant end to the season, where our Gasmen proved they were "too good to go down," beating three top-half teams in our last seven games on the way to seeing off Kobe's valiant survival attempt. But we didn't hang on, and while we didn't lose, it sure felt like we did, as we blew our first chance to ensure we'll still be playing in the top flight in 2011. We are just a point ahead of Kobe going into the final game of the season next Saturday, but more on that later....

The other number is one. Now that could mean a few things from, or after, this game: we scored one goal; we are one point ahead of Kobe; there's one game left, Ricardinho's only scored one league goal all season etc etc, but the one "one" that really sums up the evening, and the season in a nutshell is this:


After March 6th, the first game of the season, when we beat Yokohama with a 91st minute strike from Sota Hirayama our record at AjiSta was P:14 W:0 D:9 L:5. Oh sure, we also played two home games at Kokuritsu, and beat Shonan in the second of them, but one win in 15 at AjiSta?! Bugger me that is horrendous. Sure, there are some creditable draws in there, against Kashima, Shimizu and Gamba, but far too many draws against so-called "weaker" teams that we just could not break down/put away/hold on against, and you can put this Yamagata game (yeah I am actually going to talk about the game, but not much) firmly in the latter category. In fact it fits into the latter category under all three of those things that we could just not do.....

After the fantastic win against Nagoya, there were two changes to the XI, with Sota Hirayama and Naotake Hanyu returning, Hirayama from suspension to partner Masashi Oguro in attack, with the manager making the interesting decision to drop Masato Morishige and move captain Yuhei Tokunaga back to central defence, and Hanyu replacing the always frustrating Rica.

Kobe had won their game at home against Shimizu in an earlier kickoff, getting their winner in the 83rd minute despite being down to 10 men by that point, and that result meant they drew level on points with us, although we stayed out of the relegation zone thanks to our healthy goal difference advantage. Going in, we knew a win would guarantee safety.

We started in the ascendancy, but Yamagata played their spoiling role to good effect, and were even playing to waste time from about the 20th minute on. What purpose this served I have no idea, you'd think they'd just want to get things over with and head home, but it certainly got the home end wound up. As the half went on, and as has happened all season against "lesser" teams, we just couldn't find a way through their compact formation, it's almost as if we would've been better off playing another top-half team, where at least we have space to play and more opportunities to counter attack.

The visitors had clearly read the manual on how to play us at home, and they did carve out a few openings of their own on the break, while we appeared nervous/anxious, not helping our own cause with some sloppy build-up play, Takuji Yonemoto twice letting rolled passes slip under his boot. We also suffered a blow in the 35th minute, when Ishikawa limped off and was replaced by Rica, probably ending Nao's season, and what a frustrating one its been for him. From the heights of last season, when he scored 15 league goals and looked a certainty to go to the World Cup before his knee injury, to this when he's netted only twice and things haven't gone for him at all, the contrast is amazing, and we can only hope he's back to his best in 2011.

There was another change eight minutes after the break, Oguro was hauled off and replaced by Little Fatty Maeda, and this one puzzled me and I think came back to haunt us at the end of the day. Fair enough, he may have been tired (he's started every league game since his arrival), this was the third game in a week, and  he was a peripheral figure here, but he's the most natural goalscorer we have, and in a game you need to SCORE GOALS IN TO WIN, replacing him with Maeda, the scorer of exactly ZERO league goals for us, was a head-scratcher. Why not Shigematsu instead?

We did get on the scoresheet in the 74th minute, with Big Sota continuing his rich vein of form with an excellent finish after Casual found him in the box and he spun away from his defender and struck left-footed. But despite the best efforts of the home end to will the boys on for a second, which definitely would've killed Yamagata off, they held firm and looked threatening as we started to brick it. True enough, as has happened all season (SIX times to be exact), we couldn't hold on to a lead at home, and they pegged us back with a well-worked 86th minute goal. We poured forward in the remaining time, creating half-chances (perhaps Oguro would've got on the end of one and stuck it away?), but they could easily have nicked it at the death.

Another shocking "one" from the evening: they out-shot us 9 to 8 over the 90 minutes! That's right, in a game that meant everything to us and next to nothing to them, they out-shot us by one. And so an incredibly frustrating home season comes to an end, and it all comes down to the final day, which will at least make J.League HQ happy. I said when there were five games to go I hoped we'd still have our fate in our own hands, but after this result its hard to be optimistic. We visit already-relegated Kyoto, Kobe heads to 9th-placed Urawa, and it all boils down to this: if we win or match Kobe's result, we're staying up. We would also still stay up with a loss if Kobe draw. But if we draw or lose, and Kobe win, thats it, and we can start planning away trips to Kusatsu (good onsen there, I hear) and Ehime.

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