A last-minute own goal gave FC Tokyo a 2-1 win and bragging rights over Tokyo Verdy in a frantic capital city derby on Saturday.
Striker Hulk opened the scoring with a brilliant curling shot shortly before halftime as Verdy took control at Ajinomoto Stadium.
But Naotake Hanyu leveled the score with a spectacular 63rd-minute strike as the game shifted in FC Tokyo’s favor, and Yuto Nagatomo kept up the pressure to force a fatal error with the game in injury time.
Hulk saw red for a second bookable offense as the final seconds ticked down, leaving FC Tokyo manager Hiroshi Jofuku, his voice worn to a barely audible rasp, celebrating a well-deserved victory.
“The first half was scrappy, but we knew it was going to be an intense game,”‘ he said. “We knew what Hulk and Diego were capable of, and we were determined not to let them have their way. We did what we had to do to stop them.”
Hulk returned to Verdy at the start of the month after an abortive two-match stint at Kawasaki Frontale.
The young Brazilian scored 37 goals for the Tokyo side in the second division last season, but Verdy manager Tetsuji Hashiratani warned he will have to play with more intelligence if he is to replicate his success in the top flight.
“Hulk tired himself out too quickly today,” Hashiratani said. “He took too many touches of the ball, and he has to learn that J1 is different from J2. He needs to conserve his energy more wisely.”
With the match less than 10 minutes old, a bizarre incident threw the crowd into confusion when Verdy’s Diego rose like a salmon to power a bullet header into the net.
Unfortunately for the Brazilian, the net happened to be his own, but referee Hiroyoshi Takayama soon nipped the FC Tokyo fans’ incredulous celebrations in the bud as he blew for a foul.
Diego was proving more constructive at the other end, and his powerful presence in attacking midfield gave teammate Takashi Fukunishi space to spray passes around the pitch in his wake.
Fukunishi was again at the eye of the storm in the 33rd minute when a challenge on Yasuyuki Konno sparked angry scenes from the Verdy players, who suspected Konno of foul play of his own, earning Verdy manager Hashiratani a stern reprimand from the referee.
Verdy’s chances of scoring were not helped by Hulk’s insistence on shooting no matter the distance, and Nagatomo was doing a good job of stopping the striker from getting closer to goal. But Hulk, 21, would not be shackled for long.
First he won a dubious free kick on the edge of the box, going down under the slightest of touches, before receiving Diego’s layoff and curling the ball into the top corner to give Verdy the lead.