FC Tokyo cruised into the group stage of this season’s Asian Champions League with a 9-0 playoff thrashing of Thailand’s Chonburi FC on Tuesday night.
An early Chonburi own goal and strikes from Takuma Abe and Keigo Higashi gave Tokyo a three-goal halftime lead at Ajinomoto Stadium, and Ryoichi Maeda and Takuji Yonemoto put the game further beyond the outclassed Thais within 10 minutes of the restart.
Kota Mizunuma and substitute Hiroki Kawano then continued the onslaught, before another Chonburi own goal and a late Kawano penalty completed the rout — a club-record score — and sent Tokyo back into the ACL for the first time since 2012.
“We scored a lot of goals tonight but it wasn’t an easy game to play by any means because we didn’t have much time to prepare” said Tokyo manager Hiroshi Jofuku, who is back for a second stint in charge having led the team from 2008-2010.
“Every time we defended a corner, our center backs went looking to turn it into an attack. Every time they kicked off, we gave everything to win the ball back. That’s why we were able to win 9-0, and we were also determined not to let them score. But we are still not there in terms of the quality we are aiming for.”
Tokyo now takes its place in Group E alongside 2006 champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors of South Korea, Vietnam’s Becamex Binh Duong, and Chinese side Jiangsu FC, which recently caught the world’s attention by signing Brazilian stars Ramires from Chelsea and Alex Teixeira from Shakhtar Donetsk.
“We were able to break them down in the way we were looking for but we still had chances to score more, including me,” said Mizunuma, who joined Tokyo from Sagan Tosu over the offseason.
“Just because we scored a lot of goals, it doesn’t make everything OK. The teams we play in the ACL will come looking to attack us. We have to improve and be ready for them.”
Tokyo made a strong start and got a helping hand from Chonburi for the opening goal in the sixth minute. Mizunuma swung in a corner, and the hapless Rodrigo Vergilio misjudged the flight of the ball and turned it into his net.
Three minutes later, Abe made space for himself with a drop of the shoulder and lashed home a shot to double Tokyo’s lead.
A bizarre mistake by Tokyo goalkeeper Yota Akimoto, who strayed outside his box with the ball in hand, gave Chonburi a free kick chance which went begging midway through the first half.
And Tokyo punished the visitors with the third goal in the 34th minute, Yuhei Tokunaga cutting the ball back from the right for Higashi to slam home.
Maeda then continued the rout nine minutes after the break, clinically finishing off a neat piece of play from Higashi.
Yonemoto got into the act two minutes later, meeting Yuichi Komano’s cross with a glancing header, before Mizunuma made it six with a volley in the 61st minute.
Kawano notched the seventh with another volley, before another own goal and an injury-time penalty completed a clinical night’s work for Tokyo.
“We knew before the game that Japanese teams are extremely strong, much stronger than Thai teams,” said Chonburi manager Jukkapant Punpee. “What happened in the game confirmed that. Japan is also very cold at the moment, and coming from a hot country like Thailand made it difficult to adjust.
“You just can’t make any kind of comparison between Japanese and Thai football at the moment. But it was great to play against a Japanese team. It was a great lesson for us.”