FC Tokyo was handcuffed to a 0-0 draw by big-spending Chinese club Jiangsu FC in Group E of the Asian Champions League on Tuesday.
With former Chelsea midfielder Ramires suspended on yellow cards, Jiangsu had no illusions about their prospects against Tokyo. Manager Dan Petrescu chose to go long, hoping for Brazilians Alex Texeira and Jo to work their high-priced magic.
Jiangsu’s prayers went unanswered, but Petrescu was pleased the pragmatism paid off in the form of a point.
“It was a very difficult match for us,” the two-time World Cup defender for Romania said. “At the end of the game, we were happy to have a point. It’s not easy to come to Tokyo to get a point.
“Of course (Ramires) is a big player but I’m sure there will be other games he doesn’t play in. Maybe Teixeria won’t play, maybe Jo won’t play. We have to try to find a solution because we cannot always play the same team. It was difficult without him; everybody can see that.”
In Group G, Gamba Osaka lost 2-1 away to Shanghai SIPG. Gamba remain winless and three points back of second-place Melbourne Victory.
In sharing the points with Jiangsu, Tokyo, on four points from three games, stayed third in the group one point behind Jiangsu. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors went top on six points after defeating Binh Duong 2-0 at home.
Tokyo’s second-round chances will likely rest on its next game on April 6 at Jiangsu.
“We obviously would have liked the victory,” Tokyo striker Nathan Burns said. “Both defenses were well organized, solid. If there was one goal, it would have opened up. Because there were no goals, neither team took the risk.
“We needed that first goal so they would have opened up. But they had a direct plan of getting it into the box, which was very obvious, but we should have tried to break it down.
“We didn’t get very many chances, it’s a little disappointing.”
While Jiangsu resorted to route-one football, Tokyo was not much better than the visitors despite seeing far more time on the ball.
Although they were not under any particular pressure, Hiroshi Jofuku’s men lacked poise, frequently giving away possession and, apart from Burns who was questionably taken off midway through the second half, were much too indecisive over the last third of the pitch.
Tokyo needed almost the entire first half to produce its first shot on target through Burns, and while it created a few more in the closing minutes, it was nothing goalkeeper Zhang Sipeng couldn’t handle.
Burns’ Australia teammate and Jiangsu defender Trent Sainsbury said he was glad Jofuku decided not to start Takuma Abe, who didn’t come on until the 70th minute.
“I’m just glad they didn’t start with No. 44. I see him as their best player,” Sainsbury said. “He’s very tricky and you never know what he’s going to do.
“We had a game plan in that we came here to stop them from playing in behind us. We had to utilize the players that we had today, and that was Jo up front and then chase the second ball. It might not be pretty but it got the job done.
“I think there would’ve been a bit more ball on the ground through Ramires because he gives you the confidence to play to your feet. It’s why we pay him the money, because he’s such a good player. It did affect us a little bit but we have to play to our strengths.”