Sanfrecce deal FC Tokyo 1st loss

FC Tokyo were top of the J1 table for the first time in a decade heading into Round 6, so I headed to Ajinomoto Stadium to cover their game with Sanfrecce Hiroshima for The Japan News…

The Japan News, Saturday 18th April, 2015

Sanfrecce Hiroshima dealt FC Tokyo its first league defeat of the season on Saturday, coming from behind to win 2-1 at Ajinomoto Stadium.

Chelsea target Yoshinori Muto gave the hosts the lead in just the first minute, but strikes from Kosei Shibasaki and Takuma Asano gave Sanfrecce its first win since Mar. 14.

“Playing the leaders away we expected a tough match, and conceding the goal so early put us in a difficult situation,” Sanfrecce manager Hajime Moriyasu said.

“There were several questionable decisions in the first half, but the players never lost their concentration and because of that, they were ultimately able to get the victory.”

Tokyo was one of just three undefeated top flight teams at the start of play, and Massimo Ficcadenti’s side got off to a dream start in front of 24,369 fans.

Naohiro Ishikawa flicked the ball on inside the Sanfrecce penalty area and Hiroki Mizumoto’s attempted header clear inadvertently struck his teammate Kazuyuki Morisaki and landed at Muto’s feet 10 meters from goal. The man of the moment gleefully seized upon the opportunity and rifled home after just 36 seconds.

The hosts hadn’t conceded since the first day of the season in the league and had won their last two J1 games 1-0, but Sanfrecce swiftly made sure that pattern wouldn’t be repeated here and drew level in the 11th minute.

Tokyo midfielder Yoehi Kajiyama gave the ball away in the center of the pitch and Sanfrecce forward Douglas did superbly to dribble past two challenges on the right before cutting back to the edge of the box, where Shibasaki was arriving to drill in off the crossbar.

FC Tokyo v. Sanfrecce Hiroshima, April 18th, 2015

Shibasaki then had a claim for a penalty waved away by referee Yudai Yamamoto in the 15th minute, shortly after which Tokyo broke down the other end and nearly reestablished its lead as Muto lashed a volley into the sidenetting.

Four minutes later Yoshifumi Kashiwa thought he’d put Sanfrecce in front, but referee Yamamoto ruled out his beautifully curled effort from the corner of the penalty box for an infringement.

Sanfrecce’s high-pressing style kept the hosts penned back for large periods of the game, and when Tokyo did break it was invariably Muto who posed the biggest threat.

In the 72nd minute, the 22-year-old latched onto a Keigo Higashi pass, applied the burners, and then carved a delightful ball into the box for the onrushing Higashi to meet, but the substitute couldn’t quite convert.

Ten minutes later, 20-year-old substitute Asano weaved through a flatfooted Tokyo backline and lashed home his first ever J.League goal to dash Tokyo’s hopes of remaining at the summit.

“He has been working very hard and today his running and attitude were very good. I hope that he will continue to go for goal like that from now on too,” Moriyasu said.

Elsewhere in J1, Vegalta Sendai, which also came into Round 6 unbeaten, lost 3-2 in a roller coaster of a game with Kawasaki Frontale.

Wilson gave the hosts a first half lead but two second half goals in three minutes from Yu Kobayashi and Renato tipped things in Frontale’s favour. Atsuto Tatara pulled Vegalta level with 10 minutes to play, but Yoshito Okubo made sure of the three points for the visitors, converting a Renato cross from close-range in the 86th minute.

Meanwhile, Montedio Yamagata and Matsumoto Yamaga played out a 0-0 draw, leaving them both with just one win apiece since they were promoted from J2.


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