J. League champion Kashiwa Reysol handed newly promoted FC Tokyo a reality check ahead of the new season with a 2-1 win in the Xerox Super Cup on Saturday.
Tokyo went into the curtain-raising match at National Stadium full of confidence after winning its first-ever Emperor’s Cup on New Year’s Day to add to last season’s J2 title, but an opening goal against the run of play from Jorge Wagner and a penalty from Leandro Domingues gave Kashiwa a two-goal halftime lead.
Ariajasuru Hasegawa gave the capital city side a glimmer of hope when he pulled one back in the 65th minute, but it was not enough to prevent Reysol from laying down a marker ahead of the opening day of the new league season next Saturday.
“This was our first official game of the season, and we weren’t able to get into our usual rhythm,” said Reysol manager Nelsinho. “We were under pressure a lot at the start and we were giving the ball away, but the timing of Jorge’s goal really gave us some breathing space.
“In the second half we clamped down on (Yohei) Kajiyama and that cut off their attack. We had a lot of chances on the counterattack after that, and if we could have put them away it would have been a different game.”
Kashiwa now heads to Thailand to play Buriram United on Wednesday in the opening fixture of its debut Asian Champions League campaign, and Nelsinho is keen to make an impression.
“It’s a very important tournament,” he said. “Every year Japan has four teams in the competition, but the last to win was Gamba Osaka (in 2008). It’s very important for the prestige of Japanese football, and we’ll do all we can to win it.”
Tokyo created several chances in a dominant start to the match, but Reysol turned things completely on their head in the 26th minute. Wagner picked up the ball in the center circle before charging deep into opposition territory, and with Tokyo’s defenders standing off, the Brazilian unleashed a left-foot howitzer that flew past Hitoshi Shiota into the bottom corner.
Wagner was again involved minutes before halftime when he headed a Leandro free kick against the post, and the ensuing melee ended with Masato Morishige upending Hideaki Kitajima and the referee pointing to the spot. Leandro hit his penalty high beyond Shiota, and the Tokyo players went into the interval scratching their heads and two goals down.
Tokyo’s fortunes changed when Hasegawa broke through on goal midway through the second half, heading in the rebound after Reysol goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno had saved his initial shot.
But the threat of a Reysol counterattack was ever present, and Leandro was unlucky not to add a third when he hit the post in injury time.
“The result was disappointing, but when you consider that this was our first game I don’t think we did too badly,” said Tokyo manager Ranko Popovic, who took over from promotion-winning predecessor Kiyoshi Okuma in the offseason. “It’s a shame that we couldn’t finish off our chances, but I think everyone could get a taste today of what we are trying to do.
“Kashiwa scored with their first shot and then again with their third. We are building a new team and this was a good experience for my players. Of course I’m not satisfied with the result, but we will continue to work hard and improve.”