Soccer / J. League

FC Tokyo exploits Yokohama F. Marinos' porous defense en route to victory

by Dan Orlowitz

Staff Writer

On Friday, former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn abruptly announced — and just as abruptly canceled — a press conference as his defense against charges of financial misconduct continued.

On Saturday, the Nissan-owned Yokohama F. Marinos’ defense seemed equally unwilling to show up at Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium as league-leading FC Tokyo romped to a 4-2 win, with Diego Oliveira netting twice and Kensuke Nagai and Na Sang-ho also joining him on the scoresheet.

“Marinos played their style, we played our own,” said Tokyo manager Kenta Hasegawa. “Our players were aggressive on the pitch and helped earn this result. Marinos created dangerous scenes but we finished our chances.”

The top-of-the-table clash had major implications for the J. League’s first division, with the two sides separated by just three points and Yokohama in a position to jump into first place with a wide enough margin of victory.

“It’s very disappointing in terms of the result,” said Yokohama manager Ange Postecoglou. “What’s even more disappointing is that we played well. We controlled the game and created some opportunities, but we made some defensive mistakes and when you do that you get punished.”

Just two minutes after Marinos playmaker Marcos Junior poked in Teruhito Nakagawa’s cross from the right side for his eighth goal of the season, Tokyo equalized on a dreadful mistake by Yokohama goalkeeper Park Il-gyu. The 29-year-old appeared in position to easily stop fellow countryman Na’s halfhearted shot, but the low ball instead bounced off Park’s hand and into the net.

“We planned to press on even if they scored so it can’t be helped,” said Hasegawa. “We’d like to keep a clean sheet but more than that it’s great that we scored four goals.”

Smelling an open game, both teams pressed the attack in the ensuing minutes but Tokyo eventually closed ranks, ceding possession to Yokohama but not giving the visitors a chance to make headway into the penalty area.

Marinos remained assertive in their attack but their defense showed signs of shakiness, which Tokyo capitalized on in the 38th minute when Yojiro Takahagi’s cross found Nagai, who from just inside the box lofted the ball above Park and in for the 2-1 goal despite a defender’s valiant attempt at a goal-line clearance.

Down a goal to start the second half, Yokohama continue to vigorously attack but still struggled to transition back to defense. Nakagawa and Keita Endo both pressured Tokyo’s defense but Marinos were burned on a 55th-minute counter, with Nagai’s high cross down the goal line setting up Oliveira’s header.

“It’s hard because Tokyo drop back defensively very quickly, there’s not a lot of space to play into so we had to be patient,” said Postecoglou. “If you concede goals against a team that plays that like that it’s very hard.”

The two teamed up again just seven minutes later, with Nagai pressuring Park through a strong shot and Oliveira stuffing in the rebound.

Nakagawa took advantage of a Hayashi blunder to make it 4-2 with eight minutes to play, but it was not nearly enough time to close the gap.

Despite the result, Postecoglou was still ready to defend his attacking philosophy.

“It’s very important to me. We want to play exciting football but we want to be successful,” said the Australian. “We’re developing into a good football team. You come to watch us play and you’ll see good football and goals. For that to transfer into a team that can be successful into champions, we still have work to do.

“We’re going to play our football, and it’ll be a challenge when we play good counter-attacking teams like FC Tokyo. Hopefully with the lessons we’ll learn along the way we’ll become a team that can be a challenger (for the title).”

Elsewhere on Saturday, Gamba Osaka moved into provisional 11th place with a 3-1 win against Matsumoto Yamaga at Sunpro Alwin Stadium.